Franchitti got another good restart, but now found himself with a new challenger as Ed Carpenter - who had always been circulating in the top eight despite having problems with his helmet visor requiring him to drive one-handed at times - surged past Dixon to take second place, while Dixon found himself battling Ryan Hunter-Reay and unable to help Dario (or indeed help himself in his own fading championship title hopes.)
Carpenter knows Kentucky like few others, and he brought all his knowledge from those two previous second place runs to go side-by-side with Franchitti for the remaining 22 laps of the race. He couldn't pull off a pass, but significantly he could pull ahead down the straights even if he then dropped back slightly through the corners as Dario benefited from having the inside line. But crucially, the start/finish line was on the straight - and lap after lap it was clear that Carpenter was crossing the line first with increasing regularity.
That included the final lap: as they came out of turn 4 for the last time, Carpenter once again pulled ahead by a mere foot or two - 0.0098s at these speeds in excess of 200mph - and took the chequered flag in first place, in the sixth-closest finish in the history of the IZOD IndyCar Series.
"It felt way better than I ever thought it was going to feel," said Carpenter when asked what it felt like to take his first IndyCar win. "I knew we had the better car but in the second or third step ... The team made changes all day to the car. Just an awesome day."
His car owner Sarah Fisher - back at the race track for the first time since the birth of her first daughter Zoey just two and a half weeks ago - was equally emotional after the first win by her race team. "How does it feel? I'm still in shock ... My baby girl is obviously good luck!"
Fisher is a former IndyCar driver herself, and made history by being the first woman driver to win a pole position. As it happened, that landmark came at Kentucky Speedway all the way back in 2002: this place sure seems to like her and Carpenter.
Dario didn't like missing out on the win, but he knew he'd lost to a deserving driver. "I just tried to stay low there and keep going, and just ran out of overtakes one lap shy there and Ed got me. He drove a great race."
And Franchitti won't be too disappointed: with Power's early pit lane problems resulting in a 19th place finish, Franchitti turns the 12pt deficit he came into the race with into a 18pt lead in the championship with just the final round in Las Vegas remaining to decide the title.
Scott Dixon's third place means that he's now officially too far back to be in with a chance of winning the title this year - always an outside chance at best. But he does pick up the AJ Foyt Oval Trophy as the winner of the "mini-series' comprised of the oval events through 2010 (Will Power picked up the corresponding Mario Andretti Road Course Trophy last month.)
"All in all, going to take the positives, and obviously winning the AJ Foyt Oval Championship was definitely a nice end to the season," he said. "Great day for the team, huge points swing in the championship for Dario which is much need and is going to make it exciting going into Vegas."