Chip Keeps Chipping Away
September 18, 2010
Dario Franchitti, driving for Chip Ganassi’s racing squad, has trimmed Will Power’s once near-insurmountable lead to a mere twelve points. Despite collecting his first podium finish on an oval at the Twin Ring Motegi, Power continued to give up points to Franchitti, who finished one position ahead in second. Ahead of Franchitti and Power, Helio Castroneves recorded his third victory of the year after dominating the afternoon. Castroneves kicked off a perfect weekend that saw him lead the most laps and take pole position. Franchitti lined up fourth while teammate Scott Dixon uncharacteristically qualified deep in the field in eleventh.
At the start Franchitti quickly moved from fourth to third moments before Bertrand Baguette crashed while exiting the second turn. Franchitti used the restart as an opportunity to take second from Penske Racing’s Ryan Briscoe. Briscoe momentarily gave way to Franchitti in the first turn but retook the position in the third and fourth turns. Franchitti and Briscoe continued to battle for the position before Briscoe recorded what was then the fastest lap of the race and solidified himself in second. Further in the field, Power ran a conservative race, settling into the sixth position.
On lap 40, rookie Alex Lloyd slowed on the backstretch, prompting the second caution of the day. As soon as Lloyd slowed and before officials drew the yellow flag, Power backed off, dropping to tenth. After the race, Power explained that he “backed off thinking it was yellow.” Castroneves led the field in and the out of the pits during the caution and continued to control the race following the lap 48 restart.
The order of the leaders remained unchanged until Mario Moraes made heavy contact with the second turn’s retaining wall. Though Castroneves was the first of the leaders to enter and leave the pits, the caution saw him lose the lead to Raphael Matos and crowd favorite Hideki Mutoh who gambled and kept their cars on the track. While the crowd focused on Mutoh, Castroneves wiggled as the cars raced to the green. Franchitti saw the opportunity and jumped from fifth to third before Briscoe took the position on lap 81. Briscoe continued to make up ground, taking the lead from Matos on lap 86. Ten laps later Castroneves joined Briscoe in second after Matos dropped into the pits. Franchitti ran in third while Power clawed his way up to sixth before the yellow flag flew on lap 114 for a minor accident involving Paul Tracy.
During the caution the field made its way into the pits for penultimate stops. Castroneves had a blistering stop that allowed him to retake the lead from Briscoe. Both emerged ahead of Franchitti, Danica Patrick and Power. The lap 122 restart saw Franchitti pounce on Briscoe for second. On lap 168 Briscoe tried to retake second from Franchitti but fell victim to Power who took third in the third and fourth turns. Power began to catch Franchitti in the closing stages but ran out of laps, finishing behind his championship rival.