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Firestone Indy 300

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"Tortoise Beats the Hares"
by Esteban Morales

October 10, 2009

Dario Franchitti collected his second IndyCar title in thrilling fashion during the Firestone Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.  Despite clinching a title in his first season back from a frustrating forage in stock cars, Franchitti looked as though he would finish second or third in the championship for most of the afternoon.  A late-race change in strategy, however, gave the Scotsman a shot at his second title in three years.  While championship contenders, Ryan Briscoe and Scott Dixon, ran a furious pace, Franchitti slowed to conserve fuel.  After gambling on the race running its final stint yellow-free, Franchitti was able to coast to the finish while Briscoe and Dixon hit the pits for a final splash of fuel.

Although Franchitti needed an alternate strategy to win, the Scotsman did not lack any pace during qualifying and took pole ahead of Dixon and Briscoe.  When the green flag flew, Franchitti led the opening laps before dropping back when Dixon challenged for the position.  Briscoe quickly slotted into second on lap 9, shuffling Franchitti to third.  Though Dixon clearly had a speed advantage over Briscoe and Franchitti during the first stint of the race, the dynamic of the race changed considerably following the first set of pit stops.  Briscoe was the first lead car to pit, diving for fuel and tires on lap 45.  Dixon and Franchitti followed on lap 48 and lap 50, respectively.  Once the stops cycled through, Briscoe emerged about two-tenths of a second behind Dixon.

With two critical points for leading the most laps in sight, Briscoe began to challenge Dixon on lap 60.  Three laps later, Briscoe convincingly took the lead coming off the fourth turn.  Dixon held onto Briscoe and attempted to retake the lead on lap 67, but had to slot in behind after nearly running into Ed Carpenter’s Dallara.  Within a few laps, Briscoe opened a one-second lead while lapping traffic.  Briscoe led by as much as three seconds before making his second stop, along with Dixon, on lap 96. Foreshadowing the finish, Franchitti managed to stretch his fuel to lap 100.

Following the stops, Briscoe’s advantage nearly disappeared.  On lap 106, Dixon went for the lead down the inside of Turn 4.  After Dixon temporarily opened a near one-second lead, Briscoe’s car came to life.  By lap 120, Dixon had the familiar orange and white Team Penske livery in his mirrors.  On lap 124, Briscoe blew by Dixon on the outside of the fourth turn.  Briscoe led over Dixon and Franchitti before making his penultimate stop on lap 144.  Like Briscoe, Dixon was betting on at least one caution flying in the closing stages of the race and pitted on the same lap.  Meanwhile, Franchitti’s crew gambled on the race running caution-free and called the Scotsman in on lap 150.  Two laps later, Dan Wheldon punted Danica Patrick on pit road.  Patrick spun, but officials kept the green flag out.

As the race neared the closing stages, Dixon closed in on Briscoe, who continued to lead following the stops.  By lap 187, less than two-tenths of a second separated the leaders with Franchitti nearly twenty-four seconds behind.  On lap 192, the title began to fall within Franchitti’s grasp as Dixon pitted for a splash of fuel.  Two laps later, Briscoe did the same, handing the lead of the race, and the championship, to Franchitti.  Franchitti ran the final six laps of the race event-free and earned the IndyCar Series title.  After emerging from his car, Briscoe called the race the “hardest and best” of his career, while Franchitti dedicated the championship to the late Greg Moore.

Results:

  1. Dario Franchitti
  2. Ryan Briscoe
  3. Scott Dixon
  4. Tony Kanaan
  5. Helio Castroneves
  6. Hideki Mutoh
  7. Mario Moraes
  8. Alex Lloyd
  9. Tomas Scheckter
  10. Justin Wilson
  11. Graham Rahal
  12. Ed Carpenter
  13. Ryan Hunter-Reay
  14. Raphael Matos
  15. Mike Conway
  16. E.J. Viso
  17. Milka Duno
  18. Sarah Fisher
  19. Danica Patrick
  20. Robert Doornbos
  21. Dan Wheldon
  22. Marco Andretti
  23. Jaques Lazier