- John Oreovicz, Autos, Open-Wheel
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FORT WORTH, Texas -- The first 114-lap sprint race Saturday night at Texas Motor Speedway in the Firestone Twin 275s turned into a 10-lap super-sprint.
Three-time Izod IndyCar Series champion Dario Franchitti became a first-time TMS winner by edging his Target Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon for victory in the first of a pair of 275-kilometer races.
Championship leader Will Power claimed third place for Team Penske.
Franchitti basically led from start to finish, losing the lead only during a midrace round of green-flag pit stops. An accident involving rookies Charlie Kimball and Wade Cunningham brought out the night's only full-course caution with 20 laps to go, and Franchitti's No. 10 crew got him out of the pits in the lead with a quick stop for tires and a splash of fuel for the final restart.
Franchitti, Dixon and Power circulated in close company for those last 10 laps but no one was able to make a pass for position. That left the Scotsman to claim his 28th career Indy car race win, pulling him ahead of Johnny Rutherford into 10th place on the career victory list.
Dario can tie Rick Mears' tally of 29 race wins if he emerges victorious in the night's second race.
"I saw Dixie [Dixon] was right there, and he's not the guy you want to have alongside for the restart because he's so good," Franchitti said in a brief interview session between races. "I managed to get a good restart and I was able to stay ahead of him. At the same time, he was able to stay ahead of Will.
"It was a 1-2 for Team Target, so it worked out pretty good."
Franchitti barely had time to catch his breath before heading back out to his car to prepare for the second race. But he did acknowledge the significance of his latest triumph.
"Does that mean it's 27 and a half wins or 28?" wondered Franchitti during a postrace TV interview with the Versus network. "What can I say about that one? The biggest problem was traffic. When the tires got old, the car started sliding around in Turns 2 and 4, but the Huggies car was pretty quick. Running in clean air and running in traffic are two different things."
Dario's only drama during the first race of the evening was avoiding the Kimball/Cunningham wreck, which occurred in Turn 3 right in front of him.
"I'd slowed down already so I was just waiting to see where they went," Franchitti said. "I was fully in control of where I was going to go."
Dixon finished 0.0527 of a second behind his teammate in the fourth-closest finish in IndyCar's 15-year history of racing at Texas.
"It's tough when the leader is on the bottom of the track, especially on new tires because the car has so much grip," said the New Zealander.
"Dario was pretty quick tonight, and he kind of just drove away. The race went by pretty quick."
"It was hot and intense out there," added Power. "We had a hard battle at the end. The car was really good and it was good to get a top-3, but Dario finished ahead again, and Dixon too."
While celebrating his team's latest victory, Chip Ganassi revealed during a postrace interview with Versus that he is not a fan of the twin-race format with a blind draw for the second contest.
"Dario had a good car and he had clean air," Ganassi said. "Now it's a jump ball for the second race. We may end up in traffic and he may have a completely different car.
"Let's just say I don't agree with this stunt they're putting on here tonight."
Franchitti also was worried about the draw for Race 2, but he allowed himself a few minutes of satisfaction before refocusing for his second race of the night.
"Getting that first win at Texas feels good," he said. "We've come pretty close before.
"Now it's back to work."
John Oreovicz covers open-wheel racing for ESPN.com.