Rear View Mirror: Nashville
July 16, 2007 | 10:43 A.M. EST
Why? Because with six races remaining this season, the IndyCar Series championship has become a two-horse contest.
Andretti Green Racing’s Franchitti has stretched his lead over the majority of the field with his second-place result at Nashville Superspeedway, his 10th consecutive top-five finish and 11th consecutive top-10 finish in 11 races this season.
The only person able to keep pace with the championship leader is Dixon, who scored his second victory in as many weeks Sunday, taking over the lead from Franchitti on lap 89 en route to a seemingly easy victory Sunday afternoon.
"It's fantastic. It's exactly what we need," said Dixon, who led 105 laps on his way to victory. "It's been a tough season, especially the start of it. This is what we need for the championship chase against Dario."
Unfortunately, nobody behind those two in the championship chase had the day they needed to keep pace.
Kanaan looked strong early, but a failed attempt to get past the lapped car of Sarah Fisher on lap 35 dropped him to fourth in the championship, 102 points adrift of his Andretti Green Racing teammate.
"The track was still very green because of the rain (on Saturday night)," Kanaan explained. "It's really a tough break because the Team 7-Eleven car was so good. This really hurts us in the championship for sure. It's a shame and I'm very disappointed right now."
It is Kanaan’s second DNF in four races.
Dan Wheldon leap frogged Kanaan to third place in the standings, but he also did not have a brilliant race and finished eighth at Nashville. As a result, he sits 97 points off Franchitti’s pace.
With only six races remaining this season – three of which are on road courses, where Franchitti and Dixon excel – don’t look for anybody but the top two to be crowned champions on September 9 at Chicagoland.
Funny, in a season which has seen its share of fireworks (Danica vs. Dan, Kanaan vs. Hornish), it’s the two quiet guys who are the ones making noise this year. Dixon Defends Nashville Victory | Complete Results | Championship Standings
What Do You Think?
Is the 2007 IndyCar Series championship really just a two-horse race between Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti? What about the rest of this weekend’s Firestone Indy 200? Send your opinions to Jorge@racingone.com and make sure to check back with RacingOne to see what others think in this week’s edition of the "Fan’s Eye View" this Wednesday.
Back Markers Decide Finish
Besides the shrinking field of championship challengers, the major story coming out of this weekend’s Firestone Indy 200 was the persistent complaints of blocking by lap-down machines of the front runners.
Third-place finisher Danica Patrick, who equaled her career best performance on Sunday, was one of the most vocal critics.
"We had it dialed in for the last stint very well," said Patrick. "I had a lot of understeer in traffic and that makes it difficult, especially how much I was dealing with lapped traffic. They (lapped cars) want you to get inside of them but the likelihood of getting inside of them is low because you get understeer behind them. It's tough to be behind people. It was just unfortunate. There was zero cooperation from lapped traffic."
With only one real racing groove around Nashville Superspeedway, the problem was exacerbated by the high pace of the front runners – like Patrick, Franchitti and winner Dixon – versus the speed of the back markers, a list which at the end of the race numbered 10 drivers who were at least one lap off the pace (including three who did not finish the event).
Lap down machines also had an impact on the victory, as Franchitti was passed on lap 89 by Dixon largely because he was slowed by traffic.
"Scott got a good run on us and passed us. From then on, we were struggling to get back up to him," said the driver of the No. 27 Canadian Club Dallara-Honda. "We just got screwed in traffic all day. We'll just have to see what happens next week."
Look for IndyCar Series officials to address this issue in the coming days. Neither they, nor the fans, want to see races and championships decided by lapped down cars.
- Marco Andretti may be breaking out of his sophomore slump. He had a strong run at Watkins Glen before falling back in the closing laps, and then ran with the leaders throughout the Nashville event.
- This weekend’s Firestone Indy 200 was the first race since the Texas Motor Speedway event on June 2000 to be postponed by rain.
- Maybe Scott Dixon should continue using the Energizer paint scheme. In the two races that featured the Energizer Bunny – Watkins Glen International last year and Nashville Superspeedway – he has finished first.
- With his results at Watkins Glen and Nashville, Dixon became the 14th driver to win back-to-back IndyCar Series races. He also became the first driver to win more than one race at Nashville.
- Dixon’s average speed around Nashville Superspeedway on Sunday was 164.03 mph. His margin of victory over Franchitti was 2.24 seconds.
- It was another weekend of 100 percent reliability for the Honda Indy V-8 engine. The 18-car Honda-powered field recorded 7,242 miles of trouble free practice, qualifying and race miles this weekend.
The next IndyCar Series event is the inaugural Honda 200 at Mid-Ohio at 1:30 p.m. on July 22 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. The race will be televised live by ABC and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network and XM Satellite Radio. 2007 Schedule