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First IRL victory thrills Franchitti

7/25/2004

WEST ALLIS, Wis. -- Dario Franchitti took advantage of the
first and last caution flags for his first IRL victory.

Franchitti started in seventh and got great help from the first
yellow flag on lap 39. He pitted and changed his tires, and that
made all the difference for him Sunday in the inaugural Menards
A.J. Foyt Indy 225 at The Milwaukee Mile.

"It wasn't the best start I've ever made, but it was clean,''
he said. "When we put new tires on, the car really came to life at
that point, and I started moving through the field.''

Then as the race was coming to a close, Franchitti held off
Buddy Rice after a late restart. Rice finished second, followed by
Sam Hornish Jr.

Franchitti was relieved and concerned when the final yellow flag
came out with less than 15 laps to go after Jaques Lazier hit the
wall in the second turn. He had Rice behind him, but also was
struggling to pass Alex Barron, who was at the end of the lead lap.

"I was relieved in a way because it got (Barron) back out
around, out of my way,'' Franchitti said. "On the flip side of
that, I was a bit concerned about the restart with Buddy. ... As it
turned out the restart was fine and it wasn't an issue.''

Rice wasn't pleased to see the yellow flag.

"I was hoping that the laps would stay green until the end,
because I was closing on him,'' Rice said. "But with a few laps to
go, I never really had a chance for a run.''

Hornish would have rather ran green until the end, although he
admitted he didn't know if he could have beaten Franchitti.

"We're not sure if we would have made it to the end, but it
would have been exciting,'' he said.

Franchitti's win was his first in the IRL after missing almost
all of last season with a back injury. The Scot competed in just
three races, two before he injured his back in a motorcycle crash
and one before undergoing surgery.

His best IRL finish had been second on June 12 at the Texas
Motor Speedway.

"We've come pretty close this year,'' he said. "It was nice to
get it all done.''

Franchitti took his first lead on the 106th lap after passing
Helio Castroneves. He managed to stay in front until more than
halfway through the race, when the leaders again pitted during a
caution, and Hornish beat him out of pit road.

Hornish held the lead during the restart, but it was waived off
and he was forced to fend off Franchitti again. Franchitti took
advantage, passing Hornish in turn one and never trailing again.
Hornish then was passed by Rice with less than 25 laps to go.

"On the second start, he just kept coming down, trying to
squeeze me,'' Franchitti said. "I was able to accelerate hard on
the inside, get past him and get a nice lead.''

Pole sitter Vitor Meira was passed on the first lap by IndyCar
series points leader Tony Kanaan and ended in fifth place. Scott
Dixon didn't race after crashing during qualifying Saturday and
injuring his left ankle and right thumb.

With his second place finish, Rice jumped to second in the
points standings and is 64 points behind Kanaan, who finished
fourth. Franchitti jumped from ninth to sixth in the points
standings.

"It's looking good in the points right now,'' Rice said.
"We're doing exactly what we need to do, marching forward.''