Dario Franchitti retook the lead of the IndyCar Series championship on Sunday by finishing a close second on the 1.5-mile Kentucky Speedway. Title rival Will Power looked good in the opening laps as he pulled away on his own from pole, his eighth of the year. But as Power came in for his first pitstop he collided with Ana Beatriz, who drove into the Australian as she departed her pit. “They just fed her into me,” Power shrugged. “There wasn’t anything I could do. We had the quickest car, an unbelievably fast car.”
The left sidepod of Power’s car was damaged in the incident and he finished 19th, struggling from a lack of straightline speed because of a hole in the bodywork. “We lost 4mph and it was just a fight to hang on at the back of the field. The car was still handling really well; it just had no speed. It had so much drag it was impossible.”
As a result Franchitti leads Power (below) by 18 points going into IndyCar’s season-closer at Las Vegas in two weeks. “It was a great points day,” said Dario. “The Target guys were great in the pits, they got me to the front.”
Needless to say, Power was very disappointed. “I wasn’t expecting a day like that, to lose so many points when we had so much potential. But that’s racing and we’ve got to come back at Las Vegas.”
Oval specialist Ed Carpenter came through to win at Kentucky, scoring his first victory in 113 IndyCar starts. Carpenter ran side-by-side with Franchitti over the last 20 laps, with Dario clinging to the inside. Carpenter was able to edge ahead at the finish line on most laps, and so it was on the final lap as he won by a nose.
“Dario raced me hard and clean,” he said. “I knew we had a better car than him by the second or third stint. I had to check one time that we had enough fuel to go to the end and with about nine laps I used the push-to-pass to get into position. I used it again over the last five laps and it worked.”
Franchitti complimented Carpenter on his clean, fast driving. “He did a great job. I had to use my overtakes to keep him at least alongside me. I couldn’t let him clear me. We did all we could.”
Carpenter struggled with a broken visor in the middle of the race. “My visor was falling off for a while, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me from winning. I drove 15 or 20 laps one-handed, holding onto my helmet until the pitstop.”
Having finished second in Kentucky the last two years, Carpenter’s breakthrough win also was the first for Sarah Fisher’s small team. Fisher recently learned that primary sponsor Dollar General (a supermarket chain) will not return next year and she’s hoping the win will help her team secure funding for next season.
So Franchitti goes to Las Vegas in a strong position to take his third straight IndyCar championship and the fourth in a row for Chip Ganassi’s team. The Vegas oval is very similar to Kentucky, so Power is sure to be fast as he tries to secure his first title.