AJ Foyt 225
Green with Envy
by Esteban Morales
May 31, 2009
After a sensational month at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Helio Castroneves was humbled at The Milwaukee Mile. An accident during qualifying set the tone for Castroneves’ run during the ABC Supply/A.J. Foyt 225. Despite starting last, Castroneves salvaged an 11th place finish in what he called “a long day.” At the head of the field, Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon returned to championship form by claiming his second win of the season. The victory allowed Dixon to snatch the points lead from teammate Dario Franchitti, who fittingly ran a lime green car for the event.
Early in the race Tony Kanaan searched for his first win of the year. After battling with pole-sitter Ryan Briscoe and Graham Rahal on the opening lap, Kanaan settled into the lead. Castroneves, who was in danger of being lapped, benefited when teammate Ryan Briscoe took the lead from Kanaan on lap 26. Briscoe’s precarious position saw him fend off an attack from Dixon while trying to keep his teammate on the lead lap. Rookie Mike Conway inadvertently eased the tension in the Team Penske camp by sliding into the marbles in Turn 4, calling for a yellow flag. Briscoe led the field in and out of the pits while Castroneves managed to stay on the lead lap.
Following the restart, Briscoe led by up to two seconds. However, by lap 105, Team Penske found itself in a familiar position: Briscoe led under pressure from Dixon, while Castroneves was dangerously close to being lapped. Four laps later Briscoe lapped Castroneves and extended his lead over Dixon. In spite of lapping his teammate, Briscoe lost the lead to Franchitti in the following pit sequence. Franchitti led for over a dozen laps before being shuffled to third while trying to lap Robert Doornbos. Briscoe, who retook the lead, slowed the field on lap 159 when the yellow flag flew for debris on the track.
The leaders used the caution to make their final stops of the day while Castroneves gambled and stayed on the track to cycle back onto the lead lap. Briscoe, Dixon and Franchitti immediately checked out following the restart, leaving the field to battle for best-of-the-rest honors. Traffic played a decisive role on lap 201 when Tomas Scheckter held up the race leader, allowing Dixon to make the race-winning pass in Turn 3. Briscoe subsequently struggled to keep up with Dixon, who led by as much as four seconds in the closing stages of the race. Dixon ultimately took the checkered flags 2.126 seconds clear of Briscoe. Following the race, the top three finishers pointed to lapped traffic as the event’s critical factor; Franchitti noted that the “hard thing was lapped cars” and “timing your passes right.” Behind Dixon, Briscoe, and Franchitti, Graham Rahal and Danica Patrick rounded out the top five, respectively.