Wednesday, August 25, 2004
Big week ahead for AGR
By Dario Franchitti
Special to ESPN.com
I'm happy to report that the ArcaEx team returned to victory lane this past weekend at Pikes Peak International Raceway. It was the second IRL IndyCar Series win of the year for the team, and coincidentally, both have come on one-mile ovals.
I don't know that there is any one reason why we've found success on the one-mile tracks this season, other than the fact that they are both low-grip situations and that suits my driving style. But the team and engineers at Andretti Green Racing have consistently given me a good car and I know that we can always count on our Honda engines being very strong.
The No. 27 ArcaEx Dallara/Honda/Firestone was a fast car from the start of the race. I was probably a little too aggressive at the start and maybe went a little quicker than I should have, because by the end of the first stint, the car was pretty loose and I suffered for that. But, I learned my lesson and, from then on, I had to sort of let things settle down a bit early in our fuel runs.
The ArcaEx crew has been doing an excellent job of getting me in and out of the pits this season, and Pikes Peak was no different. They really show how much of a team effort racing really is. We did have one situation occur which I feel bad about. During our first pit stop, I clipped my vent guy, Mike Miller, and he suffered some torn ligaments in his knee. That delayed us a little bit, but I stayed with the leaders and after the next caution period I managed to retake the lead on the restart.
From that point, it was a matter of my being really cautious about not getting too far ahead, not putting too much into the first part of a stint. We had a yellow flag with 50-some laps remaining and my guys did another excellent job of getting me in and out of the pits with the lead. At that point, Adrian Fernandez was running in second place and he stuck pretty close on the restart, but when we hit traffic, I was able to really work on my rhythm and stretch the gap back to him.
I've jumped a couple places in the IndyCar Series point standings and am now in fifth place, just seven points back of fourth. And, it was also another great day for Andretti Green Racing, as each of my teammates finished in the top-10 and that's the third time this season that we've accomplished that feat.
This weekend, we race for the final time at Nazareth Speedway and it will be a very busy weekend for a number of reasons. I have some media functions to attend, as well as several sponsor obligations for ArcaEx and Forsythe. Plus it's the hometown for Michael Andretti and his family, so that adds an extra element of excitement to the event.
Nazareth also wraps up a portion of the schedule which has had us racing six times over a seven-week period. And much as I'd like to kick back and relax over the following week, I won't be able to as I'm taking part in the IndyCar Series' road test at Homestead. I'm excited about the prospects for us going road racing next season, so this should be a fun challenge.
Until next time ...
---- Dario Franchitti
IRL IndyCar Series driver Dario Franchitti drives the #27 ArcaEx Dallara/Honda/Firestone for Andretti Green Racing. He is providing a diary to ESPN.com throughout the 2004 season. His Web site can be found at: www.franchitti.com.