Dario Franchitti kept his IndyCar title hopes alive by finishing fifth at the 1.5-mile Kentucky Speedway last Saturday night. The Scot edged closer to championship leader Will Power, who led for more than 80 laps but finished eighth after almost hitting the wall late in the 300-mile race. Power and Franchitti were among those who had to stop with only a few laps left for a splash of fuel, allowing Hélio Castroneves through to a smart win. Castroneves stalled while trying to leave the pits during his last stop, but Penske team boss Tim Cindric then advised him to save fuel so that the Brazilian made it to the finish without stopping again.
Castroneves thus scored his second win of the year, while Ed Carpenter was second in Kentucky after employing a similar fuel-saving strategy. Carpenter drove his first race since the Indy 500, teaming up with Dan Wheldon and Panther Racing, and surprised many people by taking pole from Power and his team-mate. Carpenter is former IRL boss Tony George’s nephew and an oval specialist who finished a close second at Kentucky last year. He again showed his stuff last weekend, heading the first 10 laps and running with the leaders all the way.
Wheldon also ran well, leading half the race until having to make an eleventh-hour stop for fuel with five laps to go. He rejoined to finish third ahead of Tony Kanaan and Franchitti. The 2005 Indy 500 winner and IRL champion is hoping for similar strong runs in IndyCar’s remaining two races – he will be replaced next season by Graham Rahal and is looking for work.
IndyCar’s remaining races are at Motegi, Japan on September 19 and Homestead-Miami Speedway on October 2. As it stands Power leads Franchitti by just 17 points, 552 to 535, with Scott Dixon (469 points) and Castroneves (448) in third and fourth.