All For One
July 28, 2004 | 1:01 P.M. EST
Moyer has been by Franchitti’s side since 1997 – as the Scottish driver’s crew chief and crew manager, and now the team’s general manager. He’s been by Franchitti’s side through the high of finishing second in the 1999 CART championship to the lows of back surgery last July that curtailed his first IRL IndyCar® Series season after three races.
On July 25 at the historic Milwaukee Mile, Moyer was able to share another high moment.
“It’s very special to win with him,” said Franchitti, who won his first IndyCar Series race in the No. 27 ArcaEx Dallara/Honda/Firestone. “Last year, he was a huge support to me with my surgery. I talked to him a lot. He’s my friend. He’s the guy that’s there all the time. When things aren’t going right, he’s the first one to give me a hard time. But he’s unbelievably supportive.”
Results support the level of teamwork and camaraderie between the drivers and respective crews. Franchitti was the third AGR driver to win this season. Tony Kanaan has three victories and Dan Wheldon two. Bryan Herta is the odd man out, but he won at Kansas Speedway last July substituting in Franchitti’s car and has a high finish of fourth at Richmond.
Kanaan leads the standings with 357 points, while Wheldon is third (276), Franchitti sixth (226) and Herta ninth (199).
“We have one more to get in victory lane before the end of year, but Bryan has won for the team last year,” team co-owner Michael Andretti said. “This makes you feel good. This shows it’s a strong unit; it’s not behind just one car or whatever. All four of these guys have an equal shot every race to win, and it shows.
“I know they all feel good for each other that it is that way. And I think that’s why this team works the way it does, because all four of them have the confidence in themselves and their teams that they can win on any given day.”
Kanaan started on the outside of Row 1 and finished fourth on the slightly banked oval. Herta started 11th and finished ninth, while Wheldon started from the back of the grid because of an engine change after the warm-up session. He retired on Lap 147 with a mechanical problem and finished a season-low 18th.
Consistency is the key to having two or more drivers in the championship hunt, and one to come out on top. Kanaan has finished in the top 10 in all nine races. Wheldon, the 2003 Bombardier Rookie of the Year, has six top-10 finishes, including three third-place finishes to back up his victories. Herta has five top-10 finishes, and Franchitti four.
“We’re not counting anybody out (from another team),” Andretti said. “I think Tony drove a championship-winning race. He was hanging on for dear life there. To come home fourth was a big effort. He didn’t lose too much in the championship. Dario stealing points for him by beating Buddy, those are things that are hopefully going to win it for us.
“We’ve just have to keep doing what we’re doing. We feel like we’re improving. We’re still getting better and better. We still have a long way to go. Hopefully, we’ll pull this thing off.”
Communication and mutual respect are the backbone of consistency in the racecars. In the one-day IndyCar Series Open Test at The Milwaukee Mile in mid-June, the four AGR cars were down on the speed chart (Wheldon led the way at eighth quick (160.839 mph). The performances were duly noted and rectified five weeks later.
“We didn’t have it right (at the test),” Franchitti said. “We were fundamentally wrong with the setup. The engineers went back. Pete Gibbons, Tino Belli, Allen McDonald, the other engineers went back and really thought about it, came back here with a completely different approach. You see the results of it.
“That’s one of the things that (co-owners) Michael, Kim (Green) and Kevin (Savoree) have put together. It’s that kind of strength you need to challenge for championships and race wins.”