Meijer Indy 300
Franchitti Hanging On
by Esteban Morales
August 11 , 2007
Dario Franchitti tested his luck for the second consecutive time this season in a bizarre accident during the cool-down lap of the Meijer Indy 300 held at Kentucky Speedway. The Scotsman did not realize the race had ended after the drop of the checkered flags and kept his foot on the accelerator. Ahead of Franchitti was Kosuke Matsuura who had slowed after crossing the finish line. Franchitti’s nose then plowed into Matsuura’s left-rear tire and the Andretti Green Racing Dallara flipped heading into turn 1 narrowly missing the track’s catch fencing. Unlike at Michigan Franchitti’s car did not collect any other cars besides Matsuura’s and landed right-side up. Miraculously Franchitti climbed out of his wrecked machine unscathed and took full responsibility for the incident. “I screwed up twice during the race,” said a despondent Franchitti after being released from the medical center.
The accident capped a frustrating day that saw Franchitti finish a disappointing eighth place. After qualifying on the outside of the front row next to teammate Tony Kanaan, Franchitti was looking to score as many points as possible to increase his championship lead. Instead the Scotsman lost serious ground to the event’s runner-up, who now sits within eight points of the championship lead. During the early stages of the race Franchitti kept Kanaan in striking distance while Team Penske’s Sam Hornish Jr. tried to keep up with the lead AGR cars. While trailing the leaders Hornish’s car wiggled while exiting the second turn on lap 35. Hornish was unable to keep the car off the wall and sent Dan Weldon for a ride through the infield towards the inside retaining wall. As the competition faltered Franchitti took the lead under yellow flag pit stops and held it until his second pit stop on lap 90.
Kanaan then retook the lead with Scott Dixon and Franchitti in tow. With the championship potentially on the line Franchitti immediately challenged Dixon and took the position on lap 108. A few laps later Franchitti pressured Kanaan before a caution for debris slowed the field and brought the leaders to pit lane. For the second time Dixon and his crew made up valuable time in the pits and the Target Chip Ganassi Racing entry emerged with the lead ahead of Kanaan and Franchitti. On the lap 132 restart Kanaan easily took the lead on the backstretch and extended his advantage while Franchitti fought with Dixon for about thirty laps. Franchitti’s troubles began on lap 167 when he slipped out of the racing groove and fell to eighth. By lap 174 Franchitti was back up to sixth and was closing on A.J. Foyt IV for fifth. A few laps later Franchitti entered the pits for his final stop, the Scotsman ran wide and ran over a cone destroying part of his front wing in the process.
Suddenly Franchitti was on the verge of losing at least one lap. In an odd twist of luck for Franchitti teammate Danica Patrick, who was challenging for a top-five finish, spun and stalled while exiting the pits. After getting restarted during the yellow Patrick blew a right-rear tire and collided with the track’s retaining wall. Jaws continued to drop throughout the track as Foyt emerged out of the carnage and confusion with the lead following pit stops. Despite the accident and pit stops Foyt had also driven an excellent race, in which he consistently ran inside or just outside of the top five. With only ten laps remaining Kanaan regained the lead as Foyt was shuffled to third behind Dixon. Kanaan crossed the line ahead of Dixon to take his fourth win of the season and sits third in the standings with a mathematical chance at the title. Franchitti was lucky to salvage eighth and even luckier to emerge unharmed after his accident. Unfortunately for The Flying Scotsman Dixon’s aggressive title challenge has narrowed the gap to only eight points as the series heads to Infineon Raceway.