Rear View Mirror: Texas

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Heading into this weekend’s Bombardier Learjet 550k at Texas Motor Speedway, all of the talk surrounding the IndyCar Series centered on Danica Patrick and her confrontation with Dan Wheldon following an accident in last week’s ABC Supply Co./A.J. Foyt 225.

This week the focus will continue to be on the driver of the No. 7 Motorola Dallara-Honda, but this time it’ll be because of her driving skill.

Patrick, easily the most popular IndyCar Series driver, stayed out of trouble throughout Saturday night’s 228 lap event at Texas and found herself in contention for victory with less than 20 laps remaining. Although she could not get past race winner Sam Hornish Jr. or Andretti Green Racing teammate Tony Kanaan, she did go on to score a career best third place result as well as earn a lot of respect in the process.

It’s not the fact that she finished third that earned her admiration – let’s face it, this year’s dominant "Red Cars" from 2006 appear to be Andretti Green Racing, as they have been strong at almost every event this season – but the fact that she was able to handle a ill-handling car in the early stages of the race and convert it into the fastest when the checkered flag waved.

"This was a good result for us, it feels good," said Patrick. "We were strong all weekend, and I felt confident going into the race. We had a lot of push [understeer] early in the race, but we kept improving the car and it was really strong in the late runs. I tried to help Tony [Kanaan] as much as I could, but Sam [Hornish Jr.] was very strong tonight. It was a great day for Andretti Green, with Tony running second and Dario (Franchitti) fourth."

Also, Kanaan was quick to praise Patrick for her teamwork on the night.

"I think she did a hell of a job," said Kanaan. "She did what we're supposed to do. We planned to work together and as our teammate, I think she did no different than what Dario (Franchitti) did with me a few years ago.

"I think Danica did a hell of a job helping me to keep it close to Sam, but unfortunately while knowing Sam, he was giving me a lot of room up until two laps to go."

Not only did she perform well late in several areas, but she also led her first laps of the season (two to be exact) during the final round of pit stops.

Okay, so it’s not the victory many fans (as well as many IndyCar Series and ESPN executives have yearned for), but Patrick is definitely adapting to her new environment at Andretti Green Racing, and she is definitely showing promise of getting that elusive triumph sooner rather than later.

"It was really a matter of time," said Patrick. "I think we've had fast cars throughout the season, and it was a matter of getting more on the same page with my engineer and just having everything come together. We just didn't have very much time before the season started to really mesh. But we are getting better and I'm getting more comfortable overall."

Anybody going to bet against Patrick and her Motorola team? Related: Hornish Finds Winning Feeling in Texas | Complete Results

What Do You Think?
What did you think about Danica Patrick’s career-best Performance at Texas Motor Speedway? What about the rest of this weekend’s Bombardier Learjet 550k? Send your opinions to jmondaca@iscmotorsports.com and make sure to check back with RacingOne to see what other’s think in this week’s edition of the "Fan’s Eye View" this Wednesday.

Your Take:
Last week, we asked for your opinion on the Danica Patrick/Dan Wheldon feud – here are some of your e-mails:

"I am a Danica Patrick fan. I was watching the race yesterday and I believe that that accident was 100 percent Dan Wheldon's fault, and I am not just saying that because I am a Danica and Andretti Green fan but because Wheldon turned in on Patrick while she was on the racing line, and although I am a new supporter of the IndyCar Series I still know that a driver should not attempt to overtake another driver who is clearly on the racing line, I don't believe any of this stuff that Wheldon couldn't see her. I mean it a stupid thing to do and I think that a driver of Wheldon's experience should have known better then to turn in on a driver but obviously he didn't. I apologize if I said like I am being aggressive but I really feel strongly about that incident, because it could have been a lot worse if Danica hadn't been able to keep control of the car in the spectacular way she did. And I think she did extremely well to come from a lap down to finish in 8th place on the lead lap."
Ben Johnston, Republic of Ireland

"Neither really were at fault if you could even charge that this incident calls for someone to be blamed...it was a "Racing Incident" pure and simple. However relating to the attitudes...Danica is and has to be frustrated she and the media are putting on her a unnecessary amount of pressure to win...it will come it is just a matter of time...I think she needs to "chill out" and run "her" race...Wheldon is also feeling pressure to win and his "betrayal" of AGR and what went on there with his contract and ultimate exit to Gnassi Racing should be focused on...I think he's a little to big for his own shoes...& I really really hope that the AGR team drivers start to come on "stronger" in terms of "unifying" their efforts in support of the team and its members...i.e. Marco & Danica and for that matter Dario."
-Tom Capozzoli, Florida

For more views from other RacingOne readers, be sure to check out "Fan’s Eye View" every Wednesday.

Dario Perseveres
In racing, there are years when despite all of your best efforts nothing will go right, and then there are some years that you can do no wrong.

As the 2007 campaign reaches its midway point, it appears that Dario Franchitti can do no wrong.

Starting from third on the grid, Franchitti was having a solid race at Texas Motor Speedway and looked to be putting himself in contention to fight for the victory. However, the driver of the No. 27 Canadian Club Dallara-Honda lost fifth gear early in the event.

While others may have struggled with this sort of issue, Franchitti stayed focused and went on to finish fourth in the race and extend his lead in the championship (check below for more about the championship).

"The car wasn’t bad the first stint we slid around a little bit. We lost fifth gear after the first pit stop and we were sitting ducks on the restarts. A lot of people passed us there so we just kept soldiering on," said Franchitti. "We got into a great race with Vitor (Meira) at the end it was a lot of fun. It was a great job by Sam (Hornish Jr.), he ran a hell of a race. And it was a great job by our team, a big difference from a year ago."

If this year’s Indianapolis 500 winner can score a fourth-place finish when his car is experiencing problems, just imagine what he can accomplish on a day when everything is going perfect for his team.

Fair warning to the rest of the IndyCar Series field – stay out of Franchitti’s way this season, he can do no wrong.

Weird Sight of the Weekend
A quiz for you eagle-eyed IndyCar Series viewers: Who was the only driver this weekend to drive two different paint schemes before the green flag waved?

Answer: Scott Dixon.

Dixon and crew were expected to show off the blue and white colors of Commit nicotine lozenges this weekend in Texas. GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) Consumer Healthcare has the only smoking cessation sponsorship in motorsports with its brands Nicorette nicotine gum, NicoDerm CQ nicotine patches and Commit nicotine lozenges.

Unfortunately (and perhaps a sign of things to come), a rear suspension failure and subsequent contact with the wall during practice Friday afternoon forced Dixon to trade in the damaged No. 9 Commit car for the No. 9 Target backup car for his qualifying run. During that run, the left side rear mirror fell off but Dixon was still able to qualify seventh for the Saturday night race with a speed of 212.980 mph.

As I hinted earlier, the Target livery offered little relief for the New Zealand born driver. Despite being in contention for most of the race, he was part of the multi-car accident on lap 197, eliminating his chance at victory and relegating him to a 12th place finish. Because of that accident, Dixon lost the honor of being the only IndyCar driver to have completed every lap this season to date.

Etcetera...
  • For his victory Saturday night, Sam Hornish Jr. pocketed $110,800. Runner-up Tony Kanaan earned $90,950 while last place finisher Jon Herb got $32,600 for his effort.

  • It was another successful weekend for the Honda Indy V-8 engine, with 100 per cent reliability throughout 1,498 laps of practice and qualifying as well as Saturday night’s race, in temperatures often approaching 100 degrees.

  • By winning pole Friday afternoon, Scott Sharp broke a streak of 87 races since his last pole position - Kentucky 2001 to Texas 2007. Related: Sharp Takes Texas Pole | Starting Lineup

  • 2006 Texas winner Helio Castroneves and Tomas Scheckter, the 2005 race winner, were presented matched pairs of Beretta Stampedes in Victory Circle before the Bombardier Learjet 550k. The replicas of the 1873 single-action "Guns that won the American West" have gold-inlaid Nos. 1 and 2, identifying them as part of the consecutively numbered pair. They have a retail value of $3,000.

    As part of Beretta's sponsorship of Texas Motor Speedway, the IndyCar Series winner is presented a pair of six-shooters to shoot (blanks) in Victory Circle. G. Patrick McDonald, vice president of sales and marketing for the United States arm of the 400-year-old company, made the presentation. The revolvers come with a desktop presentation case featuring an engraved plaque.

  • Scott Dixon of Target Chip Ganassi Racing earned the $10,000 Firestone Performance Award for leading lap 141. The award commemorates Firestone's status as the only tire manufacturer to have participated in every IndyCar Series race. It is given to the driver leading the lap corresponding to the cumulative number of races in series history.

  • Sam Hornish’s average speed around Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday night was 177.314 mph. His margin of victory over Tony Kanaan was 0.0786 seconds, the 22nd closest finish in Series history.

    Championship Report
    Following the seventh race of the 2007 IndyCar Series season, Dario Franchitti extended his lead in the championship standings to 12 points over Andretti Green Racing teammate Tony Kanaan. Target Chip Ganassi’s Scott Dixon dropped to third with his performance in Texas, 19 points adrift, with teammate Dan Wheldon and Team Penske’s Sam Hornish completing the top five. Standings

    What’s Next
    After races on three consecutive weekends, the IndyCar Series now takes a one-week break before resuming June 24th with the second of three short-track events this season, at the new 7/8ths-mile Iowa Speedway, located outside of Des Moines. 2007 Schedule
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