Dallas Motorsports: Dario Franchitti

Reaction: Justin Wilson wins in wild finish

June, 9, 2012
FORT WORTH, Texas -- Justin Wilson took the lead with two laps to go and held on for his first victory since 2009, winning Saturday's Firestone 550. Graham Rahal appeared in control, taking the lead with 29 laps left, but he grazed the wall with three laps remaining and Wilson was able to take the lead at that point.

It was a tough break for Rahal, who was close to getting his first win since 2008 as his father, Bobby Rahal, watched from Chip Ganassi Racing's pit box.

"I just messed up, honestly," Rahal said on the TV broadcast just after the race. "It just washed out a little bit and it's my fault. There's not much else I can say. I'm certainly disappointed because we had that one. This one will haunt me forever, that's for sure."

What it means: Wilson wins his seventh career race, his first since 2009. Before Saturday, his best finish was seventh in the Indy 500.

Notes on the leader: Wilson's previous best finish at TMS was 15th in 2009. ... It's the second IndyCar victory for Dale Coyne with Wilson's victory at Watkins Glen in 2009 as the only other one.

Late lead changes: The race, which for portions was a follow-the-leader event, got pretty exciting with 50 laps to go as several drivers couldn't hold the lead for too long. Scott Dixon was the first to go (hit the wall), followed by Will Power (penalty) and Ryan Briscoe (who gave up lead to hard-charging Graham Rahal) and finally Wilson.

Penalty for Power: With the lead in hand, Power was given a drive-through penalty for blocking Tony Kanaan with about 40 laps. Power gave up the lead because of the penalty, which ended up damaging the front wing of Kanaan's car. It was clear that Power was reacting to Kanaan trying to get around him, leaving IndyCar officials little choice but to penalize him.

Dixon loses lead, then car: Dixon, who led the most laps and for much of the race had the dominant car, started to fall off on lap times a bit with less than 60 to go and gave up the lead to Power. Shortly after dropping to second, Dixon wiggled into Turn 4, spun out and hit the wall. Dixon came into the race 26 points behind leader Power in the standings and leaves losing more ground. "We just got loose," Dixon said on the race broadcast after exiting the race. "I feel bad for the guys. We had a really good car and had a good chance to win tonight."

Delayed start because of injury: A worker at TMS, Richard Huggins, was taken out on a stretcher after part of the stage used for driver introductions fell on him. Huggins was treated and released from the Infield Care Cente, but it took extra time to get him there, making the race a few minutes late.

Not working: Rubens Barrichello's Chevrolet and Simona de Silvestro's Lotus engines didn't fire on pit road when the command was given and they did not start the race when the green flag dropped. Neither driver ended up starting the race.

Cautions: Charlie Kimball brought out the first caution flag on Lap 29 as he spun in Turn 4 and into the wall, ending up in the grass near the entrance of pit road. ... Takuma Sato spun on the backstretch and went into the wall on Lap 64. ... Ryan Hunter-Reay lost power, ending his race before 70 laps were complete. ... Josef Newgarden was given a drive-through penalty in the pits for entering the wrong pit box. Newgarden missed his box, causing issues for others, including Helio Castroneves, who was delayed because he couldn't get in his box.

Up and down day: Kanaan came into the pits and had trouble because a rear air jack failed during the first set of stops (Lap 36). The team tried to use a different jack and damaged the front wing and had to put a new one on. He came back to the pits to have additional work done, falling close to the rear of the field. ... Kanaan did manage to keep tracking toward the front and got himself back in the race and was running third with about 40 laps left until he touched the back of Power's car when Power moved down to block him. That damaged his front wing and forced him to the pits and back to the middle of the pack. ... Kanaan ended up 11th.

Franchitti handling issues: Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti wasn't happy with his handling and he spent extra time in the pits so the crew could make some substantial changes to the car. He went to the rear of the field during the first caution and tried to work his way back up. He finished 14th.

Tidbits: A.J. Foyt gave the command to start the engines before the race, saying: "Boys and girls, start your engines." ... This is third straight race at TMS that Alex Tagliani led. He led 33 laps in 2010, one lap in the first race in 2011 and the first 20 laps of Saturday's race. ... Dixon led on Saturday, meaning he's led in six of seven races this season. The only race he hasn't led was Long Beach. ... Dixon clinched the two bonus points for most laps led on Lap 130.

Up next: The IndyCar Series heads to Milwaukee next weekend for the Milwaukee IndyFest 225. Franchitti is the defending champion.

Firestone 550: Scott Dixon leads after 50 laps

June, 9, 2012
FORT WORTH, Texas -- Scott Dixon, driver of the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, is leading after 50 laps in the IZOD IndyCar Series Firestone 550 at Texas Motor Speedway.

Dixon, who has led in six of seven races this season, took over the lead from Alex Tagliani, who opened the race in the first position, in Lap 22.

The first caution of the night came in the 31st lap of the race, but Dixon held on to the lead coming out of pit road. Restart came in Lap 40.

No. 38 Graham Rahal, who started the night in third spot, is currently in second.

Rounding out the top five is No. 27 James Hinchcliffe, No. 26 Marco Andretti and No. 2 Ryan Briscoe.

Tagliani has fallen to eighth-place, while Dario Franchitti, winner of the Indy 500, sits in 22nd place.

Alex Tagliani takes IndyCar pole at TMS

June, 8, 2012
FORT WORTH, Texas -- Alex Tagliani took the pole in the qualifier for the IZOD IndyCar Series Firestone 550 at Texas Motor Speedway on Friday.

Tagliani, who drives the No. 98 Team Barracuda-BHA Honda, took his first pole since his last race at TMS in 2011. He finished in 48.0695 seconds (215.691 mph) to overtake No. 10 Dario Franchitti, who had led for most of the qualifier.

Tagliani said that he feels comfortable with the track at TMS and the style of racing it allows.

“Some drivers had a problem with their second lap and we were very consistent,” Tagliani said. “We are very happy to start up front and I’d like to think that we will be a threat in the race tomorrow.”

Tagliani is currently ranked 24th in the Series and has yet to win a race this year.

Franchitti finished in 48.5797 seconds (215.646 mph) and will start on the outside of row 1. He also said he was pleased with the track at TMS.

“We went actually quicker than I thought we would,” Franchitti said. “The guys did a really good job of it and it’s definitely the most, the hardest qualifying that I've done here with that level of downforce and that level of grip.”

Franchitti, currently ranked fourth, won the Indianapolis 500 this year and won the first of the two IndyCar races run on the same day last year at TMS.

Franchitti leads practice for Firestone 550

June, 8, 2012

FORT WORTH, Texas-- Dario Franchitti finished with the fastest lap, clocking 214.724 mph, in the practice round of the IZOD IndyCar Series Firestone 550 at Texas Motor Speedway on Friday.

Franchitti, who is currently in fourth place in the Series, will be driving his No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda in IndyCar’s first return to a high-banked oval track since Dan Wheldon’s tragic death in Las Vegas last October.

Rounding out the top five were No. 9 Scott Dixon (214.274 mph), rookie No. 67 Josef Newgarden (214.146 mph), No. 98 Alex Tagliani (213.965 mph), and No. 11 Tony Kanaan (213.600 mph).

IndyCar Series leader Will Power (12) had the 18th fastest lap at 211.974 mph.

Some other notable drivers’ times included:
  • No. 28 Ryan Hunter-Reay, 213.505 mph (sixth place)
  • Rookie No. 77 Simon Pagenaud, 213.396 mph (eighth place)
  • No. 27 James Hinchcliffe, 213.189 mph (ninth place)
  • No. 2 Ryan Briscoe, 213.006 mph (11th place)
  • No. 14 Mike Conway, 212.916 mph (12th place)
  • No. 3 Helio Castroneves, 211.759 mph (19th place)
  • No. 4 JR Hildebrand, 211.732 mph (20th place)
  • No. 26 Marco Andretti, 211.373 mph (21st place)

IZOD IndyCar Series qualifying begins at 4:00 p.m. CST at TMS.

Dario Franchitti 'not very comfortable' with high ovals

May, 30, 2012
FORT WORTH, Texas -- Indianapolis 500 champion Dario Franchitti says he's still "not very comfortable" racing on a high-banked oval.

The Indianapolis 500 was the first IndyCar race on an oval since Dan Wheldon's fatal accident in last season's finale at Las Vegas. But the June 9 race at Texas Motor Speedway will be the first on a high-banked track similar to Las Vegas.

Franchitti tested at TMS last month and said Tuesday that he will do his absolute best to win there. Indy Car races on a street course Sunday at Belle Isle, Mich.

Wheldon was killed when his car sailed into the fence in a 15-car accident last October, and his head hit a post in the fence. A report later determined that pack racing on a high-banked oval contributed to the accident.

IndyCar Series open testing at TMS on Monday

May, 2, 2012
Former Formula One driver Rubens Barrichello will be making his first IndyCar Series oval runs during open testing at Texas Motor Speedway on Monday.

Barrichello will be joined by IndyCar Series drivers Ryan Briscoe, Helio Castroneves, Will Power, Dario Franchitti, Scott Dixon, Graham Rahal, Charlie Kimball, Mike Conway and Ed Carpenter for two sessions as the DW12 Dallara chassis makes its debut at TMS.

Barrichello, who won 11 races on the Formula One circuit, has finished in the top 10 of each of his last three IndyCar Series races. It will be the driver's first runs on an oval track.

The first session will be run from 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., and the second session will be from 1:30 p.m.-5:30 p.m. Both sessions are open to the public and are free. Fans should enter Gate 4. Coolers are not allowed, but concession stands will be open.

The Firestone 550 will be run at TMS on Sat., June 9.

Purity, controversy blend at Twin 275s

June, 13, 2011
Two big thoughts -- one requiring more discussion than the other -- stand out after the historic Firestone Twin 275s run this past Saturday night at Texas Motor Speedway.

First, both races were about as pure as they come, with only one caution occurring in a combined 204 laps of racing. The second race was run entirely caution-free. Most racing fans absolutely loved it, particularly with the high-intensity level seen in the second race considering that the starting positions were set by a random draw placing some of the championship contenders in the front of the pack while others were way in the back. The skill of the Indy Car drivers never ceases to amaze me.

Which brings us to the big discussion ...

Second, the controversy over the random drawing to select the starting positions for race number two. Dario Franchitti, the winner of the first Firestone Twin 275 and a championship contender again this year for the Indy Car title, voiced his displeasure with the concept.

Franchitti makes a great argument (and, despite some reports, did so to me personally after the races in a friendly, calm, professional, unemotional conversation in which both of us discussed the merits of a number of concepts). Will Power, the current Indy Car points leader, drew the third starting position Saturday night while Franchitti wound up starting 28th. Franchitti's point is if both he and Power started closer together near the back of the pack in a complete inversion of the starting lineup, it would be much fairer since they would effectively have the same chance. Both drivers agreed the move of the race was Power's fortunate blind draw of such a great starting position.

Franchitti's suggestion has one potential flaw, however: sand bagging. Inverting the starting lineup is a standard fare in all kinds of racing, from the weekly short tracks to some of NASCAR's most popular races. The big winner in the season-long Indy Car points race Saturday night was Scott Dixon. By finishing second in both Firestone Twin 275s, Dixon scored more points than anyone. By sand-bagging, a driver can find a way to score the most combined points.

Both Franchitti and Marco Andretti passed a stunning 21 cars in the second race Saturday night. it was sizzling to watch the two slice through the field with precision and abandon.

So I understand Franchitti's thoughts. Completely. As a competitor working hard to win another series championship, every point counts. I don't blame him for recommending the complete inversion for the second race.

So we'll kick around what, if anything, should be done. Despite reports crediting me with the random selection concept, I don't make the rules for Indy Car races. Maybe I missed something since it's being reported in so many newspapers, blogs, columns and fan forums that I created the concept. I do like it. But I also like inverting the entire field. I'm open-minded on discussions for 2012.

But I am only one voice. Franchitti is also one voice. At the end of the day, the Indy Car folks will make the decision, just as they did this year. That's their job and I defer to them. Rightfully so. They do a great job.

I thought Saturday night's racing was incredible. And terribly interesting.

And people around the country are talking about Indy car racing this week.

I think it worked pretty well.

Leading drivers suffer from blind draw

June, 12, 2011
FORT WORTH, Texas -- Texas Motor Speedway thought fans would be drawn into the surprise element of implementing a blind draw, so the track experimented with an idea to determine position for the second of the Firestone Twin 275s races Saturday.

The drivers expressed a different feeling.

Dario Franchitti won the first Firestone Twin 275 race and suffered the consequences for the second with an inverted blind draw order based on your first-race finish. He had no control over his fate and ended up starting in 28th place for the nightcap.

“To have a championship in the IndyCar series, drawing the grid out of a hat is a joke,” Franchitti said. “Through no fault of our own, we started 25 places behind Will [Power]. Will, he took advantage of it tonight and did a great job.”

Franchitti slowly passed drivers on the track one by one but eventually ran out of time. One of the fastest cars on the track would place seventh, and Franchitti seemed to have all but forgotten his win earlier after the conclusion of the second race.

“There’s enough variables out there,” Franchitti said. “We don’t need to be throwing dice to be deciding grid positions. That made me mad. I’m sitting there, OK, I won the first race, but at the same point my emotion right now has been [ticked] off about the hand we were dealt tonight.

Franchitti’s Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate, Scott Dixon, found himself in a similar position, starting in the middle of the pack in 18th from the blind draw. Dixon posted the fastest lap in the second race on Lap 110, but he could only manage to squeeze out consecutive second-place finishes on the night.

“Second race, you could see it sort of trickling down with the draw that it wasn’t looking too good for ourselves,” Dixon said. “Obviously myself starting from 18th and Dario 28th, it’s a huge deficit when the competitor for the championship starts third and with not too much competition in front of him.”

Power, the IndyCar series points leader, lucked out drawing the third spot -- ultimately becoming the biggest deciding factor for the first oval race win in his career -- while other drivers in the hunt for a championship series found themselves in the back of the pack. Power took the lead on Lap 39 and would dominate with the race-high 68 leading laps.

“I thought coming into the race, you don’t control your own destiny basically,” Power said. “It’s just a draw. It was going to be very unfair for someone. It happened to be Dario.”

The smoke may have settled from Power’s donuts after his victory, but Franchitti might see the lingering effects throughout the season. Power’s points over Franchitti jumped from seven to 21 points after the second race.

“If it comes down to five points at the end of the year, Dario will look back at this race and say, ‘If I started where I should have, I would have had those five points.’”

Dario Franchitti opens doubleheader with win

June, 11, 2011
FORT WORTH, Texas -- Dario Franchitti held off teammate Scott Dixon in a 10-lap shootout Saturday night to win the first of two races at Texas Motor Speedway's Firestone Twin 275s, the first doubleheader in major open-wheel racing in 30 years.

Franchitti finished 0.0527 seconds ahead of Dixon, with the Target Chip Ganassi teammates ahead of Will Power and polesitter Alex Tagliani.

The 114-lap race on the 1½-mile track was on a blistering pace of more than 207 mph, which would have been the fastest in IndyCar Series history, before the Indianapolis 500-winning car driven by rookie Wade Cunningham, not Dan Wheldon, was involved in a crash to set up the final sprint.

There was an abbreviated celebration between races for Franchitti's 28th career victory.

Alex Tagliani wins second straight pole

June, 10, 2011
FORT WORTH -- Sitting in the 24th position heading into qualifiers at Texas Motor Speedway, Alex Tagliani finished the day as the pole leader for his second consecutive IndyCar series race.

Tagliani took the top spot during the Indianapolis 500’s Bump Day and duplicated the same success for the Firestone Twin 275’s first race Saturday. He timed 48.6834 seconds at 215.186 miles per hour.

Dario Franchitti will be next to Tagliani on Row 1 on Saturday, jumping from 20th to second place. Fanchitti finished .0872 seconds behind Tagliani at 214.801 mph.

Will Power, who ranked first after the first practice session, will be behind Tagliani in Row 2. He’ll be next to Takuma Soto, who made the biggest improvement on the day from 30th to fourth place with an average speed of 214.470 mph, .1627 seconds behind Tagliani.

Defending polesitter Ryan Briscoe will be alongside fellow Andretti Motorsport teammate Danica Patrick on Row 5 for the first race.

Out of the 21 IndyCar series races held at TMS, six pole winners have gone on to win the race. Briscoe was the last to do it in 2010.

The final practice is scheduled to start at 6:45 p.m. followed by the NCWTS WinStar World Casino 400 at TMS tonight.

Fan of IndyCar double-file restarts? Get in line

March, 30, 2011

Entering last weekend’s IndyCar season-opener in St. Petersburg, Fla., much of the discussion was about the series’ decision during the offseason to utilize double-file restarts in all races this year. IndyCar series officials wanted to tighten up the field on restarts, give drivers an opportunity to pass and, honestly, add another touch of excitement to the sport.

So on the start of Sunday’s race, the cars went dashing into the first turn on the first lap and -- Blam! -- a big pileup of stars and cars, most notably Marco Andretti sliding upside-down on the asphalt. Drivers like Helio Castroneves, Scott Dixon, Ryan Briscoe and Mike Conway were involved in the incident. All were contenders to win the race.

Drivers, media and the internet forum “experts” quickly jumped and pointed a finger at the series’ double-file restart as the culprit.

Except it wasn’t a double-file restart. It was a double-file start. Like IndyCar and every other form of racing has been using for literally 100 years.

The real culprit, apparently, was Castroneves, the three-time Indy 500 champion. As the field barreled down the front straight toward Turn One, Castroneves ducked inside from his ninth starting position. When the cars -- four and five wide -- reached the hard right-hand turn at the end of the front straight, the cars inevitably funneled down. The next thing you knew, cars were sliding everywhere with Andretti on his lid.

“I guess I caused a mess,” Castroneves fessed up.

“As drivers, we take some of the blame,” race winner Dario Franchitti said. “We control the cars.”

Franchitti has accomplished so much in his career, including winning at Indy and winning the 2010 Indy Car championship. He is one of the smartest, most thoughtful drivers in the paddock. But I have to question his point: Some of the blame? Personally I think all of the blame is more accurate. Watching at home on television about 1,500 miles away, I could tell you what was about to happen as the cars took the green flag. And I can tell you similar things are going to happen at Long Beach and Toronto unless the drivers use their heads.

Even the drivers admit to the need to be smart. Dixon, Briscoe and Graham Rahal all used the word “idiots” to describe some of their competitors.

“They can see what’s going on, but they’re not paying attention,” Rahal said.

“There’s zero room for error and we can’t bump like NASCAR,” said Will Power, who finished second.

“I think we are maybe trying to copy something that the other guys do,” said Tony Kanaan, who finished an inspring third in St. Pete. “But we don’t have bumpers and can’t bump each other.”

But Simone de Silvestro may have the biggest set of coconuts: “I thought the double-file restarts were fun because it actually gave us a chance to make positions,” she said, confirming IndyCar’s premise. “Last year we would start single-file every time and it would be hard. You would just follow the leader. I think the restarts made it exciting.”

By the way, who got the biggest ovation from the St. Pete crowd after the race? It was de Silvestro for her stirring St. Pete performance with an under-funded team. Her brave moves reminded more of Dale Earnhardt in NASCAR than it did of a driver fearing the double-file restarts. Fans can see this. And they like it. The fan surveys here overwhelmingly demand double-file restarts. IndyCar racing is wise to listen to the fans after ignoring their wishes for the last two decades.

Use your head, guys. And watch de Silvestro. She can show you how to be brave and smart at the same time.
Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti will stop by Wednesday to answer your questions during a live chat at 2:30 p.m. He's second in the IZOD IndyCar points race, just 12 behind leader Will Power entering Saturday's Firestone 550k at Texas Motor Speedway.

Franchitti had knowledge of TMS on a few levels. He spent five seasons in the IRL before taking a two-year break to race NASCAR before returning to the IRL in 2009.

Click to submit your early questions for the Indy 500 champion.

Franchitti discusses Danica, IndyCar's future

March, 3, 2010

Richard Durrett talks with Dario Franchitti about Danica Patrick and the future of the IndyCar Series.