Winning pass came with seven to go

Updated: July 16, 2005, 10:56 PM ET
Associated Press

GLADEVILLE, Tenn. -- Home-track advantage finally paid for Dario Franchitti.

Racing on the Nashville Superspeedway that he's adopted as his own, Franchitti dipped inside Patrick Carpentier with seven laps to go and then drove away with the Firestone Indy 200 on Saturday night.

He celebrated his first IndyCar Series victory this year and third overall by spinning doughnuts in front of the grandstand, then headed to Victory Lane to grab his new trophy guitar.

"Finally," said Franchitti, who can use a helicopter to make the short commute from his home to the track.

"Scotland will always be my home. Nothing will change that I guess. I have two houses now. Scotland is my home. I also live here. I've really enjoyed being in this area, living here and becoming part of the community. It's a great place. What can I tell you?"

Danica Patrick looked like she might make history with her first victory as she started second and even led nine laps. She got a much-needed caution to refuel and pick up fresh tires, but finished seventh for her fifth top-10 finish in her rookie season. Still, she was frustrated with the result.

"For some reason … when the first green flag hits, … it's just tough. I don't know what it is," Patrick said. "I'm sure it's a lot me and keeping momentum up. The restarts are fine. If we could just start single file each time, I'd be fine."

Sam Hornish Jr. finished second followed by Carpentier. Scott Sharp was fourth with Helio Castroneves fifth.

Franchitti relocated to Tennessee because of his wife, Ashley Judd, and the 1.33-mile, tri-oval track has become a favorite target for him since moving to the IndyCar Series in 2002.

Franchitti wound up as the only car from Andretti Green Racing still on the track after mechanical troubles knocked out his teammates. But he had Dan Wheldon, Tony Kanaan and Bryan Herta cheering him from the pits.

Wheldon even predicted that Franchitti would take the lead two laps after the restart off the final caution, and he was right.

The restart came with nine laps to go and Carpentier holding the lead. Franchitti started running him down. He made his move going into turn 1 as he dipped down low and ran by Carpentier's Toyota-powered Dallara with his own Honda-powered Dallara.

"I held off Dario on the first couple laps," Carpentier said. "I was so happy. I saw him draw back there, and I saw him coming back like a train. I said, 'This guy is really coming.' He just went fast and went by me."

Franchitti then put the pedal down and put plenty of room between him and the rest of the field. His biggest worry was that clouds sprinkling rain on the track would stop the race.

Wheldon came in leading the points series and needing only one victory to tie the record for most wins in a season, but he failed to finish his first race this season. He went to the pits for the second time on lap 96 and had to climb out of his car with smoke coming from the rear.

Kanaan, last year's winner here, looked like he would benefit. He was running away from the pack and leading the race when the yellow flag came out, and he started slowing down on lap 116.

But he said he ran over a piece of debris, breaking his front suspension going into turn 1 with the tire coming off. His car crashed into the left side of Darren Manning with both cars sliding into the wall.

That allowed Patrick to take advantage and grab the lead for the first time after running around 10th until then. With Franchitti, Hornish and others pitting, she stayed out on the track because she had pitted on lap 91, and her team was hoping to use some strategy to keep her up front.

This became the third race she has led in her rookie season.

But it was Franchitti's night, and he took the lead back from her during another caution as he finished leading 74 of the 200 laps.


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press

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