Dario Franchitti still leads the race for the IndyCar championship after the Meijer Indy 300 – but his rivals are catching fast and he’s using up all his luck just staying alive.
For the second race in a row the Scot’s car was sent out of control and airborne as Tony Kanaan took victory. Happily for Franchitti, whose championship lead over Scott Dixon and Kanaan has been cut to just eight points, for the second race in a row he walked away unharmed.
Six days previously, at the Michigan International Speedway, Franchitti had escaped unscathed from a spectacular crash caused by contact with Dan Wheldon. This time, the accident could hardly be described as a racing incident.
Having earlier dropped to eighth by clipping a pylon with his car’s nose as he exited the pits, sending him onto the grass, he finished the race by failing to notice that Kosuke Matsuura was slowing down after taking the chequered flag.
Franchitti, travelling at more than 210mph, rapidly closed on the decelerating Panasonic Panther Racing car in his path. He drove over the rear of Matsuura’s car and was flipped into the air.
Last week he initially said no-one should be blamed for the accident with Wheldon – but has since revised his opinion and exchanged angry text messages with his fellow Brit. This time, he was in no doubt where the fault lay.
“That one was completely my fault; there’s no excuse,” Franchitti said. “I screwed up twice in the race. I screwed up once coming out of the pits and then after the chequered. I didn’t realise it was the chequered. I got the ‘Hey, it’s a chequered’ just as I was hitting him. I’m pretty disgusted right now for that – for both my mistakes today.”
A stunned Matsuura said: “After chequered, I let off and he didn’t see me and he hit me. When we were getting in the safety car, he said, ‘My fault.’ He understood what exactly happened and he apologised to me about that. The race is over so there is nothing more we can do.”
To add to Franchitti’s woes, the top two places in the race were filled by his nearest challengers for the title. Kanaan win puts him 52 points back in third, while Scott Dixon’s second place finish means he is breathing right down the Scot’s neck in the standings.
It was a less eventful day for the other two Brits in the field. Darren Manning trundled round in 13th, two laps down, while Wheldon was removed from the race by a spinning Sam Hornish Jr on lap 36.
“It’s just unfortunate,” said Wheldon. “I think Sam got loose in Dario’s dirty air and spun. I was just trying to sneak around the outside, which I couldn’t quite get underneath him. He just clipped me, barely.”
He returned briefly to the race later to do a couple of laps and be classified ahead of Hornish, in 17th place from 18 runners.
|1||Tony Kanaan||Team 7-Eleven||53pts|
|2||Scott Dixon||Target Chip Ganassi Racing||40pts|
|3||A.J. Foyt IV||Vision Racing||35pts|
|4||Marco Andretti||NYSE Group||32pts|
|5||Tomas Scheckter||Vision Racing||30pts|
|6||Scott Sharp||Patron Sharp Rahal Letterman||28pts|
|7||Ed Carpenter||Hitachi Power Tools/Vision Racing||26pts|
|8||Dario Franchitti||Canadian Club||24pts|
|9||Helio Castroneves||Team Penske||(199 laps)||22pts|
|10||Vitor Meira||Delphi Panther||(199 laps)||20pts|
|11||Kosuke Matsuura||Panasonic Panther||(199 laps)||19pts|
|12||Buddy Rice||Dreyer & Reinbold Racing||(199 laps)||18pts|
|13||Darren Manning||ABC Supply Co./AJ Foyt Racing||(198 laps)||17pts|
|14||Sarah Fisher||AAMCO/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing||(197 laps)||16pts|
|15||Ryan Hunter-Reay||Rahal Letterman Racing Team Ethanol||(183 laps)||15pts|
|16||Danica Patrick||Motorola||(180 laps)||14pts|
|17||Dan Wheldon||Target Chip Ganassi Racing||(37 laps)||13pts|
|18||Sam Hornish Jr.||Team Penske||(35 laps)||12pts|
Points standings (top 10):
- Franchitti 518
- Dixon 510
- Kanaan 466
- Wheldon 388
- Hornish Jr. 379
- Castroneves 358
- Sharp 347
- Patrick 337
- Andretti 311
- Scheckter 304