20 April 2009
Franchitti takes Long Beach win
IndyCar returnee Dario Franchitti benefited, not once, but twice from conveniently timed full-course cautions to claim victory in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
The Scot, who took outright pole for the ALMS event - in an LMP2 car - on the famous street circuit two seasons ago, held off a determined Will Power for the final nine laps after a caution had given the Australian polesitter the chance to close up.
Repeating Power's original start, however, Franchitti got the jump on the pack and went on to win by little over three seconds as Target Chip Ganassi Racing replied to arch rival Penske's win in the season-opener two weeks ago.
Power, who faces just one more guaranteed outing in Penske's third car following Helio Castroneves' return to action, came up fractionally short in the perfect audition for full-time employment, leading comfortably early on before coming back through the field in the closing stages to sit on Franchitti's tail at the fifth and final caution.
Like the winner, others benefited from the timing of the various cautions, with third, fourth and fifth Tony Kanaan, Danica Patrick and Dan Wheldon all finding themselves thrust in to leading roles by their strategy.
A third Andretti Green car, that of Marco Andretti, took sixth place, ahead of Castroneves and leading rookies Raphael Matos and Robert Doornbos, while Alex Tagliani posted another top ten result for Conquest Racing.
There was less good fortune for St Petersburg winner Ryan Briscoe, while defending series champion Scott Dixon to make heavy weather of his title defence, the pair coming together during the final caution. Dixon, turned around by his rival, dropped to 15th, while his rival finished only 13th after being handed a penalty by race stewards.
Franchitti started second but lost two spots in the first turn of the 85-lap race. He moved back up to second on lap 15 before pitting next time around. The stop - for fuel and tyres - proved to be fortuitous as fellow Briton Mike Conway found the wall at turn one just two laps later, bringing out a full-course caution. As the rest of the field cycled through their pit-stops, Franchitti assumed the lead on lap 32.
The Scot, series champion in 2007, then benefited from a similar scenario after pitting under green conditions on lap 53, one lap before another Conway-inspired full-course caution. From that point on, Franchitti was unheaded, leading the final 29 laps and opening up a lead of several seconds over polesitter Power, having got the jump on the Aussie at the restart.
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