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Franchitti Wins Third IndyCar Championship at Homestead

Dixon wins race, Power crashes, losing title shot

By James Fish
Epoch Time Staff
Created: October 3, 2010 Last Updated: October 3, 2010
Related articles: Sports » Motorsports
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THREE-TIME CHAMP: Dario Franchitti holds up three fingers indicating his three IndyCar championship wins after the Cafes do Brasil Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. (Chris Graythen/Getty Images

THREE-TIME CHAMP: Dario Franchitti holds up three fingers indicating his three IndyCar championship wins after the Cafes do Brasil Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. (Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Dario Franchitti brought Target-Ganassi team owner Chip Ganassi yet another gem for his 2010 tiara Saturday night.

Ganassi’s teams have won just about everything in racing this year: a record-setting number of wins on the way to the Grand Am Championship, the Indy 500, the Daytona and the Brickyard 400 in NASCAR—and now, the 2010 IndyCar Championship, the seventh Ganassi has won since 1996 and a record-setting fourth under the current series administration.

Target-Ganassi's Scott Dixon won the Cafes do Brasil Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, while his teammate Dario Franchitti started from the pole, led the most laps, and made sure he finished high enough to win his third championship, his second in a row.

Franchitti told the post-race press conference that the competition level in the series was rising, making this win very tough.

“We at Team Target, both Scott and myself, didn't have the speed advantage we had last year. In some cases we had to work harder to finish in the top 5 at races. So to come away with a championship after a season like that is very satisfying,” he said.

“Nobody on the Target team gave up. We did our best every single week,” he continued, “so we find ourselves [champions] again tonight.”

With his win, Scott Dixon cemented third place in the points.

"Yeah, it's a great day. It's a big deal trying to get to third,” he said after the race. “I'm happy for Chip, happy for Dario, happy for everybody who did a good job. We definitely had the speed all night. A huge night for Team Target."

Sparks fly as cars heavy with fuel scrape the track at the IndyCar Cafes do Brasil Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Sparks fly as cars heavy with fuel scrape the track at the IndyCar Cafes do Brasil Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Franchitti came into the race 12 points behind Penske driver Will Power. To guarantee a championship win, the Ganassi driver needed to win the pole and lead the most laps to win the three bonus points.

Not a lot of people gave him much chance. Dario had won only one pole all year—in the very first race—while Will Power had qualified fastest eight times. Dario only had three wins to Will’s five. Plus, Power had finished right behind Franchitti at the previous race, at Japan.

SparksTwo104662545  Dario Franchitti and Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon lap together early in the Cafes do Brasil Indy 300. (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

SparksTwo104662545 Dario Franchitti and Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon lap together early in the Cafes do Brasil Indy 300. (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Instead of worrying, Ganassi’s engineers got to work and prepared the best cars on the track, for their drivers. Dario came out fast and stayed in the lead for most of the first 150 laps, sharing it occasionally with Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan.

Franchitti didn’t let up until Will Power pushed too hard and brushed the wall on lap 135. The Penske crew did their best to repair the damage, but by lap 148 the car was in the garage, and Power was standing by disconsolate, realizing his dream season was ending badly.

Despite his rival being out, Dario Franchitti still needed to finish tenth or better; he slowed his pace dropped, trying to save his car. His strategy almost backfired: on lap 175 Dale Coyne Racing’s Milka Duno spun into the wall right in front of Franchitti, almost collecting the Ganassi driver as she skidded by.

That was the last hurdle he needed to clear; after the race restarted on lap 182, Franchitti let the rest of the field fight; he picked his way through slower traffic to finish eighth, securing his championship win.

Power’s Problems

Dario Franchitti leads teammate Scott Dixon and Penske drivers Will Power and Ryan Briscoe during the Cafes do Brasil Indy 300. (Nick Laham/Getty Images)

Dario Franchitti leads teammate Scott Dixon and Penske drivers Will Power and Ryan Briscoe during the Cafes do Brasil Indy 300. (Nick Laham/Getty Images)

Will Power came into this season—his first full season on IndyCar—feeling blessed. An accident at Sonoma in 2009 had left him with a broken back and no contract to drive for any time in the futre. He didn’t know if his career was over.

Roger Penske decided to stick by Power, granting him a full season’s contract at Penske racing. Will Power made the most of it, Winning five races, the Mario Andretti Road Course Trophy, and coming to the last race leading in points.

Power’s problems started as soon as he finished qualifying. Power set the provisional pole, but both Target-Ganassi drivers qualified after him—and both went faster. There went one point of Power’s lead.

Through the first stint the Penske driver struggled with his car. “I have push in 3 and 4 and I’m loose in 1 and two,” Power radioed his race strategist Clive Howell. “We’ll sort it out,” Howell told a television reporter, and apparently they did: after the first yellow flag on lap 36, Power advanced from ninth to fourth, “telling Howell, “I’m good.” 

”Last year, watching this race in a back brace. So, yeah, it's been the best year of my career in motorsports.”

Maybe his car was better, but his competition still had an advantage: teamwork. While Penske drivers Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe challenged Franchitti for the lead, ignoring Power, Franchitti’s teammate Scott Dixon teamed up to form a drafting pair, allowing them to go faster than a single car.

Power kept pushing, but he couldn’t match the Target twins.

On lap 135, Power came up on Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay.

Will Power's pit crew tries to repair his car's damaged suspension. (Ron McQueeney/IndyCar)

Will Power's pit crew tries to repair his car's damaged suspension. (Ron McQueeney/IndyCar)

Power tried to go around on the outside, but got too high; once his tires hit the “gray,” the edge of the track covered with tiny balls of chewed up tire rubber, Power had no control. He slid helplessly into the wall, scraping along it hard enough to break his right-side suspension, front and rear.

Power came in for repairs, went out for a few laps, then came back and parked it. His day, his season, and his championship hopes were done.

"Very disappointed, of course,” was how Will Power described his mood. “I had come to the realization at lap 120 or something, that Dario had led the most laps. We didn't really have the car to win.

"I was pushing it as hard as I could. I was trying to get around a couple of back markers. And they were running different lines. It took a bit of my air away and I ended up in the gray.”

Power pointed out that even though he lost the championship race, he had still had a stellar season. “I mean, last year, watching this race in a back brace. So, yeah, it's been the best year of my career in motorsports.”

Fight for the Podium

Danica Patrick drove hard to take second place at the Cafes do Brasil Indy 300. (Nick Laham/Getty Images)

Danica Patrick drove hard to take second place at the Cafes do Brasil Indy 300. (Nick Laham/Getty Images)

The pace might have relaxed for Dario Franchitti in the last few dozen laps, but for the rest for field, the championship was not and had never been an issue; they were there to win a race.

Tony Kanaan and Helio Castroneves had been fighting for the lead since the drop of the green flag; with Will Power and Dario Franchitti out of the picture, the battle intensified.

Tony Kanaan’s Andretti Autosports teammates Marco Andretti and Danica Patrick tried different fuel strategies to try to get ahead. It paid off for Patrick; she (and Kanaan) planned to stretch their fuel and improve track position by staying out on a lap 166 caution, gambling that they could make it until the end.

When another yellow flag came out on lap 175, the strategy paid off: Kanaan and Patrick were at the front and had enough fuel left (fuel economy more than doubles under a yellow flag) while Andretti, who had been leading before he pitted on the prior caution, was mired in seventh.

On the restart, the order was Dixon, Kanaan, Patrick, Castroneves, with Panther racing’s Dan Wheldon in fifth. Castroneves attacked Patrick repeatedly, but couldn’t finish the pass.

In the final dozen laps Patrick escaped Castroneves and attacked Kanaan even more fiercely, trying him on ever side on every corner. Kanaan swerved back and forth across the track; if this had not been the fight for second place in the last race of the season, he surely would have drawn a penalty.

On the final lap, Patrick managed to squeeze underneath Kanaan; the two finished in a drag race down the home stretch, with Patrick winning by a mere hundredth of a second.

Ryan Briscoe forced his way his teammate Helio Castroneves on the final lap to finish fourth. 1.5 seconds back was A.J. Foyt Racing’s Vitor Meira.

Rookie of the Year

#14 Alex Lloyd battles #34 Bertrand Baguette during the Cafes do Brasil Indy 300. (Dana Garret/IndyCar)

#14 Alex Lloyd battles #34 Bertrand Baguette during the Cafes do Brasil Indy 300. (Dana Garret/IndyCar)

Alex Lloyd, driving for Dale Coyne Racing, finished twelfth; not a bad finish, but not a great one—unless one happened to be a rookie, as Lloyd is.

His performance throughout the season earned him Rookie of the Year honors, beating out Simona de Silvestro by performing consistently on both road courses and ovals, where de Silvestro is weaker.

Lloyd was not brand new to the series, as was de Silvestro. He had had occasional rides in the past, but had been out of a car for two years before signing full time with Dale Coyne for 2010.

Everyone talks about a little bit of rust—I had two years’ [rust] to knock off. But it was great that I got the opportunity from Dale and Gale Coyne and Boy Scouts of America. That was a big thing for me, and really a life line, because, like I said, two years out of the sport, it's hard to get back in sometime.”

Lloyd continued, “We had some good races this year, some very good races, and we've had some races that could have been very good. But we've kept ourselves going and kept focusing the last few races on Rookie of the Year. That's come up. That's certainly a great thing for myself and the whole team.”

So the 2010 IndyCar season comes to a close. IndyCar fans can start looking forward to the first race of 2011, the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, on March 27 of next year.

2010 IndyCar Final Points Standings

 

+/-

Driver

Pts

Gap

1

+1

Dario Franchitti

602

0

2

 -1

Will Power

597

-5

3

 +1

Scott Dixon

547

-55

4

-1

Helio Castroneves

531

-71

5

 -1

Ryan Briscoe

482

-120

6

 +1

Tony Kanaan

453

-149

7

-1

Ryan Hunter-Reay

445

-157

8

+1

Marco Andretti

392

-210

9

-1

Dan Wheldon

388

-214

10

 +1

Danica Patrick

367

-235

Cafes do Brasil Indy 300

 

#

Name

Laps

Gap

Diff

Status

1

9

Scott Dixon

200

--.—-

--.—-

Running

2

7

Danica Patrick

200

2.7587

2.7587

Running

3

11

Tony Kanaan

200

0.0111

2.7698

Running

4

6

Ryan Briscoe

200

1.0129

3.7827

Running

5

3

Helio Castroneves

200

1.5497

5.3324

Running

6

14

Vitor Meira

200

1.8802

7.2126

Running

7

26

Marco Andretti

200

1.1511

8.3637

Running

8

10

Dario Franchitti

200

2.7764

11.1401

Running

9

4

Dan Wheldon

200

11.1120

22.2521

Running

10

02

Graham Rahal

199

1 lap

1 lap

Running

11

37

Ryan Hunter-Reay

199

1.9767

1.9767

Running

12

19

Alex Lloyd

199

0.8603

2.8370

Running

13

20

Ed Carpenter

199

2.1761

5.0131

Running

14

77

Alex Tagliani

199

0.0260

5.0391

Running

15

34

Bertrand Baguette

199

1.5237

6.5628

Running

16

36

Sebastian Saavedra

199

0.0185

6.5813

Running

17

2

Raphael Matos

199

0.0217

6.6030

Running

18

5

Takuma Sato

199

4.8314

11.4344

Running

19

8

EJ Viso

198

1 lap

2 laps

Running

20

06

Hideki Mutoh

198

4.0849

4.0849

Running

21

22

Justin Wilson

198

2.1157

6.2006

Running

22

67

Sarah Fisher

197

1 lap

3 laps

Running

23

78

Simona de Silvestro

197

0.9108

0.9108

Running

24

18

Milka Duno

170

27 laps

30 laps

Contact

25

12

Will Power

143

27 laps

57 laps

Contact

26

24

Ana Beatriz

42

101 laps

158 laps

Contact

27

32

Mario Moraes

25

17 laps

175 laps

Mechanical

 

 

 




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