Sunday, August 22, 2004
Franchitti gets second win; Rice has disaster
FOUNTAIN, Colo. -- Although Dario Franchitti was criticized
for making the jump to the IRL from the former CART series, his
decision is starting to look like a good one.
But it wasn't that way a year ago, when a bad back that resulted
in surgery kept him from proving it wasn't a bad move.
Now, with two wins this year -- including Sunday at Pikes Peak
International Raceway -- perhaps Franchitti will stop hearing the
Franchitti shook off the potentially dangerous pit mishap and
used a caution midway through the race to make up ground. He wound
up leading the final 63 laps of the IRL's Honda 225.
"The only people that matter, the people who really know what's
going on -- my bosses, the guys on the team, the guys at Honda --
they knew the way I felt,'' said Franchitti, who had the surgery
after last year's race at Pikes Peak. "Why would I do this if I
didn't want to?
"I'm enjoying my racing, next year's schedule is going to be
even better for me and I have great teammates. Things are pretty
good right now.''
Franchitti, who held the lead four times for a total of 128
laps, went into the pits on lap 85 for four new tires and fuel. As
he started to pull out of the pits, fuel man Mike Miller had
trouble getting the hose disconnected from the car and was clipped
by the rear tire.
Miller wound up with a twisted knee and Franchitti lost about 10
seconds, allowing three drivers to pass him. But what could have
been the difference in the race turned out to be just a speed bump
The Scottish driver took advantage of a yellow flag to clear
debris on lap 120, caught up to the leaders and passed Sam Hornish
Jr. 12 laps later. Adrian Fernandez stayed close for about 35 laps
before Franchitti started pulling away after another caution.
Franchitti took the checkered flag 2.2429 seconds ahead of
Fernandez. It was the 11th straight victory for Honda. Only
Hornish, who won the season-opener in Homestead, Fla., in a Toyota,
has kept Honda from being 12 for 12 this year.
The winner averaged 142.182 mph for the 225 laps. He picked up
53 points in the IndyCar series standings and moved into fifth
"I think I surprised a couple of guys,'' said Franchitti, who
also won in Milwaukee on July 25. "Pikes Peak is a difficult track
because you really start to lose grip as the run goes on with the
heat during the day.''
Fernandez followed up his first career win -- a week earlier at
Kentucky -- with another solid outing, holding off Dan Wheldon and
Darren Manning over the final 20 laps for his seventh top-10 finish
in his first season on the circuit.
"My car was good. It was responding and I was getting one guy
at a time,'' Fernandez said. "Eventually, we just couldn't get
Dario, he was running very strong at the time.
"I think if I could have gotten in front of him we could have
won the race, but that was the trick. Nevertheless, it was a
Series leader Tony Kanaan finished fifth, his 11th straight
top-five finish, to extend his lead to 68 points over Buddy Rice.
Kanaan earned the pole with the fastest practice time after
qualifying was washed out by rain Saturday, but he didn't have the
car to keep up with Franchitti.
"I drove a conservative race,'' said Kanaan, who has 463
points. "We made the car better and then we made the car worse. If
we were to finish fifth every race, I think we would win the
The race's start was pushed up 15 minutes because thunderstorms
were expected in the afternoon.
It didn't help Rice any.
His bid to close the gap on Kanaan took a hit in the second
turn, when he bumped Tomas Scheckter, spun into the infield and
made contact with the inside wall, severely damaging the right rear
of his car.
With four races left in the season, Indy 500 champion Rice is
running out of chances to stay in the race for the points title.
"I'm pretty disappointed, but the championship isn't over,''
Rice said. "But this doesn't help our situation. We'll just have
to be as aggressive as possible in the last four races.''
Hornish had his car running well and led for 67 laps before
running into trouble coming out of the final turn on lap 158.
Hornish, running third at the time, spun without contact coming
out of the turn and slammed the rear of his car into the
frontstretch wall. The car suffered severe damage and Hornish had
to be helped off the track with a bruised right knee.
"I was trying to get back up on some guys and the car just got
away from me,'' Hornish said. "I wasn't pushing it that hard. I
don't know. It was a weird deal.''