Crash.Net IndyCar News
Franchitti denies Briscoe in Iowa
21 June 2009
Dario Franchitti went some way to restoring the reputation of Chip Ganassi's alternate livery cars by winning the Iowa Corn Indy 250 at the wheel of the TomTom-backed Dallara.
The Scot is now two-for-two at Iowa Speedway - having won the inaugural race there in 2007 and finding his way back to victory lane by winning Sunday's race by 5.0132secs over Ryan Briscoe - and gave the credit to his crew, which turned in a quick pit-stop on lap 196 of 250 as the leaders cycled through green flag stops.
Franchitti trailed Briscoe by less than a second as the stops began and led by more than a second when they were completed. As the drivers worked through lapped traffic over the final 50 laps, Franchitti was able to build his lead to a comfortable margin.
"I like driving here," the Scot admitted, after making up for his failure to win in Energizer colours in Texas, "We tested at Iowa last Wednesday, and the Target guys did a really, really good job coming up with a set-up - and they were awesome in the pits. I just went out, did my job and hung on, made some good moves in traffic and here we are. More than anywhere, today is a team win because those pit-stops moved us up in track position."
The 2007 series champion's second victory of the season moved him to within three points of Briscoe, who remains the IndyCar Series points leader but, for the third consecutive race, the Australian had to content himself with lead the most laps after a potential victory went elsewhere.
"It was a great day for Team Penske, but Dario had a bit more than us when on cold tyres," said Briscoe, who becomes the first driver to retain the points lead for more than one race at a time, "On the restarts, he was a bit better than us, but we were quickest throughout the middle of the stint, and I was hoping I would be able to catch him in traffic, but he just got a bit more luck with those guys and actually opened up the gap. It was a tough one, but a great day. The car was awesome. We had to make a bit of changes on the first pit-stop, but from there the car was great."
Andretti Green Racing's Hideki Mutoh finished third, one spot lower than his career-best finish at the same track last year, but better off than all his more vaunted team-mates, who either ended up a lap down or, in Tony Kanaan's case, in the wall.
"I was hoping to be one step up on the podium, and this is one step down, but it's still a podium finish, so I'm happy," the Japanese ace admitted, "The Formula Dream team gave me a very good car, and it seems like Iowa is my favourite track because of the results. Maybe it should be."
Panther Racing's Dan Wheldon finished fourth as the top four finishers came from different teams, the Briton fending off a determined challenge from reigning series champion Scott Dixon.
"It's a good result for Panther Racing and the National Guard - to finish fourth here with this level of competition is something we can build on," Wheldon acknowledged, "I always tended to lose a few places on starts and restarts but, once the car came in, it was as good as anybody out there.
"Toward the end of the race, I should have made some more aggressive changes with the front wing, because I had some understeer, but my race was relatively low key. I was loose at the start of each stint, but once the car settled down it was good, and I'll take a top five."
Dixon's event was spoiled early on when his Ganassi entry was tagged by 'polewinner' Helio Castroneves. The Brazilian had started from the front of the pack based on entrant points after qualifying was cancelled due to water seeping onto the track. Both cars were forced to pit for repairs.
"We tried to go with two different strategies, and it looks like Dario just had a stellar day," the Kiwi commented, "Once we touched [with Castroneves], we cycled back and, once we got back in traffic, it was really tough. We should have done much better, but at least one of the cars did well this weekend."
Castroneves eventually finished an understeer-afflicted seventh, with Tomas Scheckter posting the best result since his return to the fray with sixth for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. The South African combined with eighth-placed rookie Mike Conway to give DRR a rare double top ten, last achieved at last year's Indianapolis 500 when Buddy Rice finished eighth and Townsend Bell tenth.
The race got off to a rough start with four caution periods in the first 55 laps, but finished with stints of 56 and 127 consecutive green flag laps.
EJ Viso was again a first lap casualty, spinning in unison with Robert Doornbos but damaging his HVM car against the outside wall and being forced to retire. Doornbos pitted with damage but, after a lot of work, returned to the track. The handling on his Newman/Haas/Lanigan entry was compromised, however, and the Dutchman called it quits atfer a cumulative 58 laps.
The race's other retirements - for Ryan Hunter-Reay, Justin Wilson, Raphael Matos, Mario Moraes and Kanaan were all the result of contact.