Dario Franchitti wins first Texas race
FORT WORTH, Texas -- Will Power got the luck of the draw, then the IndyCar Series points leader made a quick evasive move to avoid disaster before his final stop Saturday night for his first victory on an oval.
Dario Franchitti went from winning the opener of the first doubleheader in major open-wheel racing in 30 years to pure frustration after losing ground to Power in the season standings.
After Franchitti led 110 of 114 laps in the opener en route to his 28th career victory, the starting spots for the second race were determined by a blind draw. Power, who finished third in the opener, started third and Franchitti was 28th in the 30-car field before working his way to a seventh-place finish.
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"Beep, beep," Franchitti said, censoring himself when asked about the situation. "I'd rather they invert the field so we're all in the same field. You saw the result. Worst-case scenario for us. ... Through pure luck by pulling that number, he wins that race."
Power celebrated on the stage between races after drawing the No. 3 starting spot. After he picked his number, the only ones left for Target Chip Ganassi teammates Franchitti and Scott Dixon, the runner-up in both races to move up to third in points, were 18 and 28. Dixon drew No. 18, relegating his teammate to the second-to-last row.
While Power led 68 laps for his 12th career victory, and third this season, even the Team Penske driver knew something wasn't right.
"That was definitely unfair for Dario and Scott, anyone that was a championship contender," Power said. "For him to start 28th and me third, it just isn't fair."
Power entered the weekend with a 16-point lead over Franchitti, who cut it to seven points after winning the opener. The margin stretched back to 21 after Power won the nightcap 171-mile race at the 1½-mile, high-banked Texas track.
As Power was charging down the backstretch inside the final 10 laps of the finale for his last stop, he suddenly had to swerve toward the inside wall to avoid contact with Graham Rahal, who had apparently run out of fuel. Power got in with no problem, then got a splash of fuel and new left tires.
"I'm glad he stayed straight," Power said. "That could have been pretty big and gone the wrong way."
Power got the lead on the 39th lap after going side-by-side with Tony Kanaan, who drew the pole position for the race. The two stayed nearby for a couple of laps before Power finally cleared him and went on to win by 0.09466 seconds over Dixon.
With no cautions and an average speed of 206.693 mph, that was the second-fastest race in IndyCar history. Trailing only a 400-mile race at California in 2003 when there was only one caution and an average speed of 207.151.
The second race lasted only 48 minutes, about seven minutes shorter than the opener.
The first race was on a blistering pace of more than 207 mph before the Indianapolis 500-winning car driven by rookie Wade Cunningham, not Dan Wheldon, was involved in a crash for the only caution to set up the final 10-lap sprint. The average speed was 181.649 mph.
"I saw Dixie. That's a guy you don't want to see, especially with a side-by-side restart," Franchitti said. "I managed to get a good restart, was able to stay ahead of him, and at the same time he was able to stay ahead of Will. That was 1-2 for the team. Worked out pretty good."
Franchitti, who edged Dixon by 0.0527 seconds, wasn't as happy after the second race, despite an incredible run through the field. The seventh-place finish could still cost him valuable points by the end of the season.
There was an abbreviated celebration between races for Franchitti's 28th victory, which moved him into 10th place overall on the career list past Fort Worth native and three-time Indy 500 champion Johnny Rutherford. Franchitti shot the customary six-shooters in Victory Lane for his first victory at Texas, where he was twice a runner-up.
The race-tightening crash in the opener came with 22 laps remaining when rookie drivers Charlie Kimball and Cunningham made contact in the fourth turn.
Wheldon had only a one-race contract with Bryan Herta Autosport at Indy two weeks ago, when he drove to victory in the No. 98 car that was leased from Sam Schmidt Motorsports.
Because of damage to one of its other cars at Indianapolis, the Schmidt team decided to use that Indy 500 championship car at Texas for the Firestone Twin 275s as No. 99. It sustained significant damage.
Cunningham went to a backup car for the second race, and drew the No. 2 starting spot. He finished 26th.
Franchitti had built a nearly 5-second lead before the only crash of the night, but was able to drive around the wreckage without any issues.
"I had slowed down already," Franchitti said. "I was already fully in control of where I was going to go."
After the first attempt to start the race was waved off because Tagliani took off to soon, they were side-by-side on the second attempt. Franchitti, who qualified second, took the lead in the first turn.
"The biggest problem was traffic and working my way through that," Franchitti said. "The first win at Texas feels good."
Only 12 of the 30 drivers, the largest field ever at Texas, finished on the lead lap in the first race. That number dropped to 11 in the second race.
"It was fun out there, and then crazy," Dixon said. "The race blows by so quick"
Before Saturday night, there had only been 17 twin races, nine on ovals, in the history of U.S. open-wheel racing including CART and USAC. All of those twin bills were between 1967 and 1981, the last being a CART-sanctioned event Rick Mears swept at Atlanta.
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press
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