Franchitti Wins 2009 IRL IndyCar Championship

October 10, 2009 Updated: October 13, 2009

Dario Franchitti celebrates after winning the IRL IndyCar Series Firestone Indy 300 and the IRL IndyCar Series Championship on October 10, 2009 at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. (Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
Dario Franchitti celebrates after winning the IRL IndyCar Series Firestone Indy 300 and the IRL IndyCar Series Championship on October 10, 2009 at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. (Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
HOMESTEAD, Fla.—Target-Chip Ganassi driver Dario Franchitti won his second IRL IndyCar championship, by winning the Firestone Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on October 10, 2009.

The final race of the IRL IndyCar season was a three-way battle between the top three championship contenders, as Scott Dixon, Dario Franchitti, and Ryan Briscoe drove away from the rest of the field, running their own private race to determine who would win the title.

Briscoe and Dixon had the fastest cars on the track. After the first several laps, it became apparent that Franchitti didn’t have the pace of the leaders. Franchitti and his crew decided to conserve fuel and let Dixon and Briscoe battle it out at the front.

“Pretty early on a realized I couldn’t stay with them my only option was to try to save fuel,” Franchitti said after the race. “The first stint was crucial because if we had had better balance we would have been right up there with them.”

Scott Dixon in the #9 car leads his teammate Dario Franchitti in the #10 and Ryan Briscoe in the #6 in the opening laps of the IRL IndyCar Series Firestone Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. (Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
Scott Dixon in the #9 car leads his teammate Dario Franchitti in the #10 and Ryan Briscoe in the #6 in the opening laps of the IRL IndyCar Series Firestone Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. (Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
The Firestone Indy 300 was the first race in league history to run from green flag to checkered flag, with no caution periods. This upset the race strategists’ planning; as the race went on, the engineers were waiting for the first yellow flag so they could calculate the best strategy.

Because the race ran without accident or incident, Briscoe and Dixon got trapped in losing strategies. Both leaders were forced to pit on lap 144, knowing that under the best possible green-flag conditions they could not make it to the end on a tank of fuel. For them to slow down and conserve would have been pointless; their only option was to continue to run full-on, and hope for fate to intervene.

Franchitti made his final pit stop on lap 150, knowing that he could finish the race without another stop.

Ryan Briscoe leads the IRL IndyCar Series Firestone Indy 300 on October 10, 2009 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. (Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
Ryan Briscoe leads the IRL IndyCar Series Firestone Indy 300 on October 10, 2009 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. (Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
Ryan Briscoe said he knew after his last pit stop that he might be stuck in a bad strategy. “After the last stop I realized I wasn’t going to make it when [team owner] Roger Penske said [on the radio] ‘Just bring it home. You have twenty car-lengths on Scott … I don’t know if Dario has to pit again…’ and that is when it kind of sunk in.”

Briscoe kept pushing. On lap 187, he earned the two bonus points for most laps led in the race—an important two points if a full course caution was called, and a meaningless milestone if not.

Franchitti was going so slowly, relative to the leaders, that Briscoe and Dixon almost passed him by lap 190. But Franchitti had the discipline he needed to hold to his strategy.

Dixon had to pit for a splash of fuel on lap 193. He knew at that point that unless Briscoe and Franchtitti collided, his championship hunt was ended.

A lap later, Briscoe followed suit, knowing that he would run out of fuel on the course if he didn’t pit, and knowing he would lose his shot at the championship if he did.

Ryan Briscoe pushed hard in the final six laps, and closed the gap to less than five seconds, but five seconds is a quarter of the track at 210 miles per hour. Neither Briscoe nor Dixon had any chance.

When the leaders pitted, Franchitti took over the lead, and motored gently around the track to take his second IRL IndyCar championship. The race win was his fifth, a personal best (he won four races in 2007 when he won the championship.)

Dario Franchitti and the Target Chip Ganassi Racing team arrive in Gatorade Victory Lane after winning the IndyCar Series Championship at  the IRL IndyCar Series Firestone Indy 300. (Darrell Ingham/Getty Images)
Dario Franchitti and the Target Chip Ganassi Racing team arrive in Gatorade Victory Lane after winning the IndyCar Series Championship at the IRL IndyCar Series Firestone Indy 300. (Darrell Ingham/Getty Images)
Franchitti took the title with 616 points, besting his teammate Scott Dixon by eleven. Ryan Briscoe finished second in the race but third in the championship, only one point behind Dixon.

Helio Castroneves finished fifth in the race and fourth in the championship, amazing considering he missed the first race of the season.

Danica Patrick finished fifth in the championship, equaling her 2008 performance.  She had a disappointing race; after running mid-pack, she was starting to get a handle on her car when, on lap 159, Panther Racing’s Dan Wheldon rammed her as she entered her pit, sidelining both cars. “Dan Wheldon was coming out of his pit box. He went, then he stopped, then he went and hit me. His team sent him, and they shouldn’t have. It’s pretty unfortunate because it took us both out.”

Danica’s teammate Tony Kanaan finished fourth in the race and sixth in the points, and Marco Andretti, also of Andretti-Green Racing, finished eighth in the points. He dropped out of the race with brake failure after making a strong start.

 

 

2009 IRL IndyCar Championship Results

 

Driver

Points

Gap

1

Dario Franchitti

616 

 

2

Scott Dixon

605 

-11

3

Ryan Briscoe

604 

-12

4

Helio Castroneves

433 

-183

5

Danica Patrick

393 

-223

6

Tony Kanaan

386 

-230

7

Graham Rahal

385 

-231

8

Marco Andretti

380 

-236

9

Justin Wilson

354

-262

10

Dan Wheldon

354 

-262