Franchitti’s show of strength

Indycar

At the historic Milwaukee Mile on Sunday, Dario Franchitti scored his third win of the year and the 29th of his career, moving him into a tie with Rick Mears for ninth place on Indycar’s all-time winners’ list. The Scot is now also tied with Will Power for the points lead in this year’s IZOD IndyCar Series after qualifying on pole and leading most of the Milwaukee race. Franchitti was challenged only by Tony Kanaan and Hélio Castroneves, but the former crashed with 30 laps to go and Castroneves was forced to pit from the lead when his left rear tyre started losing air.

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Franchitti won the title in 2009-10 with Chip Ganassi’s team, having first claimed the crown in 2007 with Michael Andretti’s outfit. So he’s chasing his third consecutive and fourth championship in the last five years. At 38, Dario is in his 14th season of racing Indycars, and following an unhappy experiment with NASCAR in ’08 he’s resoundingly established himself as IndyCar’s man to beat.

“The championship will take care of itself if we can keep winning races,” he said. “The car was fast all day but that was a tough race. Kanaan was really strong and it was a typical race with Tony. You can race with him inches apart. He gave me room and I gave him room. There’s a lot of respect.

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“But then you race with Hélio and you’d think after last year’s penalty the guy would quit the blocking stuff. But he pushes you one way down against the wall and if you try the outside he pushes you up into the marbles. I don’t know what it takes for this guy to understand that blocking is not allowed.”

Graham Rahal enjoyed his best race of the year to finish second at Milwaukee while Oriol Servia kept himself in the title hunt with a strong run to third. Will Power recovered from a poor qualifying run to come through the field to finish fourth, good enough to keep Franchitti from passing him in the points.

After seven of 17 races, this year’s IndyCar championship is shaping up as a reprise of last year’s battle between Franchitti and Power. They’re both on 271 points, followed by Servia in third with 198 points and Scott Dixon in fourth with 195. In recent years Franchitti has quietly emerged as one of the most accomplished drivers in the 100-year history of Indycar racing. If he can win a third title in a row his place among Indycar’s greatest drivers will be assured.

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