Franchitti Breaks Through

On a night when everything seemed to go wrong for Andretti Green Racing, Dario Franchitti had his luck change in the final laps Saturday, breaking through to post his first IRL IndyCar Series victory of the season in the Firestone Indy 200 at Nashville Speedway.

After mechanical problems struck down Andretti Green Racing teammates Tony Kanaan, Dan Wheldon and Bryan Herta, Franchitti saw Cheever Racing’s Patrick Carpentier take the lead when the Canadian stayed out when the bulk of the contenders pitted under caution with 30 laps remaining. Franchitti’s move to retake the lead nearly came up short when long-threatening rain began to drizzle with 17 laps to go.

Fortune then smiled on Franchitti, who now calls Nashville home. The rain let off, the race restarted with nine laps remaining, and Franchitti regained the point two laps later and held off Sam Hornish Jr., Carpentier, Scott Sharp and Helio Castroneves in the sprint to the checkered flag.

"Thank God when had four cars out there," team co-owner Michael Andretti said after the race.

Franchitti did have a mechanical problem Saturday, but it occurred during warm-ups. His teammates were not as fortunate. Herta broke a wheel bearing on lap 75. Then, Wheldon had a suspension failure on lap 96. Twenty circuits later, seconds after caution waved for debris, Kanaan had a right-front suspension failure as he was racing beneath Darren Manning, sending both cars into the wall.

Prior to the Kanaan-Manning incident, the bulk of the event had been run under green, with the lone incident for a vicious hit by Tomas Enge. The remainder of the event, however, were marred by cautions. Ryan Briscoe and Carpentier had contact, resulting in a cut tire by the Target Ganassi driver; pole sitter Tomas Scheckter had engine failure; and Vitor Meira and Alex Barron got together on lap 177 while battling for third.

Once threatening to make a cakewalk of the championship, Wheldon the point race tighten as five drivers are now within 91 points of the lead. Kanaan remains second, 73 behind; Franchitti gained 38 points and is now third, 78 behind; Helio Castroneves is fourth, 87 back, and Hornish is fifth.

Danica Patrick started the race in second and had a strong run midway through the event. Staying out under caution, she inherited the lead and led nine laps, and then ran a solid third behind Franchitti and Hornish until she pitted with 30 laps remaining. Her Rahal Letterman team gambled and took on tires, dropping her back to 10th in the running, and she managed to work her way back to take seventh behind Scott Dixon.

The series will be back in action next Sunday with round 10 of the 17-race schedule, the ABC Supply Co./ A.J. Foyt 225 on the Milwaukee Mile.

Race Center

Auto Club 500

@ Auto Club Speedway
Saturday, October 19, 2013
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