Dario Franchitti emerged victorious from a hard, tough race at the Milwaukee Mile, but his first thought wasn't about the win - but about how Helio Castroneves had been driving.

"It was Helio's usual blocking crap and I don't know what it's going to take to understand blocking is not part of what we do in the IndyCar Series," said Dario in the immediate post-race interview. "He was blocking inside and outside, and it's no wonder he got a flat tyre considering some of the parts of the track he was using."

It's unusually strong criticism from Franchitti, who is usually one of the most polished and media-savvy of the current generation of IndyCar drivers. Unsurprisingly, Castroneves was not happy with the remarks.

"I'm very sorry he that he feels that way," said Helio on Tuesday. "I definitely want to talk to him. I want to find out what happened; why he would have such a harsh comment about me."

He was surprised that Franchitti's first thought after the race should be to make the attack on him. "He's our champion; he should be just enjoying his victory and act like a champion," Castroneves said. "He won the race; there were other cars between me and him ... Now I just want to move on to Iowa this week and try to win that race."

Franchitti did have much more positive words to say about Tony Kanaan, who provided the strongest challenge of anyone during the race.

"The first part of the race I thought I had a bit of an advantage on everybody," said Franchitti. "Then Tony came marching along and he looked really, really strong, and he gave me a hard time as usual. Racing with Tony is a pleasure. An absolute pleasure. Just inches apart, giving each other room and respect.

"It was fun to race with Tony," Franchitti continued. "He was very aggressive, but in the best possible sense," pointedly drawing parallels with Kanaan's Brazilian compatriot Castroneves. "I think we have a respect for each other ... We race each other bloody hard, but there's always that respect there, too." Franchitti and Kanaan were team mates back at Andretti-Green Racing in 2005 along with Bryan Herta and Dan Wheldon, and the group remains firm friends dubbed "the Four Musketeers".

Castroneves was eventually eliminated from the lead by a left rear puncture, while Kanaan exited the race on lap 195 when he hit the wall.

"I was trying to get on Kanaan's gearbox," Franchitti said. "I was trying to make it happen. I was still so spittin' mad from what Helio did on that restart, I was doing all I could to get on to him and get past Tony as well."

"My fault," Kanaan admitted of his spin. "I was trying, and when you're trying to win races, that's the way it is. I saw the opportunity when Helio got traffic, stepped on it and lost the rear. It's a shame. It's my fault. But, hey, it was a fun race. We raced each other hard the whole race. Unfortunately, I'm human. I make mistakes sometimes as well. I'd rather make a mistake trying hard then actually not trying at all."

Castroneves felt that if Kanaan hadn't triggered that yellow, Helio himself would still have had a chance to win despite his own puncture. "If the yellow had not come out for TK's spin, I believe we might have had a chance," Castroneves said. "The way Milwaukee is - flat out, no banking - the left rear has the least amount of load on it. That is why for me it was fine and I was able to keep turning fast laps."

Franchitti's uncharacteristically strong criticism of a fellow driver adds to a growing list of forthright comments in recent weeks which have raised eyebrows in the paddock.

He made no secret of his displeasure with his Ganassi team's handling of fuel strategy at Indianapolis in May, which saw them fail to fuel his car sufficiently to complete his final qualifying run that cost him a shot at a pole or front row start - and then followed it up a week later with a marginal call on a fuel conservation strategy that saw him slump to 12th place.

"We're leading the race, and we came in to do that stop. I don't know. I don't understand right now. They're going to have to explain that one to me," said Dario of the race strategy afterwards. "I'm disappointed with the result. I don't second-guess these guys. I only have a very narrow view of what's going on. They have the big picture."

And his scathing criticism of the blind draw system used to set the starting order for the second race of the double-header Firestone Twin 275 race at Tecas last week certainly provoked a strong reaction from the IndyCar Series powers-that-be, who have already indicated that the lottery system would not be used next year even if the double-header format itself returns.

"The first thing is we should never have been in that position to start with. To have a championship in the IndyCar Series, drawing the grid out of a hat is a joke," Dario had said after drawing 28th position, his worst start in his US open-wheel racing career and 25 positions behind his chief title rival Will Power. "There's enough variables out there. We don't need to be throwing dice to be deciding grid positions. That made me mad. I'm sitting there, okay, I won the first race, but at the same point my emotion right now has been pissed off about the hand we were dealt tonight."

"I tend to agree with Dario," IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard is reported as saying in response. "We don't want the credibility of the championship to be determined by draw, and I think an inverted field will offer the same added excitement."

Even so, it seems that Dario's anger over that hasn't entirely subsided even a week later, despite his win at Milwaukee putting him equal in points with Power in the IndyCar title battle after seven races.



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