Iowa Corn Indy 250
Elder Statesman Navigates to Victory Lane
by Esteban Morales
June 21, 2009
Following a dull showing at the Texas Motor Speedway, the IndyCar Series was back on form in Iowa for the Iowa Corn Indy 250. Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves started from pole after the grid was set based on entrant points due to wet weather during qualifying. The event got off to a rocky start when E.J. Viso and Robert Doornbos spun while exiting Turn 4 on the opening lap. Despite the early yellow, Tomas Scheckter, driving for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, turned heads by cracking the top ten in the first lap after starting sixteenth. After the yellow Scheckter moved up to sixth before Castroneves and Scott Dixon made contact at the front of the pack.
While battling for the lead, Castroneves’ right front winglet tore into Dixon’s left rear tire. The costly collision momentarily gave Dario Franchitti the lead and led to the second caution of the day. During pit stops Ryan Briscoe took the lead from Franchitti while Scheckter continued to surprise by emerging in second ahead of Marco Andretti. Briscoe held onto the lead following the restart and through the third yellow of the race for Justin Wilson’s lone crash. Briscoe led the field into pit lane for the second set of yellow flag stops while Danica Patrick, Mike Conway, Dario Franchitti, and others stayed out on an alternate fuel strategy.
When the green flag dropped on lap 43, Franchitti pounced on Conway for second. Patrick continued to lead for eleven laps before a fourth caution flew for a shunt involving Mario Moraes and Raphael Matos. Though Franchitti beat Patrick out of the pits, Andretti Green Racing’s Tony Kanaan inherited the lead after staying on the track. Following the lap 65 restart, Scheckter and Dan Wheldon fought for second before Wheldon secured the position on lap 75. While Wheldon set off after Kanaan, Ryan Briscoe was uncharacteristically the first of the Team Penske and Target Chip Ganassi Racing cars in fourth, behind Scheckter.
Kanaan continued to lead until lap 106 when he permanently relinquished the lead to enter the pits. A few laps after exiting, Kanaan unexpectedly lost the back end of his Dallara in the second turn. After the third set of yellow pit stops Briscoe took the lead, reminding the field that the Penske and Ganassi cars intended to continue dominating the season. One lap after the restart, Franchitti wedged his bright green Tom Tom-sponsored Ganassi entry passed Briscoe for the lead. Briscoe responded with a spectacular outside pass and held the lead for the next sixty laps until he entered the pits for his final stop of the day. Following a very quick stop by the Ganassi camp, Franchitti cycled into the lead. Franchitti easily dominated the last fifty laps of the race and crossed the line ahead of Briscoe, Hideki Mutoh who recorded his best finish of the season, and Dan Wheldon, the last car on the lead lap. After the race, Franchitti’s wife Ashley Judd branded the Scotsman with a new nickname, the series’ official “elder statesman.” The victory propelled the statesman into the second position in the title race, just three points behind championship leader Ryan Briscoe.