Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Dario Franchitti has reclaimed the head of the IndyCar Series' point standings as control changed hands for the fourth time in as many races, but admits that his position could have been stronger had it not been for an uncharacteristically flawed performance at the Brickyard.
The Scot - winner of both the 500 and IndyCar title in 2007 - started on the front row on his return to Indianapolis and led 50 laps, but finished only seventh after a late-race problem on pit-lane dropped him away from the leading group. Team-mate, and defending race winner, Scott Dixon started fifth and led a race-high 73 laps, but finished just one place ahead of Franchitti.
Both Target cars proved strong throughout the race, running as high as first and second as Dixon and Franchitti traded the lead, but the turning point for both came on pit-lane when, with 66 laps left, Franchitti's #10 team suffered a miscue that cost the Scot track position. Dixon's crew then encountered similar problems with 36 laps left, taking the #9 team out of contention for the lead.
"It takes a total team effort to win at Indianapolis, and everybody has to be flawless, but we had a problem in the pits," Franchitti reflected after a fuel hose gremlin cost him valuable seconds, "The Target guys are fantastic on pit-lane normally, they do a great job, but one mistake, unfortunately, is very, very costly.
"We'll go back, regroup and try to get ourselves a championship. The Target car was pretty bloody good today but, when you get too far back in the pack - like we did with that problem with the pit-stop - it's tough to get back to the front again.
"When I managed to take the lead and was running away, I had a big smile on my face, but it was tough in traffic. When we got back in the pack, it was really difficult, but that's the Speedway. Helio did a fantastic job, and he deserves it, the Penske team deserves it. But, believe me, we'll be back next year to try to take it back from them."
Despite the frustration at seeing a second 500 victory slip from their grasp, the results were enough to confirm Franchitti's jump from third to first in the standings, now with 122 points, while Dixon remained fourth with 111.
"It was a pretty uneventful day until the last 60 laps," the Kiwi confirmed, "We had great stops all day but, towards the end there, we fumbled, and that's the problem with the competition being so tight - you give up a few seconds here and there, and that's nearly your day. You lose six or seven spots.
"If you're going to lose some spots, you want to make sure it's early on. Towards the end, everybody's worked out what they need, and the cars are really good. It just makes it tougher to pass."