Posts Tagged ‘graham rahal’

The action on track on the streets of Toronto during Sunday afternoon was spectacular and fierce enough, but it paled next to the verbal fall-out that followed.

Safe to say that Will Power is not a happy man this morning.

The normally laid-back Australian was incandescent after his hopes of a good race in the Honda Indy Toronto ended with two collisions – one with his main title rival Dario Franchitti that punted him into a spin through turn 3 that all but wrecked his hopes of a win, and the second with Alex Tagliani that put paid to hopes of any sort of finish whatsoever.

It was Dario to whom he directed most of his anger, however.

“I’ve always raced him clean and he always races me dirty,” Power told TV reporters the minute he was out of the car. “He did the same at St. Pete: he drove me into the wall and I didn’t say anything. He did it again today.

“Does anyone ever penalise this guy? He’s as dirty as you like,” he went on. “It was such a dirty move … He’s the guy that mouths off about everyone and whines about everyone, and he’s the guy racing dirty who never gets a penalty from IndyCar. It’s just not right.

“I’m not surprised he didn’t get a penalty, he never gets a penalty,” he vented. “IndyCar won’t penalize them because Chip Ganassi goes up there and gives it to them. It’s just wrong.”

For his part, Chip Ganassi – the car owner of Franchitti’s #10 – denied that he’d known about any penalty, made any protests or taken any action to have one overturned.

Rumour and misinformation about the penalty-that-never-was was the fuel to the fire raging in pit lane. With TV broadcasts and IndyCar’s official Twitter feed both reporting that Franchitti had been handed a stop-go penalty for spinning Power on lap 57, the news that he hadn’t gave the impression that the team had successfully appealed to have it reversed – which would have been all-but unprecedented if it had been the case.

Trouble is, it was based on a misapprehension. There was no penalty and never had been, and the media sources had jumped the gun when they had heard that the stewards (who included driving legend Al Unser Jr and IndyCar official Tony Cotman) were simply reviewing the incident – after which they duly concluded that no penalty was needed for what they deemed a racing incident.

“Between Franchitti and Power, there was never a penalised issue to either driver,” Unser pointed out. “Franchitti was underneath Will, and there was no penalty assessed to him based on what we saw.”

Franchitti had obviously been briefed over the ream radio about the raging controversy as he made his way to victory lane, and was immediately conciliatory: “Obviously, there was contact with Will. If he’s p*ssed off, he’s quite right to be p*ssed off,” he said in typically robust language. “I’ll take more than 50% … But he has to take at least 50% of the blame. He left me a lane and then he came down,” he said, adding: “It was like he opened the door for me to pass and then closed it – too late.

“I braked as late as I could, and he went a little bit deeper but as a result of that he went wide,” he explained. “Will started to crowd me, and unfortunately the wall came out, I couldn’t get further to the right because there was a wall there … I tried to get out of it but I couldn’t.” He added: “I have to say if I was him I’d have been steamed too, but hopefully when he watches the replay he’ll see it was a racing incident.”

It didn’t seem likely. “Hey princess thanks for that nice tap today–appreciate it,” Power posted sarcastically to Franchitti on Twitter in the evening. “I did watch it and could not have raced you any cleaner —- P*SSED!”

Defending his decision to look down the inside of Power into turn 3 in the first place, Franchitti insisted that it’s part and parcel of being a racing driver. “If you’re not going to make any moves at all, you’re going to sit in whatever position you started in. But, yeah, crazy day here in Toronto!”

Despite the diplomacy, the idea that he was a “dirty racer” clearly stung Franchitti. “I believe if you ask anyone in the paddock, they will tell you that is not how I race … I think I’m known in the paddock as not someone who drives dirty, so I’m not really sure what he’s talking about,” he said. “I understand he’s upset, but hopefully when he cools down he’ll reassess that … If he doesn’t, I have no control over what he thinks. I’m going to continue to race the same way I’ve raced since I’ve been in North America.”

For this part, Power shot back: “I don’t know if it will change the way I race him, I’m just disappointed in the guy … If that’s how he wants to win a championship, good on him – he can have it.”

A few laps after his clash with Franchitti, Power was out altogether after being hit through turn 5 while overtaking Alex Tagliani.

“Pretty typical of him, Tagliani’s just a w*nker, he’s always been a w*nker,” said a disgruntled Power once he’d stopped venting at Dario. “We were just trying to get the best result possible before Tag hit me from behind. It’s very tough to have two DNFs in a row. All I can say is we’ll keep working hard and hopefully come back strong at Edmonton.”

“I am sure Will is pretty upset … The contact with Will was also a shame,” said Tagliani in response. “I tried to pass him a couple of times in turn three. He was blocking a bit, and then I made a move on the inside [and] it got tight.”

Tagliani himself ended up out of the race shortly afterwards when contact with Danica Patrick – who was avoiding a spinning James Jakes – sent him into a roll where the car was only prevented from completely overturning by the way it went vertical against the wall and bounced back right-side-up.

“I felt a big knock on the right rear, and we were up in the air,” said the local favourite. “It’s disappointing.”

Danica was already fuming over an early run-in with Takuma Sato who ploughed into the back of her car shortly after she had overtaken him, which wrecked both their afternoons. As she left pit lane, she directed an ironic thumbs-up at Sato who was still getting repairs, and on the radio called him an “idiot … that was a hard hit!”

Tony Kanaan was also fuming after being the victim of the race’s first of eight full course cautions when he was spun in turn 3 by Ryan Briscoe, and he had some unequivocal gestures for the Penske driver when the field circulated past the scene of the accident. “It was so stupid, he had plenty of room, I don’t know what he did,” said Kanaan. “I guess when your team mate is winning a lot and you’re not, you’re feeling the pressure,” referring to Briscoe’s disappointing form compared with that of Will Power in the same hardware.

Then there was Graham Rahal, who looked set to claim an impressive third place late in the race until he was spun out by Ryan Hunter-Reay. “I just got hit,” said Rahal afterwards. “I’m really ticked and I’m trying to control my emotions. That’s not like Hunter-Reay, but I guess some people strap on their helmets and lose their brain.”

“Graham got way out into the marbles there, and then he started coming across, and there was more than enough room for two cars, and I got up in there, I already had my momentum, I was coming to the corner,” said Hunter-Reay in response. “And he just came straight across. He had to know I was there.”

Rahal in turn had been the subject of anger from Hunter-Reay’s team in pit lane when it appeared he together with his Ganassi stable team mates Franchitti and Scott Dixon were “throwing” the double file line-up formation in order to extend the caution period – which was critical to Rahal’s chances of making it full distance on fuel.

“Yeah, it doesn’t make sense,” said team owner Michael Andretti of the aborted restarts that prolonged the cautions. “They’re obviously doing it on purpose so that he gets it on fuel. One time is okay, twice you [should be] in the back … It’s unfair.”

“There was nothing bad going on there,” insisted Franchitti who was trying to line up alongside Rahal for the restart. “He couldn’t run the outside of [turn] 10 in the marbles, so he was taking my lane, and I couldn’t get on the outside of 11, so I couldn’t get alongside him. I tried it once and almost smacked the fence down. We were doing our best, the restarts were tough just because of the marbles on them.”

Chip Ganassi denied any conspiracy and said that he’d had to go over to Rahal’s crew to explain the problem to them, after which the restart proceeded normally.

But relations even seemed strained within the extended Ganassi family, with Dixon not taking too kindly to the upstart Rahal getting in the way of the serious business, calling the young American driver “a pain in the ass” and adding that Rahal “got his just desserts” when Hunter-Reay spun him out.

“I was alongside [Rahal] going down the back straight and then the kink comes and he just comes right across,” said Dixon of an earlier incident that had aggrieved him. “If I didn’t brake, it would have been a massive crash.”

“I am not going to make it easy for people to get by me … I raced them hard, and I raced them clean,” said Rahal of his run at the front with Franchitti and Dixon late in the race. “I’m on Chip Ganassi’s team for a reason, and I want to win races,” he pointed out, adding: “These guys are supposed to be teammates … I find it shocking that they continue to make comments about me.”

And the recriminations just reverberated on and on: there was some Canadian-on-Canadian action between veteran legend Paul Tracy and young rookie James Hinchcliffe who banged wheels midrace in an incident that saw Tracy save a dramatic spin and avert yet another full course caution.

“I am not going to back down if I think it’s my corner,” Hinchcliffe insisted afterwards, showing he was made from the same tough stuff as the hard-headed Tracy. “We all know what Paul is like, but I have to make sure everyone knows I am going to hold my ground. It was a racing incident, but if I were in his position, which I was later in the race, I made it out.”

Later on, Marco Andretti tried an ill-advised lunge down the inside of turn 1 during the penultimate restart and ended up spinning Oriol Servia, which caught up multiple cars including Hinchcliffe and briefly blocked the track entirely: “Marco is an aggressive driver, but he’s always raced me clean,” Servia said. “But today, I think he just had a bad sleep or something.”

Marco did receive a penalty for avoidable contact, as did Tagliani for the hit on Power and Danica Patrick for the accident involving Tagliani and Jakes. Mike Conway was also penalised for steaming into the back of Ryan Briscoe during a midrace restart. “I have to apologize to Ryan for ruining his race; completely a brain fade on my part,” Conway said afterwards.

Which brings us back to the question of why there was no penalty for Dario Franchitti for the accident that gives him – intentionally or not – a vital upper hand in the IndyCar championship battle at a crucial moment, which he now leads by 55pts. Is Power right that IndyCar regards Franchitti as “untouchable” and too big to penalise?

Simmering in the background was a lot of ill feeling left over from Milwaukee, when Dario Franchitti clipped a tyre laid out on the edge of Will Power’s pit box and sent it flying despite a mechanic having a foot on it to keep it in place. With Takuma Sato getting a penalty earlier on for hitting pit lane equipment many pundits had expected Franchitti to get the same, which would have put paid to what proved to be his eventual win.

On the night, IndyCar decided there were mitigating factors and enough “reasonable doubt” to make a penalty inappropriate: Power’s crew had laid out the tyres prematurely and to the very limits of the pit box, seemingly intending to squeeze Franchitti’s entry more than previous pit stops; the Penske team should arguably also have been penalised for the mechanic illegally standing on pit lane equipment in the first place; and at the end of the day no harm was done to either personnel or to Power’s own race. Where these good reasons not to award a penalty – or excuses after the fact?

The Power/Franchitti clash seems to have fallen into the same category of “some blame on both sides” as far as IndyCar is concerned, with Power’s initial move opening a gap sufficient to give Franchitti reason to go for it – and the fact that he then thought better of it and tried to pull out of the overtake would also have been considered.

But it’s likely to leave a lot of people fuming in pit lane, in what’s already been a notably ill-tempered IndyCar season to date. Surprisingly it’s the normally affable Franchitti who has been at the centre of most of it, with his outspoken heated criticism of the way that the blind lottery for the grid of the second Firestone Twin 275k race at Texas Motor Speedway was a “joke”, to angry accusations that Helio Castroneves was up to his “usual blocking crap” at the Milwaukee Mile.

Inevitably the whole idea of double file restarts – which has been a running sore ever since IndyCar insisted on their introduction at the season opener at St Petersburg, Florida – is also in the frame as a prime target.

“The double-file starts were nuts,” Hunter-Reay said. “It was like a free-for all. You had that tight first turn that’s really as slick as glass on a restart, so everybody is sliding through trying not to hit. Then you get through turn two and your rear end steps out. Then you have a long, six-gear straight where everybody gets a draft on each other, then you’ve got to shut it down to first gear [in three.]”

So is this season simply getting very bad tempered and too aggressive? Are the double file restarts to blame? Is the quality of driving in the series just not up to par this season? Or is it just a case that all publicity is good publicity and races like Toronto help IndyCar muscle into the headlines usually dominated by NASCAR (in the US) and F1 (everywhere else)?

“You know, I don’t know why,” admitted Franchitti when asked in post-race interviews at Toronto. “I think maybe one reason – and I’m just spit-balling – is that it’s just so close right now, to get that advantage is so difficult that maybe people are taking bigger risks.”

It would be nice to finish with an optimistic note that at least the next IndyCar outing will be a calmer, saner affair. Unfortunately it’s the second leg of the series’ Canadian mini-series at Edmonton City Center Airport, and the one thing that it’s not particularly known for is calm, peaceful, uneventful racing. In fact, compared to Edmonton, it’s Toronto that can often be relatively quiet …

A crash-filled street race in Toronto saw angry words flying almost as often as bodywork and debris, as Dario Franchitti claimed a controversial win after he spun Will Power mid-race.

Dario Franchitti won the Hondy Indy Toronto on the streets of downtown Toronto, but it will surely be one of the most controversial wins of his motor racing career, with angry words flying from his title rival IndyCar rival Will Power after the two made mid-race contact.

The start of the race was relatively benign despite the double file start, with Will Power taking up the lead from pole position ahead of Scott Dixon and Mike Conway getting the better of Dario Franchitti for third. It certainly didn’t hint at the chaos and storms that were to follow, and it wasn’t until lap 3 that we saw the first full course caution of the day.

That was sparked when Tony Kanaan took a wide line into turn 3, which Ryan Briscoe took as an invitation to try a move down the inside line. He wasn’t able to hold it close enough to the apex however, and when Kanaan turned into the corner there was contact that spun Kanaan around and sent him into the outside wall rear-first. The suspension damage terminated the #82’s involvement in the race, but Briscoe escaped with merely a precautionary visit to pit lane for a new nose.

Kanaan said he was ‘Very, very disappointed,” adding: “It was so stupid, he had plenty of room, I don’t know what he did … I guess when your team mate is winning a lot and you’re not, you’re feeling the pressure.”

Racing resumed on lap 6, and there was another incident on track two laps later when Takuma Sato – having been overtaken for 20th position by Danica Patrick down the start/finish straight – then misjudged his braking into turn 3 and ploughed straight into the back of the GoDaddy.com #7, punted them both off into the run-off area. Fortunately the run-off allowed track marshals to work under waved local yellows rather than a full course caution, and both Danica and Sato were eventually able to get back underway and limp back to the pits for repairs. Danica was out first and directed an ironic thumbs-up at the KV Racing pit box where the team were still working on Sato, while over the radio she made her feelings known to her own team: “Idiot … that was a hard hit!”

The race settled down after this, with Dario getting past Conway at the restart to retake third place. The next significant development was Oriol Servia coming into the pits early for his first stop of the day on lap 14 in a bid to move to an off-sync strategy from the leaders. This was on the very edge of being able to complete the 85 laps with only one further pit stop for fuel, and Servia was clearly hoping for a timely caution to assist his campaign.

The same tactic was soon picked up by others, with Marco Andretti in next time around, and Ryan Briscoe – already circulating near the back after his clash with Tagliani and with nothing to lose – followed suit next time around, and then Paul Tracy on lap 19 and Ryan Hunter-Reay on lap 22. What had started as a minor sideshow distraction was now starting to become potentially a major problem for the leaders, as a full course caution at this point would see them all dive into the pits – and come out behind these early stoppers who were beginning to add up.

The worry grew when potential front-runners Justin Wilson and Alex Tagliani came in on laps 23 and 24 respectively: if they were gifted the lead by a timely yellow then it would be very difficult to dislodge them again. Finally on lap 27 it was Dario Franchitti who blinked among the leaders and headed into pit lane. It seemed an especially canny move by the Scot given that Power and Dixon were now coming up on the back of James Jakes to lap the Dale Coyne car and were being held up.

And then just as Dario was back up to full speed, the caution that the leaders who had yet to pit feared came out on lap 31: Tagliani was into the tyre wall at turn 3, after Helio Castroneves misjudged his braking into the corner and locked up, running into the side of the #77 that was trying to make the turn. Both cars were recovered and made it back to pit lane for lengthy repairs by their respective teams.

Power had reason not to be happy with his Penske team mate, who not for the first time this season had caused a highly unhelpful caution. Power and Dixon were among those who were obliged to pit at this point, while Dario Franchitti stayed out and assumed the race lead for the first time that afternoon.

As the race resumed on lap 37 with a lot of jostling and minor collisions but no major crashes: Franchitti fended off an assertive Oriol Servia followed by Justin Wilson, Ryan Hunter-Reay and local boy James Hinchcliffe; Power led those who had just stopped, but was now mired down in 11th place just ahead of Dixon and Conway, with the likes of Briscoe, Vitor Meira, Paul Tracy, Marco Andretti and JR Hildebrand in the way ahead.

The first green lap saw Dixon make contact with Hildebrand as he forced his way past, the rookie just able to keep it off the tyre wall in turn 3; a lap later and Canadians Paul Tracy and James Hinchcliffe found themselves going into turn 5 side-by-side. Tracy is not known as a driver who backs off from any fight, and young rookie Hinchliffe is apparently made of similar stuff so neither driver would give up, the cars banging wheels and Tracy coming out of it the worse with a spin that he was just able to save although damage to the front wing from the initial contact would send him into pit lane but without the need for yellow flags.

Instead the next caution was for James Jakes who had spun and stalled in turn 9. That allowed Graham Rahal to head for the pits for new tyres after apparently sustaining a right rear puncture on the sharp edge of Ryan Hunter-Reay’s front wing; surprisingly Hunter-Reay opted not to pit at the same time despite clear damage to that front wing, preferring instead to hold on to the track position that he had gained from his early pit stop strategy.

And initially it seemed to be the right move, with Hunter-Reay able to follow Justin Wilson through when the Englishman made a lovely move on Oriol Servia for second place, forcing Servia off the racing line so that he then lost pace on the marbles which were seriously building up by this stage. But a few laps later and the wing’s condition had worsened, Hunter-Reay had fallen down to seventh place and finally he conceded defeat and pitted on lap 47. It looked as though the Andretti team had made a horrible mistake with the gambit.

Or – maybe not. The very next lap saw a major multiple-car accident in the increasingly notorious turn 3. It was sparked by Paul Tracy – possibly still with some damage after his earlier contact with Hinchcliffe – locking up and running into Vitor Meira on the straight leading down into the corner; Sebastian Bourdais was immediately behind them on the road and had no where to go but into the side of Tracy as he spun, while Charlie Kimball tired to avoid the accident and ran into the barrier on the other side, leaving only a car’s-width gap in the middle of the track for the rest of the cars to make their way through. Fortunately all cars were able to get back underway, although Tracy needed a lengthy visit to the pits for repairs.

With 36 laps to go till the end, it was a no-brainer that everyone now had to come in for their final pit stops – which potentially fell beautifully for those who had just been into the pits such as Graham Rahal, who assumed the lead, and Hunter-Reay who now found himself in 5th place after that suddenly-fortuitous fluke stop for a wing change at just the right moment. Dario Franchitti resumed in sixth place ahead of Justin Wilson, Will Power and Scott Dixon, Power having had a flying pit stop thanks to having less fuel to take on board after his more recent stop than Franchitti and Wilson.

Franchitti had a poor restart and was passed by Justin Wilson, and that broke Dario’s momentum just enough for Will to pounce and get past him as well. The two were still running together when Mike Conway ran into the back of Ryan Briscoe and shunted them both off into a run-off area.

“I have to apologize to Ryan for ruining his race; completely a brain fade on my part,” confessed Conway. “Going into the turn, I tried to take my time and get to the inside, but it seemed to choke up a bit. There was nowhere to go. It was kind of a slow incident but it broke the left side suspension. End of a tough day for the team.”

Like the earlier Sato/Patrick accident in the same spot, this was dealt with under local waved yellows; but the next caution was out on lap 57 anyway. And the reason for it was a clash between the two main title contenders, Dario Franchitti and Will Power.

From Dario’s point of view, Power seemed to run wide into turn 3 and leave a gap down the inside which was just too tempting to pass up. By the time Franchitti realised that he’d misjudged the opportunity and tried to back out of it, it was too late and Will turned into the apex and made contact with Dario on the inside: the Penske came off worse and was thrown into a spin.

He got the engine going again and rejoined once all the cars had gone past, but it was a bitter blow for Power’s title chances. And given that it had been Dario that had done the deed – seemingly deliberately in Will’s eyes – he was spitting fire. “We were working our way back toward the front and we got past Franchitti. We went into the corner and I gave him room and then he just drove into me.”

Word came down that the incident was being referred to the track stewards for a possible penalty for the championship leader, and for several minutes confusion reigned. The race restarted and Dario started moving his way back up the running order again, and everyone waited for him to come in and serve the stop-go penalty.

Except – there was no penalty. There never had been. When the race stewards (who included Al Unser Jr and IndyCar’s Tony Cotman) reviewed the collision they determined that it was a racing accident and deemed no penalty applied after all. “I understood he was going to get penalized but then there was no call – I just don’t understand that,” said Power in the confused aftermath of the race.

“I’m not surprised he didn’t get a penalty, he never gets a penalty,” Power said in the heat of the moment. “It was such a dirty move … I’m really disappointed in Dario, I always race him clean, he always races dirty. The guy that mouths off and whinges about everyone, he’s the one who’s dirty.”

Unser was unmoved by Power’s fury and accusations of IndyCar favouritism toward Dario, who many deemed should have been penalised at last month’s Milwaukee race after hitting pit lane equipment (a front tyre laid out in Power’s pit box).

“Between Franchitti and Power, there was never a penalised issue to either driver,” Unser pointed out. “Franchitti was underneath Will, and there was no penalty assessed to him based on what we saw.”

Drivers always say that the one thing they want from officials is consistency, and in this case if Franchitti had been penalised for this move then why not Briscoe for the first turn 3 incident that put Kanaan out, or the accident that saw Castroneves hit Tagliani? Having taken no action on those or any of the other collisions so far, it would have been harsh and deeply inconsistent to suddenly serve one to Franchitti for an even more marginal call. But the incident did certainly leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouths, and tempers were suddenly boiling over up and down pit lane.

For his part, Dario was apologetic the minute he stepped out of the car at the end of the race. “Obviously, there was contact with Will. If he’s p*ssed off, he’s quite right to be p*ssed off,” he said in typically robust language, accepting that when it came to assigning blame “I’ll take more than 50%” but that Power was not exactly blame-free in the accident either, having opened the door initially.

“I braked as late as I could, and he went a little bit deeper but as a result of that he went wide,” he explained. “Will started to crowd me, and unfortunately the wall came out, I couldn’t get further to the right because there was a wall there … I tried to get out of it but I couldn’t.

“I have to say if I was him I’d have been steamed too, but hopefully when he watches the replay he’ll see it was a racing incident.” Adding that he “”didn’t want to win that way”, Franchitti said that “I see it as a racing incident” and pointed out that “IF you’re not going to make any moves at all, you’re going to sit in whatever position you started in. But, yeah, crazy day here in Toronto!”

Worse was to come for Power. Racing resumed on lap 61 but less than five laps later it was back under full course caution again – and Power was once more at the centre of things. He was passing Alex Tagliani through turn 5 when he clipped the front of the #77, which threw Power’s car up into the air at an angle before sending it into the wall and tyre barrier on the outside. This time Power’s #12 Verizon car was too badly damaged to continue in.

“Pretty typical of him, Tagliani’s just a w*nker, he’s always been a w*nker,” said a disgruntled Power once he’d stopped venting at Dario. “We were just trying to get the best result possible before Tag hit me from behind. It’s very tough to have two DNFs in a row. All I can say is we’ll keep working hard and hopefully come back strong at Edmonton.”

“The contact with Will was also a shame,” said Tagliani in response. “I tried to pass him a couple of times in turn three. He was blocking a bit, and then I made a move on the inside [and] it got tight.”

Of the final 20 laps, 12 of them were run under cautions – which was just as well for some of the drivers like Rahal and Hunter-Reay who had come in for their final pit stops. In fact tempers were now running so high – with much of it directed at Dario and his team – that some were accusing Chip Ganassi of conspiracy by getting his three drivers at the front (Franchitti, Dixon and Rahal) to deliberate failing to line up out of the final corner in order to extend the yellow.

“Yeah, it doesn’t make sense,” said Michael Andretti of the aborted restarts that prolonged the cautions. “They’re obviously doing it on purpose so that [Rahal] gets it on fuel. One time is okay, twice you [should be] in the back … It’s unfair.”

Chip Ganassi denied any such dark arts and said that he’d had to walk over to Rahal’s pit crew and explain to them that the #38’s line was forcing Franchitti onto the dangerous bumps and marbles off the racing line and that they needed to make more allowance to play fair.

“I don’t think Graham was doing anything crazy,” insisted Dario. “There as nothing bad going on there, but he couldn’t run the outside of [turn] 10 in the marbles, so he was taking my lane, and I couldn’t get on the outside of 11, so I couldn’t get alongside him. I tried it once and almost smacked the fence down. We were doing our best, the restarts were tough just because of the marbles on them.”

Next time around was more successful and the race duly went green at last. And then it went yellow seconds later: Danica Patrick tapped the back of James Jakes into turn 3 and spun him; she reacted quickly and manoeuvred around him but in doing so managed to clip the back wheel of Alex Tagliani who was passing the scene of the accident on the outside line. The wheel-on-wheel contact shot Tagliani’s right hand side up into the air, and the car even went over the 90 degree vertical and would have overturned if had not then made contact with the wall and safety fence which propped it up and bounced it back right-side-up onto the track again. Tagliani was out but Jakes was sent on his way and Danica made it back to pit lane as well where she needed a spare front wing from Marco Andretti’s stock of spare parts in order to rejoin the race.

“I felt a big knock on the right rear, and we were up in the air. It’s disappointing,” he said. “First, I got knocked out with Helio and then at the end by Danica.”

“It piles up so bad at the hairpin there, and everybody is just running the inside,” said Patrick of the initial contact with Jakes that set off the accident. “Unfortunately, the line is so much further to the inside with the bumps nowadays that it’s causing pileups.”

There was one more accident still waiting to happen at the next restart on lap 76: Marco Andretti tried cutting down the inside of turn 1 only to run into the back of Oriol Servia, sending the #2 spinning into Justin Wilson who was minding his own business on the outside. Hildebrand, Hinchcliffe and Kimball also arrived at the scene in the immediate aftermath, and the mess blocked the track so completely that the field had to take to the run-off service road to bypass turn 1 when they came through behind the safety car.

In what green flag racing there was, it was a simple matter for Franchitti and Dixon to get past the slower cars that were having to think fuel-first, and Rahal was spun out by late contact in turn 3 during the final restart with Hunter-Reay which put an end to Chip Ganassi’s hopes of a team 1-2-3. For a few laps the remaining Ganassi duo made a race of it, Dixon looking particularly feisty and willing to go aggressive on his team mate in the final six lap green flag stint in order to get the win, but ultimately he backed off – either accepting that it wasn’t going to happen, or perhaps the pit crew had been on the radio with a quiet word that absolutely not not include the phrase “team orders”.

Even so, is there just a hint that the fractious atmosphere of Toronto was seeping into the Ganassi camp? “It’s frustrating because these street races are part luck, you know. Will and I were one and two, then [the caution came out] and the #10 car gets it everytime. I’ll call back on the radio and say, ‘Let me guess who’s leading: the 10 car’,” he said with a slight edge to his light-hearted tone. “Good on him, they make good strategy.”

It had been his plan to make the early pit stop rather than Dario, and he seemed confused if not outright irritated at what had changed once the race got underway. “For us we knew what the window was, we discussed it in the morning, we were going to pit early. But obviously they split the strategy with Dario and he pitted early, and left me out to put some pressure on Will, which that didn’t work.”

Franchitti was in maximum diplomacy mode, and after making peace overtures to Power over their on-track clash he then sent out olive branches to his team mate as well. “You see how good Scott’s been all weekend, Scott’s was dynamite all weekend,” he said, talking up the ongoing battle for the IndyCar championship between the three of them. “Will was very strong, we know that, I don’t take anything for granted. That lead could go down in one week, so we’ll just keep pushing.”

Despite Dario’s caution about the title battle, it’s been a very good few weeks for him in the championship. Today’s mayhem meant a second successive “did not finish” for Power after he crashed at Iowa two weeks ago, and the two races leave him 55pts adrift of Franchitti. Meanwhile, the rows and controversies sparked off by this race will doubtless reverberate down the next few weeks – including the inevitable question about how much the controversial double-file restarts contributed to the mayhem we saw.

It’ll be interesting to see who is still speaking to whom going into the second Canadian race at Edmonton in two weeks time.

Race results

1. #10 Dario Franchitti 85 laps 01:56:32.1501s
2. #9 Scott Dixon 85 laps + 0.7345s
3. #28 Ryan Hunter-Reay 85 laps + 6.0144s
4. #26 Marco Andretti 85 laps + 7.5671s
5. #14 Vitor Meira 85 laps + 9.0117s
6. #19 Sebastien Bourdais 85 laps + 9.3114s
7. #6 Ryan Briscoe 85 laps + 9.8735s
8. #4 JR Hildebrand 85 laps + 14.1750s
9. #59 EJ Viso 85 laps + 14.7843s
10. #78 Simona de Silvestro 85 laps + 15.7603s
11. #24 Ana Beatriz 85 laps + 16.8992s
12. #2 Oriol Servia 85 laps + 19.8736s
13. #38 Graham Rahal 85 laps + 21.3123s
14. #06 James Hinchcliffe 84 laps + 1 laps
15. #22 Justin Wilson 83 laps + 2 laps
16. #8 Paul Tracy 82 laps + 3 laps
17. #3 Helio Castroneves 81 laps + 4 laps
18. #18 James Jakes 81 laps + 4 laps
19. #7 Danica Patrick 79 laps + 6 laps
20. #5 Takuma Sato 79 laps + 6 laps

Retirements

21. #83 Charlie Kimball after 77 laps Contact
22. #27 Mike Conway after 76 laps Contact
23. #77 Alex Tagliani after 71 laps Contact
24. #12 Will Power after 66 laps Contact
25. #34 Sebastian Saavedra after 43 laps Contact
26. #82 Tony Kanaan after 2 laps Contact

At times Dario Franchitti looked like he was about to cruise away to victory on the Milwaukee Mile, but as the race wore on Dario found it harder and harder to stay in front.

It’s been two years since IndyCar last visited the Milwaukee Mile, and the drivers were certainly happy to be back: unfortunately the same couldn’t be said of the crowd. With the stadium’s capacity a relatively modest 40,000, it still looked as though the race was barely attracting a third of that number to the mid-June Milwaukee 225.

Which is a shame, as the return to one of the classic IndyCar-style circuits meant a return to some examples of the best side-by-side, wheel-to-wheel battles of old, together with more than a few crashes, incidents and controversy along the way.

The first incident occurred even before the green flag had finished flying for the start of the race, when Ryan Hunter-Reay appeared to have to lift going into turn 2 behind the two KV Racing Technology cars of Takuma Sato and EJ Viso. That lift made the car go light and he lost the rear end, sending him into the wall – with Ryan Briscoe doing superbly to avoid being collected as well. It was an sad early end to Hunter-Reay’s afternoon in his first outing in the GoDaddy.com livery shared with Andretti Autosport team mate Danica Patrick and normally on the #27 of Mike Conway.

“It’s extremely unfortunate,” said Hunter-Reay. “The car just broke loose on the way in and I just couldn’t save it. I feel bad for the guys, we had a good car here this weekend.”

Once the restart took place on lap 7, the race managed to run smoothly for the next 60 laps, with Dario Franchitti managing to pull out a huge lead of some 5s over Helio Castroneves in second, followed by Tony Kanaan, Takuma Sato, Scott Dixon and EJ Viso. But as the green flag stint wore on, Franchitti’s pace notably started to fall off and gradually the chasing pack started to close right up on him.

There were early retirements for two cars, the first of which was Simona de Silvestro. She had crashed during Saturday qualifying and been concerned about back pain as well as needing stitches to a cut on her leg against the steering wheel in the impact, but she impressed everyone by being ready to race on Sunday afternoon. Sadly the same wasn’t true for the rebuilt #78 which had chronic handling problems, and the HVM team made a quick call to park the car for the day after all.

AJ Foyt made a typically non-nonsense call to park the #14 after 69 laps, declaring the car not in a fit state to compete and that he didn’t want it out there just to have an expensive crash. The Sam Schmidt Motorsports team could have made the same call about Alex Tagliani’s #77 which after a few full-speed laps at the start of the race abruptly lost all pretence of pace and was passed repeatedly by everyone. Tag continued to stay out – and managed to keep out of trouble as well – but finished a horrific 29 laps off the lead in 19th position.

On lap 66, just as it looked as though Franchitti was in danger of losing the lead, the second caution came out for a rather innocuous slow-speed incident involving Ana Beatriz who got up too high onto the marbles and went for a slide against the wall. Despite no serious damage being done the yellow flags came out anyway, just in time to provide the field with a convenient round of pit stops.

“I was trying to keep my lap because Dario Franchitti was behind me and as soon as I went a little bit higher I got in the dirty part of the track and brushed the wall,” explained Beatriz. “It hurt the suspension a little bit and we lost two laps because of that. It was really frustrating that we couldn’t put it all together. I felt that some people were really blocking hard today which really screwed us up.”

Despite pitting under yellows, the ensuing round of stops proved very messy and costly for a number of drivers. Dixon and Sato came down pit lane side-by-side with Sato on the inside despite having his pit box further along than Dixon, who was unaware of this. Dixon turned in to his own pit box – and Sato ran into him, pushing the Ganassi into Ryan Briscoe’s pit box and also damaging the nose of Dixon’s #9. Sato then proceeded to his own pit box but – presumably rather shaken by events – misjudged his own entry and knocked over his left rear tyre changer in the process. It all meant that Dixon dropped to 13th place after the pit stops, Briscoe to 16th and Sato off the lead lap altogether after receiving a drive-thru penalty for hitting a member of his pit crew.

“During the pit stop it was very crowded and I got tangled up getting into the pit box,” said Sato later. “So I got a drive through penalty which put me at the back of the field and down a lap, but over the next two caution yellows we managed to get our lap back.”

“It was one of those days,” rued Dixon. “We never had the balance of the #9 Target car right all day. It was worse off of 3 and 4 then we had the incident with the #5 car in the pits.”

Racing resumed on lap 79, but was back under caution again less than two laps later: as the cars were still jockeying for position two-wide, Alex Lloyd got passed around the outside by Ed Carpenter and it appeared that the aerodynamics pulled the rear end of the #19 around going into turn 2 and Lloyd headed for the wall. The hapless Sebastian Saavedra happened to get in the way and got trapped between the #19 and the wall, putting both cars out at a stroke.

“All I know is that I got lose and I caught it once but I couldn’t catch it the second time,” said Lloyd. “Unfortunately, we ended up in the wall and took Sebastian with us.”

“This is very sad,” said Conquest’s Saavedra. “We had a really great race car. We are looking at everything that the weekend brought and unfortunately we ended up involved in something that I couldn’t get out of. I saw Alex get lose in turn 1 and I had nowhere to go or nothing to do to avoid it. It is very disappointing as we were strong this weekend.”

It was a lengthy clean-up – with the track organisers having to spend quite a bit of time sweeping up the build-up of marbles form the tyres – before racing resumed on lap 91. Once again Dario Franchitti got a terrific rocketship restart with the rest of the field headed by Kanaan, Oriol Servia, Castroneves and Viso struggling to stay with him; Viso had his own hands full running side-by-side with Graham Rahal before finally losing the battle to retain the fifth position.

Once again, Franchitti’s early blistering pace subsided, this time further hampered by having to drive through lapped traffic, and Tony Kanaan quickly caught up with the #10 before passing him on lap 116 for the lead. Observers wondered whether this was some sort of strategic move by Dario – a fuel call, perhaps, or getting held up by someone? – but instead it seemed to be pure pace. Kanaan was simply faster than Franchitti at this stage of the race.

The next caution was out on lap 123, caused when JR Hildebrand got up too high while being passed on the inside by the leader, strayed onto the marbles and crashed into the wall at turn 4 – uncomfortably reminiscent of the traumatic end to the Indianapolis 500 for the young Californian.

“I was struggling with the car a little bit, for sure. At that point, I’m kind of trying to stay out of my own way out there,” Hildebrand admitted. “We’re just trying to survive through the race. With the leaders going by, a lot of the guys can stay on the bottom and some of the guys just sort of can’t. It’s not their fault. I just got through with TK and I got shoved up in the marbles. Once I got up there, I couldn’t get it back.”

The caution gave everyone a chance to pit under yellow, although a front left tyre gun problem cost Oriol Servia lot of positions and pushed him back to 12th place. Kanaan and Franchitti still eld at the restart, and for the first time Will Power was showing signs of life and moving into the outskirts of the top ten, where he would engage in a brief but thrilling wheel-to-wheel battle for position with Scott Dixon who was still languishing in the midfield after his earlier pit stop incident with Sato.

History repeated itself at the restart, with Dario’s pace back to his best at least temporarily and he reclaimed the lead on lap 135; he retained it for nearly twenty laps before his tyres faded on him again and Kanaan took back the position on lap 154. On this evidence, the eventual winner was going to be decided by how close to the end the final caution or tyre change of the afternoon turned out to be.

Caution number five came out on lap 165 when EJ Viso threw away all that early strong running by spinning the #59 into the wall at turn 4 after banging wheels with Ed Carpenter.

“I was passing the lap car and I got high and went into the marbles and it sent me into the wall,” said Viso. “I feel bad for the mechanics and my crew because they put this car together for me … I really think I had a good car, maybe not as fast as the leaders but we had a car to finish in the top five.”

With sixty laps left to run, everyone was now well inside the window to make it to the end with one final pit stop, and so everyone duly took the opportunity to come in. Penske’s pit crew did an astonishing job to return Helio Castroneves to the track in the lead ahead of Franchitti and Kanaan.

Dario was hoping to get one of his turbo-boosted starts and reclaim the lead at this critical juncture, but he was frustrated when Charlie Kimball emerged from his wave-around through the pit lane right in front of the leaders, combined with some serious blocking from the #3 that Franchitti took serious objection to: “It was Helio’s usual blocking crap,” he said afterwards, admitting that he was “still so spittin’ mad from what Helio did on that restart.”

Dario had to pull back and it gave Kanaan the opportunity to ease past him and demote the #10 to third place. Suddenly, the win that had been a mere formality for Dario was looking out of reach after all. But instead, just when it looked like we were set for a close three-way battle for the race win, we were about to lose two of the players from contention.

First came reports from the Penske pits that telemetry was showing that the #3 had a tyre going down: minutes later and no data was needed, the left rear was visibly flat even while Castroneves remained seemingly unaware of the problems and still circulated at speeds of up to 160mph on it. It demonstrated just how relatively unimportant the left-rear is on an anti-clockwise oval that he was able to carry on as long as he was, but the risk of a dangerous blow-out was growing by the second.

And the n the crash came – but it wasn’t Castroneves. It was, astonishingly, Tony Kanaan who went into the wall at turn 4.

“It’s a shame. It’s my fault. But, hey, it was a fun race,” said Kanaan. “We raced each other hard the whole race. Unfortunately, I’m human. I make mistakes sometimes as well. I’d rather make a mistake trying hard then actually not trying at all.”

With Kanaan out and Castroneves now forced to pit for replacement tyres and down to 11th place, Dario’s competition melted away and sadly we were denied the exciting, white-knuckle shoot-out for the race win once Dario got off to another safe flying restart.

Perhaps the most intelligent race of the entire afternoon had been that of Will Power, who had been starting from 17th position after a “big moment” in his Saturday qualifying run. Power had laid low for the first half of the race and made little progress, but gradually worked his way up in the latter stages of the race to suddenly pop up into seventh place after the final round of pit stops. He was able to make up three more positions over the remaining 60 laps.

Power’s most dangerous moment came in the final restart on lap 205, when Graham Rahal took over second spot and cut off Will Power in the process, forcing Power to check up and as a result nearly getting Danica Patrick rear-ending him. Fortunately everyone managed to avoid contact and the race ran the final 20 laps to the end, with Power in fourth just ahead of Patrick at the end.

A fifth place finish for Patrick was good news, being her best result in the 2011 season to date – although naturally, she still wasn’t thrilled. “Unfortunately, there were so many yellows that came out about halfway through a stint in the last half of the race or so. More green flag running would have been good for me, but we still got a top five.”

Graham Rahal had managed to hold on to second place and was thrilled. “A great job for the Service Central team today, to come from 12th and move up like that,” he said. “We passed a lot of cars. I thought passing was going to be tough today and it was, but we were able to do it … We’re knocking on the door [of a win,] it’s our second second-place finish of the year and third podium. We’re getting closer. It’s going to come one of these days!”

And Oriol Servia claimed third place despite that mid-race problem in pit lane that had cost him nine positions at a crucial moment. “It’s awesome. We’ve been close to the podium so many times and things just don’t come easy,” he said. “I was in a podium position and then we had a bad stop and went back to 12th and had to go through the field again. The car was just amazing. The restarts were a lot of fun and I’m just so happy to give a podium to the team.”

Will Power’s fourth place was a useful piece of damage limitation that meant that despite Franchitti’s race win, Power was still able to tie the lead of the IndyCar championship on points going into next weekend’s race at Iowa.

“I guess we’re equal on points so you just have to keep fighting away,” said Power. “Keep having good days like this and make no mistakes and we’ll be good. I was just fighting like a dog to get those positions.”

Dario, however, was just basking in a hard-won race win and leaving the championship for another day. “Great day. To win here at Milwaukee is always special. It’s such hard work and a such a hard race. It’s a delight for the Target Team and we got the Downy colours in Victory Lane!”

Race results

1. #10 Dario Franchitti 225 laps 1:56:43.5877s
2. #38 Graham Rahal 225 laps + 1.4271s
3. #2 Oriol Servia 225 laps + 2.7703s
4. #12 Will Power 225 laps + 3.8756s
5. #7 Danica Patrick 225 laps + 4.2289s
6. #06 James Hinchcliffe 225 laps + 5.2021s
7. #9 Scott Dixon 225 laps + 5.7803s
8. #5 Takuma Sato 225 laps + 6.1011s
9. #3 Helio Castroneves 225 laps + 6.3643s
10. #22 Justin Wilson 225 laps + 6.8905s
11. #6 Ryan Briscoe 225 laps + 8.2475s
12. #27 Mike Conway 225 laps + 8.9469s
13. #26 Marco Andretti 225 laps + 9.8659s
14. #83 Charlie Kimball 224 laps + 1 laps
15. #18 James Jakes 223 laps + 2 laps
16. #67 Ed Carpenter 223 laps + 2 laps
17. #24 Ana Beatriz 222 laps + 3 laps
18. #77 Alex Tagliani 196 laps + 29 laps
19. #82 Tony Kanaan 194 laps + 31 laps Contact
20. #59 EJ Viso 163 laps + 62 laps Contact
21. #4 JR Hildebrand 120 laps + 105 laps Contact
22. #19 Alex Lloyd 79 laps + 146 laps Contact
23. #34 Sebastian Saavedra 78 laps + 147 laps Contact
24. #14 Vitor Meira 69 laps + 156 laps Mechanical
25. #78 Simona de Silvestro 11 laps + 214 laps Handling
26. #28 Ryan Hunter-Reay 0 laps + 225 laps 0s Contact

Will Power avoided making any mistakes during the two days it took to finally complete the rain-interrupted Itaipava São Paulo Indy 300, but Takuma Sato still gave him a big wake-up call.

Everyone agreed that the organisers of the Itaipava São Paulo Indy 300 had done a wonderful job sorting out the street circuit after inevitable glitches in its inaugural run in 2010, with the repaving judged a big success. The only other complaint from last year was the weather, and the organisers couldn’t do anything about that – as 2011 was about to prove in spades.

Shortly before the scheduled race start time at 1.20pm local time, the rain arrived – and in typical São Paulo style, this wasn’t just a little shower but something more akin to a monsoon. Fortunately it was short-lived, the rain eased off to a mild drizzle, the water started to drain away from the street surfaces, and the race started on time as scheduled.

It ran straight into problems at the first corner: Will Power was through safely in the lead followed by Scott Dixon and Ryan Briscoe, but Ryan Hunter-Reay starting from second place lost traction and found himself unable to make the corner, choosing instead to cut the chicane entirely. Unfortunately the painted surface of the chicane was covered in standing water, and he wasn’t able to negotiate the tyre barriers at speed and ended up ploughing straight into one, wrecking the front nose and wing.

There was more mayhem happening back in the first corner: Dario Franchitti ran deep into the first turn, the Esses of Samba, and squeezed Helio Castroneves. Helio would not back down but then ran out of room and made contact with the outside wall, coming to a crunching halt that made him an immediate blockage to those coming through the corner on that side of the track behind him.

Simona de Silvestro was first to arrive and went straight into him; then seconds later, Danica Patrick was on scene, her front nose sliding underneath de Silvestro’s #78 and raising it right off the ground, while the impact pivoted Danica round so that the rear end of her #7 slewed round onto the track and made contact with Tony Kanaan, who had been starting from 21st position after being handed a penalty for an illegal front wing change during qualifying.

Everyone was okay from these incidents – Kanaan looked most wounded, the impact with Patrick having given him a nasty bruise to his thumb, but not enough to stop him wanting to get back in the car if the suspension damage could be repaired in time.

After all the cars were cleared up, the first double file restart attempt of the afternoon was made on lap 5: once again Power took it calmly and had no problems, but when Scott Dixon tried to put the power down gently coming out of turn 2 he immediately went into a spin. Cars further back found the situation similarly treachorous, and Graham Rahal, Justin Wilson, James Hinchcliffe and Sebastien Bourdais all went for spins. There was an interesting reversal of position for Dario Franchitti, who found himself on the inside line this time as Mike Conway went deep into turn 1; but Dario had learned quickly, and rather than suffer Helio’s fate from the original start he opted to back off, yield the position and live to fight another day.

Things were rapidly going from bad to worse. The rain picked up again and within minutes it had gone through downpour, past torrential, and somewhere into Biblical proportions. At this point not only were there too many incidents to even attempt to keep track of, most of them couldn’t even be seen anymore as the water spray and deteriorating light completely obscured the cars from the TV cameras, spectactors – and from the drivers themselves, with glimpses of Hunter-Reay, Bourdais, Vitor Meira and others all hitting problems and spinning into the barriers at various parts of the flooding circuit.

They were running blind and it was now beyond dangerous, so a red flag was inevitable by lap 9, the cars lining up in race order in pit lane: Power, Briscoe, Conway, Rahal, Franchitti, Marco Andretti, Charlie Kimball, Alex Tagliani and Oriol Servia forming the top ten at the stoppage.

The torrential downpour soon abated, but the rain was still coming down sufficiently to make it difficult for the organisers to deal with the standing water all over the circuit. After some two hours under modified red flag conditions (IndyCar officials relented on the letter of the law and allowed teams to work on damaged cars, so that there would be enough competitors in one piece to take the green flag again) it was close on 4pm local time and there were concerns about the fading light. It was time to try, or call it a day.

The drivers were recalled to their cockpits and sent out behind the safety car in the hope that the wet tyres would suck up enough moisture from the track to establish a dry-ish line. After five laps of this, it was clear that it just wasn’t working – the rain was still coming down hard enough to prevent any improvement. Unfortunately for Mike Conway, however, the five laps under yellow proved costly as his #27 Andretti Autosports stuttered to an eventual halt with electrical problems, meaning that he would drop from third place to the back of the lead lap – 20th – for the next restart.

But that restart wasn’t going to happen anytime soon. The cars were recalled, and after half an hour of confusion about what was happening next, the race was officially abandoned for the day and postponed until 9am local time the following Monday morning.

And at 9am, it looked lovely: dry track, sunshine, and no rain on the weather radars. It looked as though this was actually going to work, and everyone was happily set on their way on slick tyres. After a couple of warm-up laps, the field headed down into turn 11 ready to line up for the double-file restart for the remaining one hour and 19 minutes of the now time-capped race. At which point … It started to rain, right through the Victory hairpin and on the concrete section through the Sambadrome.

The field tip-toed through the first two chicanes and headed straight to the pit lane entrance (unusually, here situated not on the start/finish straight but parallel to the Avenue Olavo Fontoura, meaning that cars in pit lane cut out turn 5 before rejoining into turn 6). By the time they came back out on wet tyres, the rain had come down hard enough for them to leave prominent “rooster’s tales” down the mile-long Reta dos Bandeirantes backstraight and there was no question that we were right back into a wet race after all.

Power’s lead had survived the pit lane dash and he was now followed by Briscoe, Takuma Sato, Rahal, Franchitti, Alex Tagliani, Marco Andretti and EJ Viso. Rahal was an early loser on this latest set of tyres and lost spots to Franchitti, Tagliani and Andretti, and up front Takuma Sato had the measure of Briscoe, passing him at turn 6 on lap 18 and then easily pulling away in pursuit of the race leader Will Power.

With the rain really starting to come down at this point, puddles formed rapidly and there was the very real possibility that the race would end prematurely, so everyone started getting very racey just in case there was another red flag: now Tagliani was struggling and he handed back the place he had just taken from Rahal and also had to yield to Andretti and EJ Viso. Everyone was struggling to keep out of trouble, and even Will Power had a near-miss when he came close to hitting the wall on lap 20.

Inevitably, something had to break in the end, and it was Sebastien Bourdais who spun into the tyre wall at turn 10 on lap 21 who brought out the next full course caution. Ryan Hunter-Reay had also had a small spin elsewhere on the track and damanaged his rear wing – the second one he had written off this weekend, which meant that when he got back to the pits he was fitted with a mis-matching new wing belonging to Mike Conway’s set of spares instead of one of his own.

As the restart approached on lap 25, the rain was easing and in some parts of the course there was even a definite dry line emerging, while others remained as lethal as ever. Power led Sato, Briscoe, Franchitti, Andretti, Rahal, Viso and Dixon to the green flag, but he was slightly too cautious and left himself open for anyone with the courage to try a suicidal (in the conditions) lunge down the left hand of the double file-restart. But who would dare go for it?

Formula 1 fans will know that when it comes to much moments, Takuma Sato is your man. He is indeed that fearless-slash-pathologically insane, and he duly went for it. And amazingly, it worked without taking either him or Power off – he passed the Penske car and took the lead, leaving a startled Power staring at the back wing of another car for the first time in the race.

There was plenty going on behind as well, with Briscoe and Franchitti clashing which allowed Marco Andretti an opportunity to slip past them both and take third, while Briscoe fell to fifth behind Dario. Further back, Graham Rahal had some light contact and spun, gathering himself up but falling to the back of the lead lap; and Danica Patrick had also spun, bringing out out the fifth caution of the combined race. Under the safety car conditions, Raphael Matos managed to suffer contact that broke his front wing, and he went into the pits – before they were officially open, incurring a stop-and-go penalty for his offence.

The race went back to green on lap 29, with Sato in control of the restart and duly taking charge of the preferred inside line drivers-left into the first chicane. Power found his hands full keeping Marco Andretti at bay and had no opportunity to take the fight to Sato, and there was plenty of activity going on behind Franchitti as Briscoe lost two positions into the first chicane to EJ Viso and Oriol Servia who were having a ferocious private battle; a batch of Brazilian drivers – Rafael Matos, Ana Beatriz and Tony Kanaan – all needed to take to the run off area; and Justin Wilson spun in turn 10. While he kept the car fired up and was able to rejoin the field, it proved a costly error for Wilson as he dropped from seventh to 17th.

Dario Franchitti was about to share the pain. At the start of lap 33, he slid through turn 1, into a hefty impact with the tyre wall and right out of fourth place. He headed for the pits for a checkover and repairs, putting him at the back of the lead lap in 15th place and looking seriously compromised. Elsewhere other cars including Alex Tagliani and Danica Patrick were also finding conditions through turns 6 through 10 to be very treacherous: Tagliani ended up spinning and stalling in the middle of turn 10, and that was enough to provoke the sixth caution of the race.

The latest clutch of incidents had left Sato, Power, Andretti, Servia, Viso and Briscoe forming the top six, and they had a big decision to make under this latest caution: to pit for fuel, or try and stretch it? Sato, Andretti and Viso gambled on more cautions to come and stayed out, while Power led those coming in for fuel and tyres.

When all that shook out, the top three at the restart were Takuma, Marco and EJ, while Sebastian Saavedra, James Jakes, Graham Rahal and Dario Franchitti – who had taken fuel in his solo pit stop just before the caution and had no need to come in again – were all in front of Will Power in eighth who led those who had come through pit lane. It gave Franchitti a strong chance of a win since he could now make it to the end of the race without another stop. It was almost as good for Graham Rahal who like Dario had recently pitted for running repairs, and also James Jakes who was pursuing a completely off-kilter pit stop strategy and would also be able to stretch it to the end.

The restart saw Scott Dixon spin for a second time through the first chicane, while EJ Viso put Marco Andretti under heavy pressure for second place throughout the first green flag lap. He finally pulled off the pass into turn 11 – showing that his scary high-speed crash there on Saturday because of a brake issue had not affected his nerves in the slightest – and then out-dragged Marco through the stadium section to seal the deal into turn 1, giving KV Racing Technology-Lotus an amazing one-two.

Saavedra and Jakes were already falling off the top three, and then Jakes went and threw away his opportunity with a spin, dropping him down ten spots. Franchitti was also finding the race tough going now after his earlier run into the tyre barriers, and was forced to cede positions to Will Power and Ryan Briscoe, leaving him down in eighth.

Track and weather conditions were by now clearing up nicely, allowing for some close on-track battles between unexpected names and ever-improving lap times throughout the field. Surprisingly the fastest car of all on track was Simona de Silvestro, who despite running nine laps off the lead was the only car to put in a time below the 1:40 mark during the whole race. Unfortunately for the leaders de Silvestro was also running on the same part of the track as they were, and she was battling with them every step of the way – which lapped traffic simply isn’t meant to do. She overtook Marco Andretti through turn 11 on lap 43 and would go on to pass the leader, Takuma Sato, four laps later, confirming her pace but not winning her any friends and surely setting her up with a visit to the officials’ trailer for some words about race etiquette.

Meanwhile, the KV Racing Technology-Lotus dream was disintegrating. Viso was being a little over-wrought in his defence of second place from assaults by Marco Andretti, and EJ was warned at least seven times about some very blatant blocking moves by race control until finally their patience was exhausted and he was handed a drive-thru penalty on lap 43 that dumped him down to ninth place.

And five laps later, Takuma Sato’s time in the lead was over: the fuel gamble hadn’t worked, and he needed to pit to make it to the end of the race. That put him down to seventh place by the time he was topped up and sent back out. Sato had done all he could and he’d outlasted Saavedra (who had come in for fuel on lap 47) and Andretti (who had come in on lap 46, after also having lost eletronic data read-outs on his car). Marco tried one last roll of the dice with a switch to soft slick tyres despite the presence of a lot of water offline, and while he managed to avoid any crashes for the remaining laps, it didn’t really deliver any significant performance advantage either.

The upshot was that Will Power was finally back in the lead, and Graham Rahal had played an excellent strategic recovery as well to put himself in second behind the Australian, splitting Power from his Penske team mate Ryan Briscoe who was in front of the off-colour Dario Franchitti in fourth.

Making up the rest of the top six were Oriol Servia – who had been having a rather quiet and unexciting race relatively speaking, but getting the job done very nicely all the same – and Mike Conway, who had kept plugging away after that electronics problem at the end of Sunday to stage a remarkable recovery in the circumstances.

Conway’s sixth place was snatched away by a still-fast Sato in the final laps as the two hour race time limit neared, but Sato then overcooked it in turn 1 and allowed Conway to take back the position and put Justin Wilson back up into seventh at the same time. Sato was able to hold off James Hinchcliffe for eighth, as the Canadian demonstrated that Servia’s form was no fluke for Newman-Haas.

Even though the rain was starting to fall again, there were no final lap dramas. Finally the race was run, done and won: Power would claim the trophy ahead of Rahal and Briscoe, and with it a 14pt lead over Dario Franchitti in the championship as the series concludes its opening stint on road and street courses and heads to ovals.

“That was an awesome race, so many different track conditions … It was a matter of keeping calm, getting past people without making any mistakes and then creating a gap to be safe,” summarised Power afterwards. “Being on pole four times and had two wins is a great start [to the season.]”

His main rival for the title, Dario Franchitti, was counting his blessings just making it to the chequered flag at all. “After me making a mistake on the restart, I’m very proud of my Target guys for the front wing change and getting us back out there.”

And as for the hero of the middle section of the race, Takuma Sato was disappointed to finish eighth when the morning had briefly promised so much more. “In the end our strategy did not work and in hindsight we should have pitted for fuel during the final caution because we were not in a position to take a gamble,” he admitted. “It was a shame we did not make it, but I want to thank the entire team for all their hard work this weekend.”

Immediately the chequered flag came out, the teams sprang into action to start breaking down pit lane, pack the equipment and get everything ready to ship back to the United States in time for the build-up to the centennial Indianapolis 500. It might seem that May 29 is an age away, but with so much to do in terms of preparation, practice and qualification before the big day, this single extra day spent in São Paulo couldn’t have come at a worse time for the IndyCar teams – but they stuck with it, saw the race out, and the Brazilian crowds showed their support in turn. And in the end, the racing was worth it too.

Race results

1. #12 Will Power 55 laps Leader
2. #38 Graham Rahal 55 laps + 4.6723s
3. #6 Ryan Briscoe 55 laps + 7.9037s
4. #10 Dario Franchitti 55 laps + 10.1470s
5. #2 Oriol Servia 55 laps + 15.8188s
6. #27 Mike Conway 55 laps + 16.6775s
7. #22 Justin Wilson 55 laps + 20.0131s
8. #5 Takuma Sato 55 laps + 23.0683s
9. #06 James Hinchcliffe 55 laps + 25.2924s
10. #4 JR Hildebrand 55 laps + 31.3172s
11. #34 Sebastian Saavedra 55 laps + 36.4261s
12. #9 Scott Dixon 55 laps + 42.1974s
13. #59 EJ Viso 55 laps + 45.8266s
14. #26 Marco Andretti 55 laps + 74.5634s
15. #18 James Jakes 55 laps + 76.2783s
16. #83 Charlie Kimball 54 laps + 1 laps
17. #14 Vitor Meira 53 laps + 2 laps
18. #28 Ryan Hunter-Reay 50 laps + 5 laps
19. #77 Alex Tagliani 48 laps + 7 laps
20. #78 Simona de Silvestro 46 laps + 9 laps
21. #3 Helio Castroneves 46 laps + 9 laps
22. #82 Tony Kanaan 46 laps + 9 laps
23. #7 Danica Patrick 46 laps + 9 laps
24. #24 Ana Beatriz 31 laps + 24 laps Mechanical
25. #17 Raphael Matos 28 laps + 27 laps Contact
26. #19 Sebastien Bourdais 20 laps + 35 laps Contact

St Petersburg was dominated by controversy over new-style restarts, with top drivers calling them dangerous while others hailed them for adding new excitement and overtaking opportunities.

The decision to move to double-file restarts for all IndyCar races in 2011 rather than just oval events was controversial even before the green flag came out at St Peterburg, and what followed – a multiple-car wreck at the first corner, followed by a series of starts and stops over the next 15 laps and wrist injuries to two of the midfield drivers caught up in incidents – offered plenty of proof to those who felt the new style was a major mistake.

“We need to make the show good,” said Tony Kanaan in calling for the change to be reconsidered. “I don’t think it’s good for the show to have the first 15 laps under the yellow. It’s crazy.”

Given the drivers’ concerns that the succession of early yellows would spoil the show for fans, the ABC TV network reported that the St Petersburg event delivered the highest overnight ratings since 2007 for a televised IndyCar race other than the Indy 500. The race’s “1.4 rating” is still a fraction compared with NASCAR, but a huge improvement on last year’s 0.32 rating for a rain-delayed event and 0.19 rating in 2009.

Although no one was injured during the first eye-catching multiple-car wreck on lap 1, some of the other less spectacular accidents later on in the race sparked by the new restarts did have repercussions. After the first restart bunched the field up again, Danica Patrick and Graham Rahal both had collisions with Ana Beatriz and as a result Beatriz was subsequently diagnosed with a fractured scaphoid bone (wrist) because of the violent motion of the steering wheel resulting from the impact. “I could feel that my hand was sore and as the race went on it started to bother me more,” Beatriz said afterwards. The injury will require surgery this week and consequently it’s doubtful whether she will race at next week’s second IndyCar event, at Barber Motor Speedway.

Patrick was involved in another collision after the restart on lap 44 which saw her clash with Beatriz’s Dreyer & Reinbold team mate Justin Wilson out of turn 1, and this time it was Wilson who ended up with a small fracture of his wrist bone. “As our wheels bumped my steering wheel wrenched in my hand,” Wilson said. “I knew at that point that I had broken something.” He will need to be fitted with a carbon-fibre brace, although it should not stop him competing at Barber.

The injuries add a pressing safety dimension to calls to reconsider the new restarts, which are rather more persuasive than general discussion of whether or not the restart accidents spoiled or enhanced the racing and the spectacle.

Tony Kanaan was one of those to benefit most from the new style restart, the outside line into the first corner enabling him to make up positions on his way to a third place finish in his début outing for his new KV Racing Technology team. “If you’re lucky then you make it, and if you’re not then you’re done,” he summarised.

Simona de Silvestro was an even greater winner from the new restarts, finishing fourth from 17th on the grid. No wonder she described the new system as “pretty fun,” as “it actually gave us a chance to make positions,” she said, adding: “Last year, we would start single file every time, it would be hard. You would be just following the leader. I think it made it exciting and I really enjoyed it.”

“I expected it. Everybody should have,” said Graham Rahal. “There’s so much adrenaline going on in the first race of the year and everybody’s pushing so hard it gets out of control.”

Other drivers were far less happy. Danica Patrick railed against the “f***ing restarts” over her car radio during the race (the expletive presumably bleeped out on US television, but clearly audible on the Sky Sports feed) and Ryan Hunter-Reay had to insert his own bleeps into his post-race interview to stop himself from using equally choice language after being put out of the race by Sebastian Saavedra during the restart on lap 14. “It doesn’t take a genius to figure this isn’t going to work,” he fumed. “It was just restart after restart after restart. I was hoping so badly we would just go green, but we didn’t. It’s a shame.”

The problem seemed to be the hard right-hand turn 1 off the start/finish straight, which channelled all the cars from the two-lane restart toward a single point on the apex. The midfield drivers simply weren’t able to find alternate routes through the corner, and attempts to run down the inside were invariable disastrous. But as Tony Kanaan pointed out, “This is a place where you have a lot of room” in comparison to other road and street circuits on the IndyCar calendar. “Go to a tighter place, like Long Beach, and Toronto … Think about it.”

IndyCar decided to revise the restart format after looking to the considerably more popular NASCAR format for ideas to help improve the series. NASCAR has been using double-file restarts since 2004 and last year extended them to all races; IndyCar tried out the format on ovals last year and opted to introduce them for road and street courses as well in 2011, as well as looking at new procedures for wave-arounds and “lucky dog” free passes to put a car back on the lead lap every caution.

Dario Franchitti pointed out that the double-file restarts had been pushed for by the powerful team owners – so it was somewhat poetic justice that they were now left with the bills for collision damage and doubtless wondering whether it had been a good idea after all. By contrast, IndyCar’s plans for the NASCAR-style “lucky dog” have been postponed because of heavy resistance to the idea.

The introduction of double-file restarts in NASCAR was viewed with some initial concern by that series’ drivers but ultimately went through and has been well-received without any of the controversy now being seen in IndyCar. So why is the new system so problematic to IndyCar and not NASCAR?

“There’s zero room for error,” said Will Power. “We can’t bump like NASCAR,” he continued, predicting that as a result “there’s going to be people getting knocked out every single restart.”

“It’s different in NASCAR when they are going into a corner that move slowly, accelerate slowly and brake slowly,” said Hunter-Reay. “I think this decision has to be revisited.”

It’s certainly true that in stock car racing, bumping and grinding is just a way of life and the modern breed of cars can put up with a certain amount of this with impunity. But that’s not the case with open wheel racing, where fragile front wings will be damaged at the slightest touch, immediately affecting downforce and braking and resulting in knock-on accidents. Front wings can also slice through the tyres of cars ahead of them, while the exposed wheels can ‘fuse’ on contact with those of other cars and cause the whole car to be launched into the air, as seen on Sunday with Marco Andretti being sent over the top of Scott Dixon’s car.

In the world’s premier open wheel racing category, Formula 1 still opts for exclusively single file rolling restarts but the initial start of the race off the grid is still double-file – and as the weekend’s season opener in Australia there were several incidents and collisions through the field during the first lap, although nothing that caused a major accident, injury or brought out the yellow as well at St Pete. Even so, two drivers (Michael Schumacher and Jamie Alguersuari) ended up in the pits for repairs to collision damage, and another (Rubens Barrichello) ended up running off into the gravel as the field tried to get through the first corner of Melbourne’s road-hybrid track.

So perhaps it’s true that open wheel cars and double-file restarts don’t mix, at least on street courses with demanding first corners. But surely if IndyCar is serious about presenting its drivers as “the best in the world” able to take own all-comers from every other motorsport formula in the world at the $5m prize challenge at Las Vegas, then its drivers should be able cope with a system that’s used in NASCAR without complaining about it – and that they need to find a way to learn, adapt and cope with getting round the first corner without hitting anyone?

“Is the problem the double-file restart? Is it the late acceleration? Or, is it just people not paying attention?”, said race winner Dario Franchitti. “Not that they are not paying attention, but not respecting each other, just being crazy and going for gaps that aren’t there. Which one is it; we have to figure that out. And then we can change it,” he said, pointing out that the drivers had to take some of the blame for what happened at St Pete this week and not simply blame the new system.

“We need to clean up our acts and drive a little smarter,” agreed Graham Rahal.

Newman/Haas driver Oriol Servia suggested that the problem may be even more localised to St Petersburg than widely thought. With the first turn being on part of the track usually used as part of an airport, the inside line was particularly dirty with lots of oil and paint impeding braking which may have contributed to the mayhem. “The two-wide restarts were not a problem for me,” he said, pointing out that “if you look at the replay, it wasn’t just the restarts, it was the start itself too and we always start two-wide. It’s was just that the inside line here is one of the dirtiest of the season.”

Another factor may have been changes to the acceleration zone for this year’s St Petersburg event, which was moved closer to the start-finish line and more under the control of the starter rather than left to the drivers to go at their own discretion. The result seemed to be a packed, jumbled mess that was five- and six-wide and with cars lunging down the inside into the first turn. With Race Control showing an odd reluctance (possibly because of time concerns) to abort any restart no matter how messy it became, collisions were inevitable.

Rahal certainly felt that the next round at Barber would be very different. “It won’t be like St. Pete because it can’t be,” he said. “We won’t have the same issues.” The first corner at the Birmingham, Alabama circuit is a downhill left-hander that suddenly breaks right into a big, sweeping circle – meaning that track position is more crucial for the second turn rather than being an all-or-nothing attack into the first.

IndyCar officials, team owners, drivers and fans will certainly be watching very carefully when the green flag flies at the start of the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama on April 10.

Ryan Briscoe had the opportunity to clinch the IRL title in Japan; instead, a small mistake all his own making ruined his day and quite possibility his entire season.

It was a clean, caution-free first half to the race with Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti quickly installed into the 1st and 2nd spots ahead of Mario Moraes and Ryan Briscoe.

Mario Andretti was one of the fastest climbers cutting his way through the field from considerably further back, while Helio Castroneves and Tony Kanaan laboured to improve from qualifying issues (Castroneves crashed, and Kanaan was sent to the back for a technical infringement.) Former Danica Patrick, meanwhile, was maintaining her position in the top six or so but at some considerable cost – she had used half her push-to-pass overtaking assists before lap 50 of 200, to hold off overtaking threats.

With no cautions in sight, the first round of pit stops were held under green. Moraes has refuelling problems and dropped back, replaced in third place by former Motegi winner Dan Wheldon; while Franchitti was able to run a lap longer than his team mate Dixon – who had also had to cope with being stuck behind Hideki Mutoh coming into pit lane – and came in on lap 52; that critical advantage put him back out on track on track in front of Dixon, and while the Kiwi challenged hard to take the lead back while Dario was still on colder tyres and getting up to speed, Franchitti was able to hold him back and went on to lead the race until the next round of pit stops.

The race was still under green when Franchitti and Dixon came in again shortly after the midpoint of the race; this time it was Dixon who got the better stop and jumped up into the lead, as Franchitti had a moment in turn 2 on his out-lap.

But Briscoe stayed out longer than everyone, and then just as he came down pit road the yellows came out for the first time as Mike Conway was jolted loose by the bump in the middle of turns 3 and 4, sending him into the wall. A lengthy yellow ensured as the marshals had to deal with a lot of fuel leaking from Conway’s car onto the track.

But critically, all this meant Briscoe was able to carry on with his pit stop under yellow. It’s the type of serendipity that crew chiefs dream of, and which hands drivers a win on a platter. Pressing home the advantage that had landed in his lap, Briscoe floored it as smoked his way form his pit box … And the car responded by suddenly skewing hard left. Straight into the pit wall. It was a hard enough impact to damage the suspension, and to add insult to injury Briscoe also ran over the cone marking the end of the speed limited area, which then lodged underneath the car. He limped back to the pits and had to endure a lengthy stop that left him 15 laps down, and very much out of the race. Instead of clinching the title here at Motegi, Ryan had well and truly handed the advantage over to the Ganassi team mates.

The lengthy caution period meant that all the cars were easily able to stretch their fuel past lap 160 putting them within easy reach of the finish on one final pit stop. Surprisingly, Dixon and Franchitti came in relatively early – and both on the same lap – but it was just as well that they did, because as they arrived in their pix boxes the track went to yellow for a heavy rear-end smash into the wall by Ryan Hunter-Reay.

Dixon and Franchitti, then, were gifted exactly the same advantage that had presented itself to Briscoe earlier in the day; unlike Briscoe, neither Ganassi driver threw it away on the pit exit, and returned to the track in the lead after the other cars still to pit cycled through their own stops. Showing just how much the timing of a yellow can affect a race, Dan Wheldon – who had been comfortably in third before his own pre-yellow pit stop – ended up in eighth place and with a lot of lapped traffic mixed in as well after all this, such was the advantage handed to the cars who were able to come in while the safety car was on track.

Graham Rahal took up Wheldon’s vacated third spot, but had to hold off strong challenges from Oriol Servia and Mario Moraes (recovering from his earlier pit stop woes) to keep that position to the chequered flags. But none of them were in the same leage as the Ganassi duo, of of the two front runners it was clear that Dixon was by far the stronger in the closing laps, which contained none of the drama of Chicagoland’s split-second finish. Dixon cruised it in the final laps, basically.

Despite sticking with it after his devastating pit lane mistake, Ryan Briscoe could do no more on the damage limitation front than 18th, just ahead of Stanton Barrett; the only other places that he was able to make up were accident (Conway and Hunter-Reay) or technical retirements (Tomas Scheckter out with gear box trouble, and Roger Yasukawa having a lengthy pitstop for attention to a brake problem.)

Japan ’09 certainly won’t have happy memories for the Penske team and Briscoe in particular. But it’s by no means over yet: Briscoe, Dixon and Franchitti are too close to call for the title going into the final round of the season. It’s still all to play for – providing that Motegi doesn’t leave a lasting psychological scar on Briscoe’s title bid.

Meanwhile Dixon’s win not only gives him the momentum into the final race, but also a critical five wins to Franchitti’s four – a fact that would come into play as a tie-breaker in the event of the two Ganassi team mates finishing equal on points.

It’s going to be tight!

Race result

Pos  Driver             Team                      Time/Gap
 1.  Scott Dixon        Ganassi              1h51m37.6411s
 2.  Dario Franchitti   Ganassi                 +  1.4475s
 3.  Graham Rahal       Newman/Haas/Lanigan     +  3.2002s
 4.  Oriol Servia       Newman/Haas/Lanigan     +  7.3720s
 5.  Mario Moraes       KV                      + 12.7643s
 6.  Danica Patrick     Andretti Green          + 16.1392s
 7.  Marco Andretti     Andretti Green          + 16.6513s
 8.  Dan Wheldon        Panther                 + 17.2646s
 9.  Raphael Matos      Luczo Dragon            + 17.5790s
10.  Helio Castroneves  Penske                  +    1 lap
11.  Tony Kanaan        Andretti Green          +    1 lap
12.  Justin Wilson      Coyne                   +    1 lap
13.  Ed Carpenter       Vision                  +   2 laps
14.  Hideki Mutoh       Andretti Green          +   2 laps
15.  EJ Viso            HVM                     +   2 laps
16.  Robert Doornbos    HVM                     +   2 laps
17.  Kosuke Matsuura    Conquest                +   5 laps
18.  Ryan Briscoe       Penske                  +  15 laps
19.  Stanton Barrett    3G                      +  18 laps
20.  Roger Yasukawa     Dreyer & Reinbold       +  28 laps

Retirements:

     Ryan Hunter-Reay   Foyt                  157 laps
     Mike Conway        Dreyer & Reinbold     103 laps
     Tomas Scheckter    Dreyer & Reinbold     83 laps

IndyCar championship standings

Briscoe’s costly fumble means he drops from 1st to 3rd in the standings, while Dixon’s points for leading the most laps in Japan put him just on front of his team mate Franchitti.

But with only 8pts covering all three of them (and everyone else well and truly out of the tunning), the points make very little difference in reality. It’s the closest points standing into the final race that IRL has seen since 2003.

So it’s anyone’s title, as we head to the season finale at Homestead, Miami on 10th October.

Pos Driver           Points
1   Scott Dixon         570
2   Dario Franchitti    565
3   Ryan Briscoe        562
4   Hélio Castroneves   403
5   Danica Patrick      381
6   Marco Andretti      368
7   Graham Rahal        366
8   Tony Kanaan         354
9   Dan Wheldon         342
10  Justin Wilson       334
11  Hideki Mutoh        325
12  Ed Carpenter        303
13  Raphael Matos       296
14  Ryan Hunter-Reay    281
15  Mário Moraes        278
16  Robert Doornbos     271
17  Mike Conway         246
18  Ernesto Viso        234
19  Will Power          215
20  Tomas Scheckter     173
21  Oriol Servià        115
22  Alex Tagliani       114
23  Paul Tracy          113
24  Milka Duno          100
25  Sarah Fisher         77
26  Jaques Lazier        65
27  Richard Antinucci    63
28  Vitor Meira          62
29  Stanton Barrett      62
30  Darren Manning       38
31  Townsend Bell        32
32  A.J. Foyt IV         26
33  Alex Lloyd           17
34  Scott Sharp          16
35  Nelson Philippe      16
36  Kosuke Matsuura      13
37  John Andretti        12
38  Franck Montagny      12
38  Roger Yasukawa       12
40  Davey Hamilton       10




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