Posts Tagged ‘tony kanaan’

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 #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


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

It’s been almost five years and 78 races since Marco Andretti last stood in victory lane, but there was no doubt that he earned the glory in a thrilling Iowa Corn Indy 250.

It was dusk at Iowa Speedway when the cars headed out onto the 0.894 mile short oval track for the Iowa Corn Indy 250 and the floodlights were already blazing overhead, nicely highlighting the vapour trails streaming off the rear wings of the IndyCar field in the cooling night air as they got up to speed and approached the green flag for the start of the Saturday night race.

Takuma Sato had pole position but he would have been forgiven for not feeling entirely confident as he put his foot down in the #5, since this was his first time on track in the car since his final practice accident on Friday evening which saw him collide with Alex Tagliani. The KV Racing Technology pit crew had been hard at work reassembling it, but a car is never quite the same after major damage and Sato needed to feel out the changes before he would be fully happy with the new state of affairs.

Sato’s version of “feeling out the changes” was to leap away at the first sight of green and leave Danica Patrick standing, neatly opening up a hole for his KV team mate Tony Kanaan to follow him through. The team tactic was for the two of them to take up a side-by-side configuration that would all but ensure no one would be able to pass them – not exactly the most sporting of tactics, but it’s one long used by the Penske, Ganassi and Andretti Autosport teams of this world.

Unfortunately for Sato and Kanaan, one car proved too strong for them to fend off, and before they knew it Dario Franchitti had managed to slalom between them both and take up the top spot on lap 8, and then ease away from them without any problem. That rather wrecked the KV plan, but they would still do what they could to maintain formation which ensured that Danica and the rest of the pursuers were stymied for a time.

The cars flew at speeds of nearly 176mph until the first caution came out on lap 24: unfortunate British rookie James Jakes had found out the unsettling truth behind the notorious Iowa Speedway bumps, and in particular the spot through turn 2 where the track passes over an underground tunnel allowing access to the infield. The uneven surface is enough to catch out even the most experienced driver, and for someone as new to oval racing as Jakes it was a trap waiting for him to fall into. The bump shot his rear end around and sent him up into a heavy contact with the wall, although despite the seeming violence of the impact Jakes was quickly out of the car and walking away with no problems.

“It is only the third oval I have driven on and I know we are going to have these incidents so I just need to move on to Toronto,” admitted Jakes. “It is unfortunate because I think I had a quick car here.”

Although it was still relatively early in the race, everyone opted to come in for fuel and tyres. But it proved a disastrous visit to pit lane for Will Power, who was ushered out of his pit stall right into the path of Charlie Kimball who was just coming in. Power ended up running straight into the side of the #83 as it turned in. Kimball’s car was seriously injured despite the team’s best attempts to take it behind the wall and repair it, while Power’s #12 was also now a wounded animal with damage not only to the soon-replaced front-wing but also to the steering of the car that was more intractable. It did not stop him from rejoining the race albeit down in 23rd position, just behind James Hinchcliffe who had suffered refuelling problems in his own stop.

“It was really disappointing to get hit in pit lane during that first pit stop,” said Kimball. “There wasn’t anything I could do about it, I didn’t even see him.”

Officially the blame lies with the Penske pit crew for the unsafe release; unofficially, Kimball himself also bears some element of the blame, as he was coming down to pit lane unusually far out to the right and its quite probably that Power’s pit team simply didn’t realise that Kimball as in for his regular stop and could be swerving to the left into his pit box in that way. Still, the damage was done to both parties – time to move on.

The clean-up from Jakes’ accident took nine laps and racing resumed on lap 32, with Franchitti once again leaping away into the lead ahead of the KV duo, then followed by Helio Castroneves, Oriol Servia and Ryan Briscoe who all got ahead of Danica Patrick who was not having the best of days at restarts. She was also passed on track for seventh by her team mate Marco Andretti, who was already up ten places from his qualifying position and looking particularly strong in the night conditions.

The green flag was fairly short-lived, with another accident on lap 45 bringing out the second caution of the evening. Ana Beatriz had got loose on the same unsettling Iowa turn 2 bump and gone flying up the track, only this time she picked up some company along the way and smashed hapless Mike Conway into the wall as she went. Both cars were badly damaged and showered debris over the track, with Vitor Meira one of the first to arrive at the accident scene to find himself getting a face full of a sheet of carbon fibre bodywork that damaged his car, ultimately causing the team to retire the #59 with handling problems late in the event.

“We got loose, I hit the bump and the rear snapped on me,” said Beatriz succinctly.

Conway had more to say: “It was obviously a disappointing end. I was just following Ana into turn 1 and 2, and she just got loose in the corner. I had nowhere to go and we kind of touched wheels,” he explained. “That set me off into the wall. It was a pretty hard hit; not much left of the right side of the car … It was a funny day anyway. At the start we had no gears and we drove right to the back. It’s unfortunate, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.”

It was a lengthy 19-lap delay to clear up the debris and fluids spilt from the two wrecked cars before racing resumed on lap 63 with another great restart from Dario, while Helio Castroneves suddenly surged past the KV duo to claim second spot; Kanaan had problems trying – and finally failing – to keep third place from an assertive Marco Andretti in the Venom #26 car, while further back Ryan Briscoe and JR Hildebrand went side-by-side and touched wheels as they scrapped over sixth place.

With Kanaan admitting over the team radio that he had “no answer” for Dario and no idea where to look for one, it seemed that the prospects for a real battle for the lead lay with Castroneves – ironically, given the off-track spat between Helio and Dario over blocking following the Milwaukee 225 last weekend. But just when it seemed as though we were in for a rematch, we got deja vu instead: just like at Milwaukee, Helio suddenly had a tyre go down and he had to take to the pits for a green flag pit stop on lap 77, which put him a lap down and essentially stopped him playing any further role in the fight for the win.

Worse news was to follow for Team Penske, when the rear end of Will Power’s #12 suddenly snapped round on him over the turn 2 bumps and sent him into a nasty hit against the wall. “That hurt,” he admitted afterwards, and he looked visibly shaken and dazed even half an hour later when he stepped out of the in-field care center.

Although he initially asserted that he was fine and there was no concussion, official word said otherwise and he was deemed to have suffered a minor concussion that means he will need to undergo medical re-evaluation tests before being cleared to race at the next event in Toronto in two weeks time, as will Simona de Silvestro who was ruled out of Iowa after failing the same tests ahead of Friday practice after suffering post-concussion symptoms from a crash at Milwaukee.

“It was definitely a hard hit,” admitted Power, who said that it definitely “rang my bell”. He went on: “The Verizon car was damaged after the incident in the pits and we just had a problem with the steering and it came around on me. It’s a tough result for us tonight. We’ll do our best to get it back next race.”

He also lamented the fact that the problem had originated with a mistake by the team in the pits. “Once again we screwed ourselves in the pits, like we always do,” he said, insisting that the team had to learn from this and cut out these costly missteps.

The caution allowed everyone to pit, and JR Hildebrand had an eventful time when he was caught out by the car of Marco Andretti in front and nearly made contact, avoiding it only with a major swerve that had the pit crews still working on the business side of the pit wall flinching. Hildebrand then caught out again and almost ran into the back of Scott Dixon behind the safety car as everyone was weaving and testing their brakes to heat up their equipment ahead of the restart on lap 106.

Dario once again leapt away in front, but this time Sato was showing signs of vigour for the first time in a while and swept past his KV Racing team mate Tony Kanaan for second place. Marco was then challenging for third place, running just ahead of Dixon who was now in fifth place having started from 23rd, when the track went straight back to yellow again on lap 115.

This time it was another rookie – albeit one who won at Iowa in Indy Lights last year – who had found out the problem with Iowa’s turn 2 in the most brutal way possible when something in the suspension seemed to fail in a shower of sparks sending the #34 into the wall in probably the most violent of the night and certainly prompting the safety crew to take extra care in stabilising him and checking for neck injuries before allowing him to be extricated. Despite looking very shaken and having to sit on the monocoque of the car once he stepped out, Saavedra was checked over by the in-field care centre and released with no problems, not even a minor concussion as Power had sustained – thankful no doubt for Iowa’s introduction of the SAFER barrier all around the perimeter, with no concrete wall left at the facility any more.

“I have no idea what happened,” said Saavedra. “We had some mild understeer which we were working through and out of nowhere the rear just snapped without any indication. It is one of those things that we will check out very closely to see what broke and try to figure it out.”

As the field got ready to go back to green flag racing, it emerged that the KV Racing team harmony wasn’t as solid as it had looked early in the evening, when Kanaan got on the radio to Jimmy Vasser to complain about his team mate Sato chopping him since getting in front. If he did it again, “He’ll learn a lesson he’ll never forget,” warned TK. Vasser said shortly afterwards that things had been smoothed out between them and that Sato hadn’t been aware of the problems he had been causing for Kanaan.

At the restart on lap 128, Dario once again maintained the lead – but this time didn’t do so with the same ease, and didn’t pull away to a safe distance. Behind him, a still annoyed Kanaan tried to get around Sato but found himself unable to get past and had to get off the throttle, which cost him vital momentum and saw him drop behind Marco Andretti and have to fend off JR Hildebrand in thrilling wheel-to-wheel combat over the next few laps.

Marco meanwhile had been stalking Takuma Sato for second, looking to be lining up a move on the outside only to swoop down to the inside line when Sato left the door open and pass him that way instead in a very sharp, intelligent move. Marco then immediately used his momentum to catch up with the race leader, and on lap 15 he went side-by-side with Dario and finally passed him, only for Dario to then line-up right on Marco’s tail and retake the lead in a decisive move four laps later in a perfect example of tough-but-fair oval racing at its best (and rather better than the ongoing ill-tempered spat between the KV team mates behind them.)

With under 50 laps to go before the end, it was time for pit stops – and with no yellows in the offing, cars were starting to pit under green. Sato came in on lap 181, and four laps later Dario dived for pit lane with Marco right on his tail (so close, in fact, that there was nearly contact at the entrance.)

While they were on pit road, the caution finally came out as if on cue to help them: and it was Sato who had caused it, spinning in the predictable turn 2 while on tyres that had not yet fully heated up and weren’t yet at optimum operating temperature. Sato himself was uninjured and was quickly out of the wrecked #5, but he wasn’t happy with how the race which had promised so much had ended with so little reward.

“I lost at the bump in turn 2. The tyres weren’t up to temperature,” he confirmed. “I’m very disappointed to finish the race this way. I feel very sorry for the team and the fans. It’s unfortunate because up until then it was looking good.”

Marco and Dario were able to finish off their already-underway pit stops, and Marco emerged from pit lane in front of Dario to take the lead for the second time that night. Franchitti had led 172 laps to this point: he couldn’t know it, but he would not get another turn in the lead for the rest of the race. Instead, when the race restarted, he not only didn’t have the raw speed in traffic that he had enjoyed earlier, but the #10 had a tendency to get loose and fly up alarmingly high near the wall, forcing him to back off the throttle and lose critical momentum. As the final stint wore on, Franchitti would sink back to fifth place by the chequered flag despite all that early domination, passed in the closing laps first by his Ganassi team mate Scott Dixon and then by Panther’s JR Hildebrand.

“We had a bit of problem on that last pit stop and Marco got ahead,” said Franchitti. “All night we had been getting more and more oversteer, and once we got in traffic I was toast. We struggled at the end,” he confirmed.

With Dario and Takuma out of the picture, it was over to Tony Kanaan to carry the fight to Marco, and sure enough despite a good restart from Andretti on lap 198, Kanaan set up a pass and moved into the lead for the first time all night on lap 203. But Marco was if anything stronger in traffic than he was on the lead, and he stalked TK for four laps and then pulled off another sublime dive to the inside line to take the lead again on lap 208. This was looking like a tight battle that was going all the way to the finish.

Kanaan was back on the attack two laps later and finally pulled off a neat pass when Marco gave him half an opening rather than risk wrecking either or both of them, which allowed Kanaan to take control of the race from lap 212 for the next 20 laps.

With 19 laps of the race remaining, Marco felt he’d waited and observed long enough and dived to the inside line to run side-by-side with the #82 before just managing to pull in front again; TK regrouped and made another surge for the lead, but this time Marco was resolute there was no way past. As the laps remaining ticked to single figures, Kanaan used one of his remaining push-to-pass boosts to get alongside the Venom car again on the outside this time, at which point the decisive moment arrived: whoever came out of this battle in front was going to win the race.

And Marco played him: allowing him to get alongside, lulling him into a sense that the possibility was there, and then suddenly he moved down the track and applied a boost of his own, the extra power and the tighter line decisively breaking Kanaan’s run for the lead.

In the end it didn’t come down to a final lap shootout: the result was decided, and Marco claimed his first win in almost five years – his only previous IndyCar Series victory being at Sonoma in 2006, 78 races ago. Naturally, he was delighted: “It was good fun! The Venom boys were on it tonight,” he said of the race. “We were down a little bit on the bigger ovals but we know when it comes down to handling we’d be alright. These guys did a great job with pits. They got me the lead back [at the final round of pit stops.]”

He said that he had enjoyed the fierce late battle with Kanaan: “Knowing TK, I knew he would do exactly what I did to him. He’d make his car very wide,” Marco said. “I didn’t want to wait until two to go because he was just going to chop me and I would have been done. I knew I had to get it done earlier and actually make my car wide.”

Kanaan for his part gave Marco a thumbs up and congratulated him in victory lane, although he wasn’t entirely happy with that last move of his former team mate’s. “It was pretty clean until he chopped me off,” he said. “He did a great job. It was a great battle, a great race. We didn’t quite have the car. I think towards the end we got a little stronger. I’m happy for the team.”

Scott Dixon came in third place and said that “It feels like a win coming from 23rd to third,” while JR Hildebrand finished in fourth place having survived some of the hairiest moments of anyone of the night.

“That was my first time up front, rubbin’ with those boys,” he said. “There were a couple of spots that were a little dicey. It may be I’ll have to go up to some guys and say, ‘sorry about that.’ This is a tough place to race!” But certainly fourth place is a good way to get over the early exit at Milwaukee to get his season back on track after the highs and lows of May at Indianapolis.

As for the IndyCar championship, Dario Franchitti might have hoped for better than just fifth place to maximise the advantage over Will Power following the #12’s accident, but Iowa still means that the Scot now has a 20pt lead over the Aussie in the points having come into the weekend tied. It’s not a bad state of affairs, although Dario will be equally aware that the next race is back on a street/road circuit – which Power has dominated on so far in 2011 – and that the fight for the championship is only just beginning to get serious.

That race – the Honda Indy Toronto on the streets of that city – will be on Sunday, July 10 in two week’s time.

Race results

1. #26 Marco Andretti 250 laps 0.0000s Running
2. #82 Tony Kanaan 250 laps 0.7932s Running
3. #9 Scott Dixon 250 laps 1.1067s Running
4. #4 JR Hildebrand 250 laps 1.4856s Running
5. #10 Dario Franchitti 250 laps 1.8926s Running
6. #6 Ryan Briscoe 250 laps 2.3628s Running
7. #3 Helio Castroneves 250 laps 2.6732s Running
8. #28 Ryan Hunter-Reay 250 laps 4.1625s Running
9. #06 James Hinchcliffe 250 laps 5.6272s Running
10. #7 Danica Patrick 250 laps 6.0327s Running
11. #67 Ed Carpenter 250 laps 7.6745s Running
12. #22 Justin Wilson 250 laps 14.1527s Running
13. #19 Alex Lloyd 250 laps 16.8865s Running
14. #2 Oriol Servia 249 laps + 1 laps Running
15. #38 Graham Rahal 249 laps + 1 laps Running
16. #77 Alex Tagliani 249 laps + 1 laps Running
17. #59 EJ Viso 239 laps + 11 laps Handling
18. #14 Vitor Meira 227 laps + 23 laps Handling
19. #5 Takuma Sato 182 laps + 68 laps Contact
20. #34 Sebastian Saavedra 114 laps + 136 laps Contact
21. #12 Will Power 89 laps + 161 laps Contact
22. #83 Charlie Kimball 62 laps + 188 laps Mechanical
23. #24 Ana Beatriz 44 laps + 206 laps Contact
24. #27 Mike Conway 44 laps + 206 laps Contact
25. #18 James Jakes 22 laps + 228 laps Contact
26. #78 Simona de Silvestro DNS

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 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

Dario Franchitti won the first of the Firestone Twin 275 double header races at Texas Motor Speedway, but his arch rival for the title Will Power immediately struck back by winning the second – thanks to a crucial piece of pure dumb luck in the intermission.

Race 1: Ganassi duo too good in first Texas race

It’s the first double-header event seen in the CART/IndyCar history for three decades, and the first time that the running order for the second event has been set by blind draw: expectations were high for an unusual and entertaining night of racing at Texas Motor Speedway.

The sun was still above the horizon when the green flag dropped for race 1, but the lights were on at the track and the sparks made quite a sight as they flew from under the fuel-laden cars as they grounded through the first turns of the race.

Dario Franchitti quickly asserted himself and took the lead from ALex Tagliani, but Tag wasn’t about to go anywhere and spent a long time close behind Dario seeking a way back to the front.

Behind him, Will Power was battling with a surprisingly assured Takuma Sato – at one point, Power’s front wing made visible contact with the rear right tyre of Sato’s car but fortunately neither wing nor tyre were harmed by the encounter.

Further back, Indianapolis 500 runner-up JR Hildebrand was struggling and falling back through the field, at one point banging wheels with Charlie Kimball, the backmarker whose presence had sparked JR’s exit to the wall on the final corner of the Indy 500. Hildebrand was not at all happy tonight with the running of his Panther Racing car, and was one of the first cars to come in for fuel and tyres before lap 40.

Danica Patrick was also in early on lap 43 complaining of understeer, but most of the leaders made it a little further with Power in on lap 50 having managed to pass Tagliani for second, Franchitti in the from the lead on lap 51 and Scott Dixon in next time around.

By the time the pit stops had cycled through, Dario was back in the lead and now had a comfortable 3.6s lead over Dixon on lap 58, with the race going blisteringly fast with an average speed of that point of nearly 217mph, and already half over just 20 minutes into proceedings.

It was just as well that this was going to be a double-header, because the absence of any cautions and the pace that the Ganassi duo was setting threatened to lap pretty much everyone by the end of the race: by lap 75, still with no yellow, Dario put Tony Kanaan a lap down leaving only 12 cars on the lead lap – although Kanaan then fought back and briefly unlapped himself, such was his determination not to drop off the lead.

The lack of incident on track left many wondering whether everyone was taking it easy to make sure they were in a fit state to make it through to race 2, but KV Racing Technology co-owner Jimmy Vasser said it looked pretty no-holds-barred and scary to him: “We talked about it, but doesn’t look like it from here!” he said.

The race was now getting to the last 25 laps and no one could make it full distance without an extended yellow, so a second round of pit stops was required. JR Hildebrand was first in on lap 91, but the leaders had not yet come in by lap 97 when suddenly Charlie Kimball got a bad push and took off up the track, collecting fellow rookie Wade Cunningham on the way to the wall. Sadly, that meant that Cunningham’s car was crunched – and it was the car that had powered Dan Wheldon’s win at the centennial Indy 500 two weeks early, meaning that piece of automotive history was now rather shop-worn. However, both cars were expected to be repaired in time for race 2.

The resulting caution gave everyone the opportunity to come in for tyres and a final amount of fuel – Ganassi presumably taking extra care not to cut things too tight and risk running dry as happened embarrassingly often at Indianapolis in May. Dario beat Scott off pit road, but Kanaan had the best pit stop of all and emerged off pit road in front, effectively unlapping himself once the wave arounds went ahead.

That left Franchitti and Dixon leading Power, Tagliani, Helio Castroneves, Takuma Sato, Ryan Briscoe, Vitor Meira, Graham Rahal and EJ Viso as the top ten for the restart: this time, Dario didn’t seem to have the same edge he’d enjoyed earlier in the race and he found Dixon and Power sticking right up close on his rear wing; Tagliani was also not far back, and the lead four quickly pulled away and made the final 10 laps a private but fierce battle among themselves.

Dario resorted to push to pass to protect his track position and did all he could to make sure Dixon was never given a chance of taking the inside line, but even so Dixon looked to have the momentum as he slingshot off turn 4 on the final lap and he came within just a few feet of pulling it off – a 0.0527s winning margin for Dario being in the top 25 all-time closest finishes in IndyCar.

Dixon admitted afterwards that he’s done all he could, but that there had ben no way past his team mate; Will Power was equally clear in conceding that he just didn’t have enough speed to take on the Ganassi cars in that first race, and of the top three he was the one looking most hot and bothered in the late Texan evening heat – but he was quickly reenergised by drawing a third place start for the second race of the evening, while Dario Franchitti was stuck down in 28th
and Scott Dixon in 18th.

But perhaps the most worked up driver in the field was Danica Patrick, who finished in 16th position but was furious with Jay Howard, who twice appeared to run up the track and pinch her against the wall in a way that she clearly felt had come close to causing a dangerous accident. She was on the team radio telling the Andretti Autosport team that if Howard did it again she was going to sort him out – and it sounded like she meant it Richard Childress-style at that.

After a brief victory lane celebration for the #10, the cars returned to pit road so that the crews could start making the changes that the drivers wanted for the second, now-nighttime race while the drivers headed to the stage to perform the blind draw for their starting positions.

The night was only half done!

Race results

1. #10 Dario Franchitti 114 laps 54m 47.2787s Running
2. #9 Scott Dixon 114 laps + 0.0527s Running
3. #12 Will Power 114 laps + 0.2064s Running
4. #77 Alex Tagliani 114 laps + 0.4109s Running
5. #5 Takuma Sato 114 laps + 1.4174s Running
6. #6 Ryan Briscoe 114 laps + 1.4337s Running
7. #59 EJ Viso 114 laps + 2.1127s Running
8. #14 Vitor Meira 114 laps + 2.5355s Running
9. #38 Graham Rahal 114 laps + 2.8146s Running
10. #3 Helio Castroneves 114 laps + 4.3388s Running
11. #82 Tony Kanaan 114 laps + 4.7842s Running
12. #8 Paul Tracy 114 laps + 7.0114s Running
13. #26 Marco Andretti 113 laps + 1 laps Running
14. #19 Alex Lloyd 113 laps + 1 laps Running
15. #88 Jay Howard 113 laps + 1 laps Running
16. #7 Danica Patrick 113 laps + 1 laps Running
17. #22 Justin Wilson 113 laps + 1 laps Running
18. #67 Ed Carpenter 113 laps + 1 laps Running
19. #28 Ryan Hunter-Reay 113 laps + 1 laps Running
20. #06 James Hinchcliffe 113 laps + 1 laps Running
21. #2 Oriol Servia 112 laps + 2 laps Running
22. #24 Ana Beatriz 112 laps + 2 laps Running
23. #4 JR Hildebrand 112 laps + 2 laps Running
24. #27 Mike Conway 112 laps + 2 laps Running
25. #18 James Jakes 112 laps + 2 laps Running
26. #78 Simona de Silvestro 111 laps + 3 laps Running
27. #11 Davey Hamilton 109 laps + 5 laps Running
28. #34 Sebastian Saavedra 97 laps + 17 laps Running
29. #99 Wade Cunningham 92 laps Contact
30. #83 Charlie Kimball 91 laps Contact

Intermission: Race 2 qualifying draw

After the first of the two races at Texas Motor Speedway, the starting order for the second was made by a blind draw which saw Tony Kanaan start from pole and Dario Franchitti from 28th.

It might have been three decades since the last time IndyCar or its predecessors have run a double-header race event, but it’s absolutely the first tim that the starting grid for the second of the two races has been decided by lottery rather than by continuing with the finishing order of the first.

That led to the somewhat odd spectacle of the drivers coming up onto a temporary stage in reverse order of how they finished, to make a blind draw for their race 2 starting position. The way it worked was that the drivers were confronted by a wall of “tyres”, one of which they chose and spun round to reveal the grid number on the rear of it. In others words, this was IndyCar meets The Price is Right!

Charlie Kimball was first to make his choice and netted eighth place on the grid, and then Wade Cunningham selected his tyre and revealed number two on the back of it meaning he started from the outside of the front row of the grid. Tony Kanaan would go one better and was jubilant to net his easiest-ever pole position.

By the time the last three took to the stage, only one decent position was still up for grabs – and Will Power immediately stole it, meaning he would start form third. When Scott Dixon then took 18th place, it left Dario Franchitti trying to put a brave face on his worst case scenario – having to start form his worst-ever grid position of 28th while his chief championship rival had an almost assured win from the second row.

Qualifying order for race 2

1. #82 Tony Kanaan KV Racing Technology
2. #99 Wade Cunningham Sam Schmidt Motorsports
3. #12 Will Power Penske
4. #38 Graham Rahal Ganassi
5. #28 Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti Autosport
6. #3 Helio Castroneves Penske
7. #14 Vitor Meira Foyt
8. #83 Charlie Kimball Ganassi
9. #06 James Hinchcliffe Newman/Haas
10. #67 Ed Carpenter Sarah Fisher
11. #34 Sebastian Saavedra Conquest
12. #6 Ryan Briscoe Penske
13. #88 Jay Howard Rahal/Schmidt
14. #8 Paul Tracy Dragon
15. #24 Ana Beatriz Dreyer & Reinbold
16. #77 Alex Tagliani Sam Schmidt Motorsports
17. #2 Oriol Servia Newman/Haas
18. #9 Scott Dixon Ganassi
19. #19 Alex Lloyd Dale Coyne
20. #7 Danica Patrick Andretti Autosport
21. #4 JR Hildebrand Panther
22. #78 Simona de Silvestro HVM
23. #18 James Jakes Dale Coyne
24. #11 Davey Hamilton Dreyer & Reinbold
25. #5 Takuma Sato KV Racing Technology
26. #27 Mike Conway Andretti Autosport
27. #26 Marco Andretti Andretti Autosport
28. #10 Dario Franchitti Ganassi
29. #59 EJ Viso KV Racing Technology
30. #22 Justin Wilson Dreyer & Reinbold

Race 2: Luck of the draw gives Power Texas 2 win

Will Power pulled third place from the blind draw that decided starting positions the second race of the Firestone Twin 275 double header event, and put it to ideal use.

When Will Power finished race 1 in the heat of the late Texas day, he looked hot and bothered. But the moment he pulled out “3” in the blind draw setting starting positions for the second race of the night, he was bouncing around and celebrating as if he’d already won.

And the truth was that he pretty much had, especially when Scott Dixon pulled out “18” leaving Power’s key rival for the 2011 IndyCar title, Dario Franchitti, with the only remaining grid position not yet drawn – 28th place, virtually at the very back of one of the series’ largest grids outside of the Indy 500 in years. It didn’t help that he had used up his “push to pass” in race 1 holding off Dixon and Power for his win.

Power was also aided by the presence of Wade Cunningham ahead of him on the outside of the front row of the race 2 grid: Cunningham wasn’t just a rookie in his first ever weekend of IndyCar activity, he was also consigned to a backup car that he’d never driven before after he had managed to damage his race car (the same car piloted by Dan Wheldon to the dramatic Indy 500 victory two weeks ago) in an accident with Charlie Kimball in the first event of the evening.

Cunningham did the only thing he could do in the circumstances at the restart: and stayed well out of the way.

That left Kanaan taking off like the proverbial scalded cat with Power in hot pursuit after seeing off a challenge from the fast-starting Ryan Hunter-Reay, but further back the field compressed and went multi-wide as a consequence of the mixed-up order. That suited Power just fine, because stuck behind this road jam were the two Ganassi cars.

By contrast, Power quickly found himself supported by both of his Penske team mates, Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe easily finding their way through to the front of the field while Hunter-Reay was engaged in a wheel-to-wheel battle with Graham Rahal.

Dixon was son also on the move through the field, but Dario – from ten places further back – was slower to gain positions, having added extra downforce during the interval in order to help handling through traffic as opposed to the open air of the lead that he had enjoyed in race 1. The difference in circumstances was clear, with Kanaan showing the inverse of the situation by running in the lead at the same sort of 213mph speeds that Franchitti could now but dream of attaining.

But Kanan in turn was no match for Power, and finally on lap 41 after a prolonged period of pressure Power finally managed to pull off the pass on the KV Racing Technology car and claim the lead for the first time in the evening. That meant Dixon and Kanaan led Castroneves and Briscoe, with Scott Dixon up to fifth place having got around Hunter-Reay and Rahal.

In a repeat of the pattern seen in race 1, JR Hildebrand and Danica Patrick were among the first cars to come in for their first pit stop of the evening around lap 45 – again, still well short of any hope of being able to run the full race distance of 114 laps without a further stop. Danica had been suffering from terrible understeer in the early laps of the race and had to continually lift, resulting in her being passed by both Mike Conway and EJ Vison in the course of lap 27 alone.

The main bulk of the field came in between laps 51 an 54, with Dario Franchitti one of the last to come in but still needing a hefty dose of yellow to have any hope of eking out his fuel – and given Ganassi’s recent history of fuel management, probably not too wise to press it to the absolutely limit in any case.

After the pit stops, it was a Penske lock-out at the front: Power still held the lead, with Helio and Ryan Briscoe his wing men in second and third holding off Tony Kanaan and Scott Dixon; Dario Franchitti was still down in 15th place, not making the sort of progress he would have hoped for in the colder conditions of nighttime. By contrast, Marco Andretti had started alongside Dario on the grid in 27th and was not up in eighth place, a gain of 19 positions. Where Dario was struggling in traffic, Marco was conversely saying that the #26 was great in traffic but struggling in clear air – go figure.

Dixon was showing he was much faster than Power’s cohorts, closing the gap and passing both Penskes on lap 74, closing up on Power himself after the leader was held up by the about-to-be-lapped traffic of James Hinchcliffe and Justin Wilson running side-by-side ahead of him. But once Power finally broke through, he scampered away and disappeared, making the traffic work perfectly for him, while Dixon was suffering from having overworked his tyres to make up all those positions and was now struggling with a loose race car.

As the race entered its final 25 laps, there had been a complete absence of yellow flags and everyone was starting to have to consider when to make their final pit stop: early or late, tyres or no tyres? A mixture of strategies played out, but it turned into a disaster for Graham Rahal who pushed too far and ran dry, dropping down to the apron to crawl his way back to the pits – only to nearly get collected by Will Power who was moving to the apron to enter pit lane for his own scheduled stop on lap 106.

Fortunately Power’s reflexes were true and he avoided the slower car, pitted – and came back out in the lead, giving Dixon no sign of weakness on which to pounce on fresh tyres. And Rahal made it back to pit lane without triggered a caution, which was bad news for Franchitti who badly needed a yellow flag no matter how brief in order to close up the cars and give him a chance to make a strike for the front.

No caution came: in fact this was the first IndyCar race to ever run caution-free at Texas Motor Speedway (and the first caution-free IndyCar race since the 2009 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.) Franchitti had made it up to 15th place by lap 85 and pressed on to take seventh place by lap 114, but by then he had run out of laps to work with: the chequered flag was out, Power had won, and it meant a critical points advantage gained by the Aussie over the Scot in the IndyCar title battle.

Franchitti could have been forgiven for souring on the idea of a blind draw deciding the starting grid for race 2, but in truth the people with the most to complain about the format were the fans: the lottery did a brutally perfect job of spacing out the main title rivals through the field and meant that we never got a genuine on-track battle between them, which is what everyone really wanted to see. While the blind draw experiment was worth trying, it also clearly now needs fine-tuning: even a completely inverted starting order would be better and arguably more fun and fairer on all concerned, seeing all the race 1 leaders have to battle their way up from the back row in race 2.

“You could see it sort of trickling down with the draw that it wasn’t looking too good for us,” said Dixon afterwards. “Obviously, myself starting from 18th and Dario 28th, it’s a huge deficit when the competitor for the championship starts third and with not too much competition in front of him. ”

But splitting the former 550k long (and dull) endurance race into two short, almost sprint race-type affairs was a marked improvement and added genuine interest and space to proceedings, and the large crowd seemed to endorse the new format as a hit with fans.

And certainly Will Power had no complaints with finally managing to clinch his first ever oval win. “This means so much to me and the boys,” said Power. “We’ve been chasing this for so long. It was a fun race and great day. It was a good battle with Kanaan at the start and then Dixon came on strong. This is what we need for the championship!”

“The two-race format made things interesting and hopefully good for the fans,” agreed Marco Andretti. “It would have been nice to have had a better draw than starting 27th, but we were able to make up all the ground on the track we could,” he said, after falling back in the later stages of the race and had to settle for 13th place by the end.

Whether the twin-header will be back again next year at Texas – or any other venue come to that – remains to be seen.

Race results

1. #12 Will Power 114 laps 48m 08.9739s Running
2. #9 Scott Dixon 114 laps + 0.9466s Running
3. #6 Ryan Briscoe 114 laps + 4.6524s Running
4. #3 Helio Castroneves 114 laps + 9.5738s Running
5. #82 Tony Kanaan 114 laps + 14.3723s Running
6. #26 Marco Andretti 114 laps + 16.9488s Running
7. #10 Dario Franchitti 114 laps + 18.4374s Running
8. #7 Danica Patrick 114 laps + 18.5558s Running
9. #28 Ryan Hunter-Reay 114 laps + 21.7976s Running
10. #59 EJ Viso 114 laps + 24.0923s Running
11. #14 Vitor Meira 114 laps + 24.6397s Running
12. #5 Takuma Sato 113 laps + 1 laps 1.3842s Running
13. #8 Paul Tracy 113 laps + 1 laps 3.8160s Running
14. #77 Alex Tagliani 113 laps + 1 laps 3.8642s Running
15. #2 Oriol Servia 113 laps + 1 laps 4.1051s Running
16. #67 Ed Carpenter 113 laps + 1 laps 4.3280s Running
17. #27 Mike Conway 113 laps + 1 laps 4.8183s Running
18. #4 JR Hildebrand 113 laps + 1 laps 10.0966s Running
19. #06 James Hinchcliffe 113 laps + 1 laps 13.2919s Running
20. #88 Jay Howard 113 laps + 1 laps 13.8785s Running
21. #22 Justin Wilson 113 laps + 1 laps 17.0934s Running
22. #24 Ana Beatriz 113 laps + 1 laps 25.1956s Running
23. #83 Charlie Kimball 112 laps + 2 laps 6.3076s Running
24. #19 Alex Lloyd 112 laps + 2 laps 6.6572s Running
25. #11 Davey Hamilton 112 laps + 2 laps 14.2536s Running
26. #99 Wade Cunningham 112 laps + 2 laps 22.7651s Running
27. #78 Simona de Silvestro 111 laps + 3 laps 2.3193s Running
28. #18 James Jakes 111 laps + 3 laps 7.0898s Running
29. #34 Sebastian Saavedra 111 laps + 3 laps 9.5770s Running
30. #38 Graham Rahal 104 laps + 132.1385s Running

Championship standings

Pos Driver               Pts   Pos Driver               Pts
1.  Will Power          239    22. Sebastian Saavedra   72
2.  Dario Franchitti    218    23. Raphael Matos        67
3.  Scott Dixon         169    24. Ana Beatriz          67
4.  Oriol Servia        165    25. James Jakes          65
5.  Tony Kanaan         159    26. Dan Wheldon          59
6.  Ryan Briscoe        146    27. Sebastien Bourdais   44
7.  Graham Rahal        136    28. Paul Tracy           44
8.  Alex Tagliani       135    29. Ed Carpenter         39
9.  J.R. Hildebrand     125    30. Bertrand Baguette    30
10. Takuma Sato         118    31. Alex Lloyd           29
11. Marco Andretti      117    32. Tomas Scheckter      28
12. Vitor Meira         117    33. Jay Howard           27
13. Mike Conway         114    34. Davey Hamilton       26
14. Helio Castroneves   111    35. Simon Pagenaud       24
15. Danica Patrick      111    36. Townsend Bell        21
16. Simona de Silvestro 102    37. Buddy Rice           20
17. Justin Wilson       100    38. John Andretti        16
18. James Hinchcliffe    92    39. Pippa Mann           15
19. Charlie Kimball      89    40. Wade Cunningham      10
20. Ernesto Viso         88    41. Bruno Junqueira       4
21. Ryan Hunter-Reay     85

Racing in the Itaipava São Paulo Indy 300 was postponed to Monday after a torrential downpour hit the scheduled start of the race leading to a spate of accidents.

Attempts to run the Itaipava São Paulo Indy 300 have been abandoned for Sunday, and the race has been postponed until Monday afternoon.

The streets were already wet on Sunday in Sao Paulo from a pre-race torrential shower when the IndyCars lined up for the double file start, and it all went swiftly downhill from there.

Helio Castroneves was forced wide by Dario Franchitti through the first chicane, and the Brazilian ended up going into the barriers at which point he was an immediate blockage for those behind him: Simona de Silvestro had no where to go but straight into him, and then Danica Patrick ploughed into de Silvestro in turn and raised the #78 clear off the track. Tony Kanaan was also involved and sustained suspension damage and a bruised wrist when Patrick’s car ricocheted back into his car, while Ryan Hunter-Reay had skated through the chicane and into a tyre wall in a separate incident.

The restart was little better, with Scott Dixon spinning as he exited the first turn and a host of other cars including Sebastien Bourdais, James Hinchcliffe and Justin Wilson spun further back. Within minutes the rain was coming down again at monsoon levels, and it was impossible to keep track of who was spinning off, where and what damage was being wrought to the cars bouncing into the barriers. With visibility down to zero the organisers had no choice but to throw a red flag on lap 9 of 75 and recall the cars to the pit lane before the entire field was written off.

At the time the race was suspended, Will Power was in the lead ahead of Ryan Briscoe, Mike Conway, Takuma Sato, Graham Rahal, Dario Franchitti, Marco Andretti and Charlie Kimball.

Tony Kanaan, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Vitor Meira had all sustained serious suspension damage, the latter two after spinning off backwards into the barriers; and Helio Castroneves, Simona de Silvestro and Danica Patrick were officially listed as having retired before the red flag. However, the teams all continued to repair the affected cars during the stoppage and eventually everyone was ready by the time the drivers were told to prepare for a restart.

The red flag had lasted well over two hours, during which time the rain eased and officials tried to sweep the flood water off the track. The cars were put back out on track shortly after 4pm local time (8pm BST) but this quickly established that the track was still too waterlogged to realistically attempt a restart. Unfortunately it was also long enough for Mike Conway to suffer electrical problems and stop on track, meaning he will drop from third to 20th when the race does eventually get under way.

The organisers finally took the decision to abandon the race for the day and announced that an attempt to resume the race will be made on Monday at 9am local time, 1pm BST.

There was simply no stopping Will Power at Barber Motorsports Park this weekend, and he proved the point by leading every one of the 90 laps of the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.

The signs were there throughout the practice and qualifying sessions that Will Power would be nigh-on impossible to beat at Barber Motorsports Park, but even so it was doubtful that anyone expected this level of domination from the Australian.

As he led the field to the green flag at the start of the race, everyone had their fingers crossed that there wouldn’t be multiple accidents stemming from the new-style double-file restarts as we saw two weeks ago on the streets of St Petersburg in Florida. And at first the signs appeared good: Graham Rahal dabbed a wheel onto the dirt on the outside of turn 1, and rookie driver James Hinchcliffe managed to spin his way out of eighth place a few corners later, but otherwise everyone got through cleanly and no one was caught up in anything more serious.

Tony Kanaan in particular revelled in the opening moments, climbing from a poor 24th position in qualifying right up to 14th in just a few corners starting with an impressive run down the inside line into turn 1 that made up four places right away. The KV Racing Technology Team, which had been planning an extremely early pit stop to try an off-sync strategy to make up positions, suddenly found itself ripping up the pre-prepared plans and contemplating a whole new reality.

Sadly the green flag stint ended seconds later when JR Hildebrand clashed wheels with Raphael Matos in turn 6 which ended with Matos spun round and in the gravel, requiring the first caution of the afternoon. Both cars were able to rejoin the race, but after initially thinking the car was okay Hildebrand was forced to pit on lap 8 for a new nose after all.

Were we about to see another frustrating spell of continual cautions as we had at the season opener? In fact the next double-file restart on lap 3 was successful and the race was on for 35 laps of uninterrupted running, despite a spin at the back of the field for James Jakes which was dealt with by local waved yellows. Jakes would be one of the race’s earliest retirements, his car catching fire when he was in the pits on lap 30; three laps earlier, Sebastian Saavedra has become the race’s first official retirement with mechanical problems.

The relatively calm green flag period was not without its moments: Helio Castroneves had run wide into turn 1 at the restart and lost five places, dropping from fourth to ninth place; Sebastian Bourdais made a very nice move on Mike Conway on lap 12 to take away 17th position; on lap 27 Takuma Sato tried a move on Castroneves through turn 5 that resulted in contact and a spin for the Japanese driver from which he was able to recover; and shortly afterwards Graham Rahal made an aggressive overtaking move on Hildebrand – who was a lap down after his earlier extra pit stop – and the two made heavy contact as a result but were able to get going again without bringing out a full course caution.

With two pit stops a seriously tight call at Barber over 90 laps, some drivers including Kanaan and Ryan Hunter-Reay opted for a three-stop strategy that saw them come in as early as lap 14; the majority of the cars eked out their fuel till lap 30. But when a caution came out on lap 37 it was clear that everyone was going to pit and get back in sync, and that fuel strategies were not going to be as important to proceedings as they had initially seemed to be.

The second caution of the afternoon came out on lap 37 when Alex Tagliani oversteered into turn 16 and lost the backend, beaching him in the gravel. Unfortunately this heralded a series of four more cautions over the next 25 laps, as the drivers – feeling a bit more cocky by this point – started to get racy and to forget the lessons learned in the multiple crashes of St Pete. And all the better for the fan enjoyment and racing entertainment it proved to be, for the most part.

It started in lap 40, after a three-lap yellow flag period to allow the track officials to sweep the track for debris and tyre remnants off the racing line that might interfere with the double-file restart. The cars all navigated the first turn 1 safely, but Ryan Briscoe and Dario Franchitti were squabbling over third place. Briscoe shut the door on Dario, and the Scot didn’t take it well and fought back robustly through the following turns and finally the two banged wheels in a way that meant it was amazing that neither broke their suspension or the rubber didn’t fuse together and throw one or both cars up into the air. Instead, Franchitti had the racing line while Briscoe was sent wide and lost momentum, making him easy prey for Oriol Servia.

But none of this brought out a caution: it was what happened back in turn 6 that did that. Simona de Silvestro made light contact with EJ Viso and spun the #59 round one-eighty degrees. At this point the situation was still recoverable, but Viso continued to roll backwards and as a result strayed into the path of James Hinchcliffe who was taking evasive action around the outside of the turn. The two cars collided and ripped off a tyre apiece, ending both their races. De Silvestro also climbed out of her car at this point, despite having seemingly made only slight contact throughout the incident; she was ushered back into the cockpit and eventually resumed.

Hinchcliffe was furious with Viso in post-race interviews. “Day 1 of racing school, you learn you the brakes and clutch. He hit the gas,” he told reporters, adding: “If he hasn’t learned it yet there’s no point talking to him about it.” Viso denied the blame, but rued the fact that he has seemingly been involved in some sort of collision or accident in almost every session of the two IndyCar weekends thus far in 2011. The two were filmed having an animated discussion later on in pit road, but the conversation seemed to end amicably with a handshake.

The next restart on lap 46 also didn’t fare well. As the cars went through turn 4, Justin Wilson strayed too far over and trod on the front wing of Takuma Sato. The wing broke, sending up carbon fibre debris into the air and puncturing Wilson’s rear left tyre, sending both cars to pit road – which was actually quite timely for Wilson, as the wrist brace protecting his injury from St Pete had broken and he needed to have a new one brought out while the team saw to his tyres.

This incident didn’t bring out a caution, but the one that happened at the same time just a few metres behind them did. Mike Conway found his car getting light as it topped the hill into turn 4, and he lost grip. The car wanted to go straight on instead of making the turn, and Danica Patrick was right in his path. Conway’s car caught the front of Patrick’s and the contact hooked him around, spinning him off onto the grass and into heavy impact against the barrier that did extensive damage to the #27. Conway climbed out but seemed to be moving rather gingerly and he appeared winded, perhaps unsurprisingly given that it’s only his second race back from those horrific injuries sustained at the 2010 Indianapolis 500 that put him out for almost a whole year.

The next restart on lap 49 was rather more successful despite several people staying onto the dirt verges and sending up clouds of earth through the first couple of turns, and finally resulted in some green flag laps. However, Scott Dixon and the Ganassi team were less than happy with the restart, complaining to the marshalls that Will Power wasn’t abiding by the agreed line into the first corner and practically forcing Dixon off the track. The team muttered darkly that if Power did it again, they would order Dixon to “take him out.”

During this period of the race, Ryan Hunter-Reay seemed to be having a grand old time of it – a move on Oriol Servia into turn 5 on lap 53 to take sixth place a particularly nice bit of driving. Unfortunately he then wrecked all that good work when he got alongside Ryan Briscoe on lap 58 into the turn 7 kink. It’s not an overtaking point, as even Hunter-Reay seemed to conclude as he tried to back out of it: instead, he found himself out of room and he clipped the kerb, which destablised his car and sent it sideways into the side of Briscoe, who was propelled into a spin into the gravel that ultimately wrecked his suspension. Hunter-Reay was undamaged, but was outraged to be handed a penalty for causing an avoidable accident that saw him demoted to 18th position – a decision that seemed harsh but, on balance, unarguable.

The race went to caution for the recovery of Briscoe’s beached Penske, and all the cars had the chance to come into the pits. With 30 laps remaining, the fuel situation was as marginal as could be, and the cars would definitely need more laps under caution to make it to the end. Would it all come down to people eking out their gas to the very end while others choked and died within metres of the chequered flag?

Will Power emerged from the pits still in first position, just as he had been right from the start of the race; and Scott Dixon was similarly still in second place. But suddenly right behind them was Danica Patrick, after she beat out Dario Franchitti for third via the highly risky gambit of going for a fuel-only pit stop which made up four positions for her on track. The Andretti Autosports team reasoned that her tyres were as good as the ones they had piled up for her in pit lane, so why take the time to make the change at all? They were about to find out the answer to that one …

It was clear at the restart on lap 62 that Danica’s car was sluggish to accelerate: Dario Franchitti immediately passed her to retrieve third place, and soon after she was also passed by Marco Andretti and Oriol Servia to push her down to sixth place.

She would have fallen further if the race hadn’t gone yellow again almost at once. This time the cause was a clash between Justin Wilson and Raphael Matos out of turn 6. Contact from Wilson caused Matos to spin, and in doing so he turned right into the front and side of Wilson which lifted the #22 into the air in a nasty little crash that won’t have helped Wilson’s wrist injury one little bit. Wilson was most likely relieved to be done for the day and to be able to rest up and nurse his wrist in preparation for next week’s outing on the streets of Long Beach; Matos was also out on the spot from the accident.

The long caution period meant that any concerns the teams had about fuel consumption were in the past – the drivers were good to go to the end of the race, and at the restart on lap 68 Scott Dixon made his biggest challenge on Will Power’s lead of the entire afternoon; Power, however, had it covered, and there was no way for the Kiwi to pass. When Dixon dropped back into second, it seemed clear that the race win had been decided, and with no more cautions forthcoming for the remainder of the race distance he did indeed get no further chances.

The main storyline of the next 15 laps was on the plummeting #22 of Danica Patrick. She took the restart in seventh but was soon once again going backward on those unchanged worn tyres, overtaken on almost successive corners lap after lap by Vitor Meira, Charlie Kimball, a recovering Ryan Hunter-Reay – until in the end she was right at the back of the lead lap, and even then she was struggling. The Andretti Autosports team initially tried to reassure her that the ageing tyres would come good; then simply urged her to do her best; and then finally, far too late, brought her in on lap 94 for a new set of rubber which meant she was now a lap off the lead, the worse possible outcome of all possible scenarios. That no-tyre pit stop gamble had been an awful mistake.

In the closing laps, Will Power had pulled out a lead of over 3s from Dixon, who in turn was 12s ahead of his team mate Dario Franchitti in third who had a similar margin over Marco Andretti in fourth, with Marco heading a train of half a dozen drivers packed together, that included a battling Oriol Servia and Tony Kanaan. Under pressure, Servia made a mistake with three laps to go and locked up severely into turn 6 which almost allowed Kanaan through. Servia just held on and was extra careful next time around to cover the line with precision to make sure that Kanaan got no ideas.

They were followed by Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud, the ALMS LMP1 champion sitting in for the injured Ana Beatriz and doing a fine job delivering a solid run and keeping his nose out of trouble, reaping the rewards of eighth place in his IndyCar début as a result. Takuma Sato would have been in this mix as well, but with two laps to go his car ran dry and he was forced into the pits for a splash and dash that saw him return to the track at the back of the lead lap.

But the win itself was never in doubt. Not even to the man himself, it seemed: “It was a rather relaxing day actually,” Power said. “I was just cruising, but had to push, push toward the end” as he claimed his tenth IndyCar career win.

The win puts Will Power at the top of the IndyCar points standings, albeit only by 7pts ahead of Dario Franchitti. Given that Power is the acknowledged master of road events at the moment, he needs to maximise his advantage in this early part of the season before the oval events start to take over beginning with the Indianapolis 500 in May, where the momentum may swing more toward Ganassi and Dario Franchitti.

Meanwhile, a big cheer for the person in third place in the championship this week: Tony Kanaan, despite signing up for KV Racing Technology only two days before the start of the season, is off to a flying start in his 2011 campaign.

IndyCar is in action again next week, for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 17.

Race results

 Pos  Driver               Team                    Time/Gap
  1.  Will Power           Penske             2h14m42.9523s
  2.  Scott Dixon          Ganassi                + 3.3828s
  3.  Dario Franchitti     Ganassi               + 15.5243s
  4.  Marco Andretti       Andretti              + 28.9601s
  5.  Oriol Servia         Newman/Haas           + 29.8817s
  6.  Tony Kanaan          KV                    + 30.3853s
  7.  Helio Castroneves    Penske                + 30.7807s
  8.  Simon Pagenaud       Dreyer & Reinbold     + 31.2095s
  9.  Simona de Silvestro  HVM                   + 32.5812s
 10.  Charlie Kimball      Ganassi               + 35.0038s
 11.  Sebastien Bourdais   Dale Coyne            + 35.9883s
 12.  Vitor Meira          Foyt                  + 42.6440s
 13.  JR Hildebrand        Panther               + 44.2950s
 14.  Ryan Hunter-Reay     Andretti            + 1m00.7427s
 15.  Alex Tagliani        Sam Schmidt         + 1m10.6879s
 16.  Takuma Sato          KV                  + 1m12.1719s
 17.  Danica Patrick       Andretti                 + 1 lap
 18.  Graham Rahal         Ganassi                 + 2 laps
      Justin Wilson        Dreyer & Reinbold        62 laps
      Raphael Matos        AFS                      62 laps
      Ryan Briscoe         Penske                   57 laps
      Mike Conway          Andretti                 45 laps
      EJ Viso              KV                       40 laps
      James Hinchcliffe    Newman/Haas              40 laps
      James Jakes          Dale Coyne               30 laps
      Sebastian Saavedra   Conquest                 27 laps

Championship points

 Pos Driver               Pts
 1   Will Power           94
 2   Dario Franchitti     87
 3   Tony Kanaan          63
 4   Scott Dixon          54
 5   Simona de Silvestro  54
 6   Oriol Servia         52
 7   Marco Andretti       44
 8   Takuma Sato          44
 9   Alex Tagliani        43
 10  Vitor Meira          42
 11  Raphael Matos        38
 11  Helio Castroneves    38
 13  J.R. Hildebrand      36
 14  Justin Wilson        32
 15  Charlie Kimball      32
 16  Danica Patrick       31
 17  Ryan Hunter-Reay     28
 18  Sebastian Saavedra   27
 19  James Jakes          25
 20  Graham Rahal         25
 21  Simon Pagenaud       24
 22  Sebastien Bourdais   24
 23  Ryan Briscoe         24
 24  Ernesto Viso         24
 25  Mike Conway          24
 26  Ana Beatriz          16
 27  James Hinchcliffe    12

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.

Dario Franchitti rises above the crashes to take a calm, dominant victory over Will Power and Tony Kanaan at the 2011 IndyCar series opener on the streets of St Petersburg, Florida.

Moving to double file starts and restarts on all IndyCar races in 2011 is all well and good, but someone needs to remind the drivers that two lanes of traffic can’t all head for the same apex of the first corner and expect to make it through without causing a crash.

The first – and biggest – accident occurred when Marco Andretti and Helio Castroneves tried to dive down the inside of turn 1. Inevitably they found the apex packed with cars and duly ran into other cars and into each other; Andretti’s car was sent sliding over the top of Scott Dixon before fatally clipping Mike Conway’s rear suspension, and then rolling over and finishing upside down duly causing the first caution of the day.

Marco was of course out on the spot, and Conway’s suspension was also too badly damaged to be able to continue, meaning that half the Andretti Autosports team were already done for the day. Oriol Servia had been caught up in the aftermath of the accident but was able to get back underway at the back of the field without significant delay – others were less fortunate. Helio Castroneves was eventually able to continue, as was – remarkably, and after extensive bodywork repairs – Scott Dixon, despite the #9 looking like a flattened pancake after having Marco bounce over it. Ryan Briscoe needed a lengthy visit to the pits for repairs to his front suspension before he could also rejoin the race.

At the restart, polesitter Will Power selected the inside line into turn 1 only to have Dario Franchitti sweep around the outside line and take the lead with ease. Tony Kanaan swept through behind him into second, leaving Power fighting to fend off Ryan Hunter-Reay to keep hold of third place.

This time the field made it through the first turn without incident, but a few corners later there was rough and tumble further back down the running order. First Ana Beatriz tipped Graham Rahal into a spin that put him rear-first into a tyre barrier and wrecked his rear wing; then seconds later Danica Patrick caught up to Beatriz and tried to pass, and got her front wing shattered by Beatriz for her efforts.

Both Rahal and Patrick needed to pit, and their luck was in because EJ Viso had spun into the gravel and beached himself in turn 13 on lap 7, bringing out the second caution of the race and allowing Rahal and Patrick the chance to come in for their respective new wings without losing too much time or position.

There was another caution on lap 12 after Ryan Briscoe ran into the back of Oriol Servia; the contact wrecked Briscoe’s front wing which was left in the middle of the track in turn 11 – necessitating the caution for sizeable debris – while Seria’s rear wheel was punctured by the sharp wing end plates and he ended up taking to an escape road, before reversing up once the yellow came out and heading for pit lane for a new set of tyres.

At the restart on lap 14, Franchitti was still in charge and leading the field to the green flag – and consequently avoided another outbreak of stupidity from the midfield drivers who all aimed for the apex of turn 1 and seemed surprised to find it already occupied by everyone else. A chief culprit was Sebastian Saavedra who lunged down the inside line and went off onto the grass, causing him to lose control and braking ability. He ended up going into the side of the hapless Ryan Hunter-Reay, who sustained serious damage from the collision that needed a lengthy stay on pit road to effect repairs. Saavedra himself spun round, stalled and finally ended up pointing the wrong direction which is what finally triggered the caution.

But one person had made the restart work brilliantly: Simona de Silvestro – who had started the race in 17th – had made a great lunge from sixth place on the double file rolling grid to come out of the confusion with a startling second place, tucking in behind Franchitti and ahead of Kanaan, Justin Wilson, birthday boy Vitor Meira and Alex Tagliani – Will Power having been badly caught out by the restart and back in seventh position, although he was soon on the move back up to fourth place during the next phase of racing.

After such a confusing, caution-laden stop-start first 15 laps it was good to finally get some green flag racing laps underway at last, especially as the clock was ticking and it was always going to be a close-run thing as to whether the race completed the full 100 lap race distance before the two hour cut-off came into effect. Up front it was to be a remarkably calm and quiet afternoon for Franchitti who soon built up a big lead over de Silvestro. Having the lead not only gave him control of the race, it had allowed him to stay out of trouble when others further back had been stumbling over each other.

The first cycle of pit stops was interrupted by a full-course caution triggered by Charlie Kimball on lap 39, who pushed too hard coming out of his own pit stop on cold new tyres and ended up smacking into the wall in a classic rookie error, which he admitted was the case as this was his first “hot” tyre change in IndyCar. It’s all a learning experience, just occasionally a painful one at these speeds.

Will Power got the best jump out of the pit stops and was restored to second place. However, despite the blistering pace he had shown in practice and qualifying, Power never seemed to have anything really in reserve with which to challenge Franchitti for the lead. He confirmed, “Dario was just crazy fast,” explaining: “Shortly after he passed me, someone hit me from behind. That damage took a bit of downforce off the car and it took a while to work our way back up to second.”

Meanwhile Tony Kanaan had the outside line at the restart on lap 44, and once again used it to perfection to gain a place – this time ejecting de Silvestro from third place.

Although there was no full course caution, the restart was not without still more incident: Danica Patrick got too close to the back of the #22 of Justin Wilson and got her second wing of the afternoon crumpled for her efforts; further on, rookie James Jakes managed to lock up his brakes going into turn 4 and half-spun into the tyre barrier, catching Ana Beatriz up in the accident as he went.

The race settled down from this point on, with the remaining half of the race almost blissfully serene compared to the amateur hour antics of the first fifty laps. As a result of having no further full course cautions, the race did indeed just sneak in its hundredth lap before the two hour deadline. Franchitti was never threatened for the lead, although Power did take over in front briefly for two laps during the second round of pit stops, under green, on lap 71; Power’s attention was more directed at holding Kanaan back, while Kanaan himself came under heavy pressure late in the race from de Silvestro resurgent after a quite mid-section of the race from her as she found the harder prime tyres less to her liking. He held on secure the final podium position, a remarkable achievement given how little preparation time he’s had in his new car and team set-up.

On the final lap, Danica Patrick was judged to have made “avoidable contact” and was duly docked one position, putting her down to 12th place behind JR Hildebrand in the final classified positions. Justin Wilson had taken advantage of the pair’s battle to overtake them both and gain back two positions, having fallen back during the middle of the race with a mid-race puncture and late spin.

The official non-finishers after all that early chaos were Ryan Hunter-Reay (who, despite rejoining the race after repairs from the collision on lap 14 eventually had to retire with handling problems), Charlie Kimball, Mike Conway, Marco Andretti – and Sebastian Bourdais. Bourdais was ruled out of the race following a serious accident in the morning warm-up which saw his #19 Boy Scouts of America car crash in the fast chicane. Bourdais said that he just clipped the inside of the right-hander, broke the front suspension and slid over the rumble strips to a hard impact with the wall. “From there I was just a passenger … It’s a really big mistake. There’s definitely a lot of damage.”

Bourdais himself was fine, but the car caught fire and would have required a substantial rebuild. Unfortunately the Dale Coyne Racing team’s woes were compounded by Bourdais’ team mate James Jakes having an almost simultaneous accident elsewhere on the track during the warm-up that also required extensive rebuilding work, the team not having any back-up car ready and available. Jakes car was the less extesnively damaged and so the team opted to work on that car rather than Bourdais’, meaning that the four-times Champ Car champion failed to make it to the starting grid at St Petersburg although Bourdais himself was not injured in the accident.

Franchitti is eyeing Bourdais’ four-times champion record with envy. If he were to win the 2011 IndyCar title it would be a third consecutive title – a feat only achieved twice before (Bourdais’ titles in Champ Car not included.) Traditionally Franchitti and Ganassi have dominated the oval races while Power and Penske claim the road races, so this first time victory on the streets of St Pete is a significant achievement for Dario in his title campaign.

Dario couldn’t have asked for or done any more this weekend. But as ever, Will Power is right behind him shadowing his every move – something we should surely expect for the next 16 races of 2011 until the championship is decided.

Race results

1. #10 Dario Franchitti 100 laps 2h 00m 59.6886s
2. #12 Will Power 100 laps + 7.1612s
3. #82 Tony Kanaan 100 laps + 16.1045s
4. #78 Simona de Silvestro 100 laps + 16.5616s
5. #5 Takuma Sato 100 laps + 29.9435s
6. #77 Alex Tagliani 100 laps + 30.4655s
7. #17 Raphael Matos 100 laps + 31.5227s
8. #14 Vitor Meira 100 laps + 35.7291s
9. #02 Oriol Servia 100 laps + 49.1432s
10. #22 Justin Wilson 100 laps + 56.8025s
11. #4 JR Hildebrand 100 laps + 62.9747s
12. #7 Danica Patrick 100 laps + 62.9748s
13. #34 Sebastian Saavedra 98 laps + 2 laps
14. #24 Ana Beatriz 98 laps + 2 laps
15. #18 James Jakes 97 laps + 3 laps
16. #9 Scott Dixon 96 laps + 4 laps
17. #38 Graham Rahal 96 laps + 4 laps
18. #6 Ryan Briscoe 95 laps + 5 laps
19. #59 EJ Viso 94 laps + 6 laps
20. #3 Helio Castroneves 85 laps + 15 laps
21. #28 Ryan Hunter-Reay 58 laps + 42 laps Handling
22. #83 Charlie Kimball 38 laps + 62 laps Contact
23. #27 Mike Conway 1 laps + 99 laps Contact
24. #26 Marco Andretti 0 laps + 100 laps Contact
25. #19 Sebastien Bourdais 0 laps + 100 laps DNS

The sky was ablaze with a gorgeous Miami sunset, while on the track below the sparks were literally flying as the final race in the 2010 Indycar season got underway.

Scott Dixon dutifully tucked in behind the leader Dario Franchitti, but even by slipstreaming and adding a little push to his Ganassi team mate the two cars were in no position to break away from the field behind them, led by Will Power and Tony Kanaan. However, the big mover in the early laps was Helio Castroneves, up to 5th place by lap 20 having started in 10th: it looked like he was making it his mission to come to the aid of his Penske team mate Will Power at the front of the field in the pursuit of the championship.

But as Helio rose, Will was falling back having been rudely shut out of the top three by an assertive Kanaan, down as far back as 9th place by lap 33 while trying to get to grips with the situation. It was a reminder that with the sun setting and the track rapidly cooling, handling conditions were going to vary wildly all over the place and the winner was going to be the car – and the team – that could read the situation best and adapt quickest.

At the front, Dario was already dealing with lapped traffic, while behind him Scott Dixon was losing a duel with Kanaan for second when the first caution of the evening came out on lap 36 for Mario Moraes coming to a stop out on track, having previously been in the pits to try and correct a seriously loose car.

A yellow flag pit top was just what Penske needed at this point to try to get to resolve Will Power’s handling problems: he reported push in three and four, loose in one and two, a fearsomely difficult situation to find himself so early in proceedings. At the pit stops, Kanaan nearly came to grief getting away from his pit box when the car appeared to stutter and nearly stall as he sought to avoid the car pitted in front, leaving him boxed up behind other exiting cars and down to fifth place. He was replaced in second by Ryan Briscoe, which meant that for the first time tonight Dario had his rear view mirrors full of Penske team colours.

Briscoe was looking feisty, all over Dario and using push to pass to briefly claim the lead. Dario was playing cool, sticking to the inside line and daring Ryan to complete the pass – which he couldn’t, quite. And then a new caution was out after Ana Beatriz – having had trouble getting into gear at the restart – now lost the rear and took off up to the outside wall and hitting hard at turn 4. The seriously wrecked chassis slid down the incline to a halt below the white line moments later.

And so the race chalked up the completion of its first quarter under yellow. Few cars opted to pit – Simone de Silvestro, Alex Tagliani, a curiously underperforming Justin Wilson, Hideki Mutoh and Sarah Fisher being the exceptions as there was an outside chance of making it on two more stops from here. The leaders, however, all stayed out.

When the green came out, fierce battle for the lead was resumed between Franchitti and Briscoe, Dario once again holding the inside line to thwart Ryan time and again. But the fastest man on track was Tony Kanaan, who quickly dispatched Scott Dixon and Helio Castroneves and flirted with going three-wide for the lead. Finally Dario could hold off Ryan no more and Briscoe was released, and Dario fell back – possibly to catch his breath, perhaps with tyres complaining about the punishment of that tight inside line. In fact the strain of taking the lead had also taken its toll on Briscoe, and he was soon passed by Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan.

Meanwhile, where was Will Power? Back fighting over seventh place with Danica Patrick, the two of them coming worryingly close at times to making contact. But Will seemed to be finding his mojo, and soon was past not only Danica but also Dan Wheldon for sixth.

Back at the front, Dario was bouncing back, rapidly slipping past Briscoe and Dixon and then selling Kanaan a nice dummy to gain the inside line and retake the top spot on lap 73, soon pulling out a half second lead and showing a dominance that was new to the #10 tonight. The handling seemed to be coming back to him – and the same could be said for Will Power, who was getting better and better as this green flag stint wore on and was up to fourth place: the problem for him was that with Dario closing in on the bonus points for leading the most laps, then it would not matter what Power did if Dario was leading at the chequered flag.

As the race passed the 90 lap mark, Dan Wheldon and Ryan Briscoe were the first of the leaders to come in for green flag pit stops, the cars opting to take only as much fuel as they could put in while the tyres were being changed rather than putting in a full tank’s worth. Franchitti, Kanaan and Power all did the same when they came in for their stops a few laps later, and there was a brief scare out on track when a piece of refuelling hose was seen bouncing across the track apparently from EJ Viso’s car: fortunately it bounced into the grass and could be safely recovered without resorting to a caution.

With the race past half distance, Franchitti led Kanaan, Dixon, Power, Briscoe and Castroneves, in a much closer and fierce battle this year than the processional affair seen at the same venue in 2009: for one thing, Power was putting in the fastest laps now, and was gaining on the lead. The championship looked et to go all the way to very last lap.

Dario had problems closer to hand, with Kanaan pressing hard to take the lead. Franchitti was holding on for dear life, the milestone being the start of lap 118 at which point he could not be overtaken for laps led: two more crucial bonus points acquired, another item off the weekend’s to-do list ticked off. Now all he had to do was win this thing and he could call it a day: but things were still so tight that, should he lose the lead and drop to second, then Power’s fourth place was enough to clinch the title.

Lap 134 saw the next caution: and there was shock when it became clear the cause of the yellow was none other than Will Power himself, who had got up high when coming up to lap Ryan Hunter-Reay and ended up sliding up on the marbles and into the wall at turn 4. It seemed a light contact, glancing down the wall with multiple light contacts leaving rubber all down the outside wall, and initially it seemed that Power might just have escaped complete disaster with no damage visible on the right front suspension.

That’s because the damage was to the right rear instead: a rear wishbone had buckled, and it was clear when Power wasn’t able to enter the pit box cleanly without almost pinning his pit crew up against the wall that the car was badly affected. Will was told to cut the engine and the car was taken behind pit wall for the mechanics to get to work, five minutes work putting him five laps down in the process. And it wasn’t enough: after a couple of laps touring around under yellow, Power was back in to the pits reporting serious crabbing to the right. The car was taken back behind the wall and Power was out of the car to allow the mechanics access: this was a body blow. The type of disaster that decides championships.

Not that Dario had the title in his pocket: he was still behind Will in the points and would remain so unless and until he could get the car to the chequered flag without mishap. Dario’s task was made just that little bit easier still, by Tony Kanaan having a penalty handed down for leaving his pit with the fuel hose still engaged, knocking the crew over like skittles. That got him sent to the back of the lead lap, but as this was only eighth place and with Kanaan still in such a fast car, odds were he would be back near the front well before the end of proceedings.

With the race still under yellow – a delay going back to green caused by one of the lights indicating whether the pit lane was open needing attention in the meantime – the issue of fuel strategies was looming: come cars such as Vitor Meira, Danica, Tony Kanaan and others off the lead lap came in for top-ups, looking to lean out the fuel over the remaining fifty laps. But the top five – Franchitti, Dixon, Andretti, Castroneves and Wheldon – all stayed out and planned for a late splash and dash.

Marco Andretti was on the charge at the restart, quickly pulling up alongside Franchitti and challenging for the lead on the outside. When that didn’t work, he dropped to the inside – and pulled off the pass. Unsurprisingly, Dario no longer seemed to have the determination to hold on to the lead anymore: a good finish, anywhere in the top ten, would do just fine. No need to push it or take risks.

Dario had dropped back to fourth when the next caution came out on lap 166 for debris, a nice opportunity for everyone to come in to the pits for their final fuel stops, except those those had sneaked a crafty late top-up under the previous caution. The exception was Marco Andretti, who had burned up a lot of fuel taking the lead and who needed to join the likes of Franchtti and Briscoe in the pits. But Dixon, Castroneves, Kanaan, Danica, Wheldon and Vitor Meira all stayed out, risky as it could prove to be, and hence formed the top six at the restart. That meant Dario was eighth, only just above the tenth position he had to maintain to clinch the title even with Will Power back in pit lane.

The restart was waved off twice, causing consternation to those worried about fuel, but a rapid return to yellow on lap 175 seemed to put the fuel issue beyond further doubt. The caution was for Milka Duno spinning and hitting the wall – and she did it right in front of Dario Franchitti, who managed to miss her wrecking but who would have had championship thoughts flashing before his eyes. He’d dropped down to ninth at the back of the lead lap as as a result, and the whole thing was becoming agonisingly close and tight as Will Power could only watch on from the sidelines, willing some mishap to overtake his rival.

The final stint of the race: Dixon took off at the front, while Helio found himself unable to match the pace of Andretti Autosports team mates Kanaan and Patrick, who staged a side-by-side battle for second place for the remainder of the laps, Patrick showing more pace and aggression in these twenty laps than she had for the entire rest of the season: she deserved the position, and nipped Kanaan for second by 0.011s. But their private battle had given Scott Dixon all the time in the world to run away and hide, and he claimed an impressive race win for Ganassi.

And Franchitti? And the title? Dario was lurking well out of harm’s way, or so he hoped. He picked up an extra position when Dan Wheldon’s National Guard car hit problems and fell back through the field, but he had no inclination to go near anyone who could do him harm – like any of the remaining Penske boys. But Dario’s an experienced, canny old hand and he plotted his course carefully – the chequered flag came into sight, and it was over. Dario’s careful magical eighth had done the trick.

With Dario Franchitti champion for the third time in four years, and Scott Dixon winning the race, the final piece in Dario’s perfect day was relayed to him over the radio with news that cousin Marino Franchitti had won in the LMP2 class of the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta. All in all, Dario’s smile – tinged with a fair helping of relief – couldn’t have been broader or more heartfelt. Congrats, Dario!

And heartfelt commiserations to Will Power who would have been a well-liked, sentimental champion if not for that hit with the wall. So close, and yet not nearly close enough for the Aussie.

Race result

Pos  Driver               Team                    Time/Gap
 1.  Scott Dixon          Ganassi         1:52:08.5580s
 2.  Danica Patrick       Andretti           +  2.7587s
 3.  Tony Kanaan          Andretti           +  2.7698s
 4.  Ryan Briscoe         Penske             +  3.7827s
 5.  Helio Castroneves    Penske             +  5.3324s
 6.  Vitor Meira          Foyt               +  7.2126s
 7.  Marco Andretti       Andretti           +  8.3637s
 8.  Dario Franchitti     Ganassi            + 11.1401s
 9.  Dan Wheldon          Panther            + 22.2521s
10.  Graham Rahal         Newman/Haas        +    1 lap
11.  Ryan Hunter-Reay     Andretti           +    1 lap
12.  Alex Lloyd           Dale Coyne         +    1 lap
13.  Ed Carpenter         Panther/Vision     +    1 lap
14.  Alex Tagliani        FAZZT              +    1 lap
15.  Bertrand Baguette    Conquest           +    1 lap
16.  Sebastian Saavedra   Conquest           +    1 lap
17.  Raphael Matos        De Ferran Dragon   +    1 lap
18.  Takuma Sato          KV                 +    1 lap
19.  EJ Viso              KV                 +   2 laps
20.  Hideki Mutoh         Newman/Haas        +   2 laps
21.  Justin Wilson        Dreyer & Reinbold  +   2 laps
22.  Sarah Fisher         Sarah Fisher       +   3 laps
23.  Simona de Silvestro  HVM                +   3 laps


Milka Duno    Dale Coyne        170 laps
Will Power    Penske            143 laps
Ana Beatriz   Dreyer & Reinbold  42 laps
Mario Moraes  KV                 25 laps

Championship standings

Pos Driver              Pts
1.  Dario Franchitti    602
2.  Will Power          597
3.  Scott Dixon         547
4.  Helio Castroneves   531
5.  Ryan Briscoe        482
6.  Tony Kanaan         453
7.  Ryan Hunter-Reay    445
8.  Marco Andretti      392
9.  Dan Wheldon         388
10. Danica Patrick      367
11. Justin Wilson       361
12. Vitor Meira         310
13. Alex Tagliani       302
14. Raphael Matos       290
15. Mario Moraes        287
16. Alex Lloyd          266
17. Ernesto Viso        262
18. Hideki Mutoh        250
19. Simona de Silvestro 242
20. Graham Rahal        235
21. Takuma Sato         214
22. Bertrand Baguette   213
23. Milka Duno          184
24. Mario Romancini     149
25. Mike Conway         110
26. Sarah Fisher         92
27. Paul Tracy           91
28. Ed Carpenter         90
29. Tomas Scheckter      89
30. Ana Beatriz          55
31. Jay Howard           44
32. John Andretti        35
33. Sebastian Saavedra   29
34. Adam Carroll         26
35. J.R. Hildebrand      26
36. Davey Hamilton       26
37. Francesco Dracone    24
38. Townsend Bell        18
39. Bruno Junqueira      13
40. Roger Yasukawa       12

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