Franchitti Survives Iowa With Victory

On a day that saw several championship contenders falter, it was Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti, the pre-race points leader, who seized the day and held off teammate Marco Andretti to win the inaugural Iowa Corn Indy 250 at Iowa Speedway.

Taking advantage of a problem that befell the dominant car of Vitor Meira, Franchitti first took over the lead of the race from Buddy Rice on lap 152 of 250. By combining a fast car with pit strategy, the Scotsman took the lead for good with 31 laps remaining and was able to hold off his hard-charging Andretti Green Racing teammate Andretti by a margin of 0.0681 seconds at the checkered flag.

It was the 17th-closest finish in IndyCar Series history.

"We took a bit of a gamble there at the end just to extend our lead, and it worked," said Franchitti, who took no tires during his final pit stop - a decision that allowed him to stay ahead of Andretti. "I had total confidence in my Firestone tires. I told my crew that I had no drop off in tire wear - I said let's just kept going, and the Firestones were great. I think we could have run a double stint on them today."

With the victory, Franchitti passed Alex Zanardi as Honda’s all-time winningest driver with 16 Indy car wins (six in the IndyCar Series and 10 in the Champ Car World Series).

Although he didn’t win, the third-generation driver of the famed Andretti clan can take a lot of positives from his runner-up finish, as it was the first time he finished an oval race this season.

"There's definitely no confidence lost here," said Andretti of his performance at the .875-mile oval. "Maybe I overshot the pit box a little bit too much, but I'm not sure I would have beat him (Dario Franchitti) out anyway. It definitely hurt my chances though. Awesome job by Andretti Green Racing with the win. It helps in the points for Dario. I've got to thank him for the setup. The guy is unbelievable at setting up the car. His cars finished 1-2."

Not only was this finish the best result for Andretti this season, it was also his best finish on an oval since he finished second at the 90th Indianapolis 500 in May 2006.

Scott Sharp, Buddy Rice and Darren Manning each recorded their season best results with their finishes of third, fourth and fifth respectively.

Aside from the victory by Franchitti, the story of the day was the number of championship contenders who had problems throughout today’s 218.75-mile event.

The issues began on the very first lap when Dan Wheldon got loose coming out of Turn 2 and hit the wall, collecting an innocent Tomas Scheckter.

Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon, who started on the pole, had problems himself just 12 laps later as he entered the pits complaining of an extremely loose machine that he could not handle. The team was able to fix the issue and he would later return to the track to finish 10th, 77 laps behind.

On lap 86, another contender was eliminated as Tony Kanaan crashed out of the event, collecting Jeff Simmons in his wake.

As if that list weren’t enough, Sam Hornish Jr. joined it on lap 99 when he was taken out in a multi-car accident that was triggered when Danica Patrick got loose, on a restart and bounced off Ed Carpenter (who was able to continue) and then Hornish.

A.J. Foyt IV and Kosuke Matsuura were also involved in the melee.

Coming into the weekend, Kanaan was second while the Target Chip Ganassi duo were third (Dixon) and fourth (Wheldon) in the championship and Hornish fifth. Because they all had issues on Sunday, they remained in those positions, but lost a lot of ground to Franchitti, who now has a 51-point lead over second place Kanaan.

The inaugural running of the Iowa Corn Indy 250 featured a total of six yellow flag periods for 67 laps under caution.

The IndyCar Series has another short track battle in just six days time, with the running of the SunTrust Indy Challenge at Richmond International Raceway taking place next Saturday night.

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Auto Club 500

@ Auto Club Speedway
Saturday, October 19, 2013
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