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After Fontana
Final Driver Standings

Rank Driver Points
1 Will Power 671
2 Helio Castroneves 609
3 Scott Dixon 604
4 Juan Pablo Montoya 586
5 Simon Pagenaud 565
6 Ryan Hunter-Reay 563
7 Tony Kanaan 544
8 Carlos Munoz 483
9 Marco Andretti 463
10 Sebastien Bourdais 461
11 Ryan Briscoe 461
12 James Hinchcliffe 456
13 Josef Newgarden 406
14 Charlie Kimball 402
15 Justin Wilson 395
16 Mikhail Aleshin 372
17 Jack Hawksworth 366
18 Takuma Sato 350
19 Graham Rahal 345
20 Carlos Huertas 314
21 Sebastian Saavedra 291
22 Ed Carpenter 262
23 Mike Conway 252
24 Oriol Servia 88
25 Kurt Busch 80
26 J.R. Hildebrand 66
27 Sage Karam 57
28 Luca Filippi 46
29 James Davison 34
30 Jacques Villeneuve 29
31 Alex Tagliani 28
32 Townsend Bell 22
33 Pippa Mann 21
34 Martin Plowman 18
35 Buddy Lazier 11
36 Franck Montagny 8
Infineon: Franchitti Outduels Briscoe

by Mark J. Cipolloni
Sunday, August 23, 2009

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Dario Franchitti
Honda
With Ryan Briscoe never more than a second from his rear wing, Dario Franchitti kept his cool under the California sunshine to win Sunday's Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma before the biggest IndyCar crowd in history at Infineon Raceway. 

The top-3 drivers avoided a turn-2 crash on lap 1 that slowed some of their main competition and while there were plenty of good battles throughout the race further down the field, Briscoe could never get close enough to Franchitti to attempt a pass.

Ryan Briscoe had to settle for 2nd on this day
Honda
Briscoe had one last chance to make a pass on Franchitti after the final caution flag caused by Helio Castroneves spinning in Turn 1 and separately Ryan Hunter-Reay's car stopping on track.  With 5 laps to go the green flew but Franchitti got a good jump and was able to keep Briscoe at bay, thereby leading all 75-laps.

It was only the second time in IndyCar Series history that a race has been led throughout by a single driver.  Franchitti's teammate, Scott Dixon, is the only other IndyCar driver to accomplish this feat, at Richmond International Raceway in 2003.

Although this track is hard to pass on, you can pass, but Briscoe never got close enough and admitted afterward that he had nothing for Franchitti.

"He [Franchitti] did a good job," said Briscoe.  "He had a couple of lockups on the black tires.  But at the same time I was struggling too, and couldn't take any advantage.

"I thought I was getting pretty good fuel mileage following Dario, and was hoping to pass him by going one lap further before stopping, but much to my surprise, he went further than I did.

"I think we need to look at maybe what can we do differently at this track, whether it's gear ratios, that's my guess, or something else."

Mike Conway was 3rd, with KV Racing's Mario Moraes coming home 4th and Hideki Mutoh 5th.

Conway moved from 5th with 5 laps to go to 3rd at the finish.  Mario Moraes might have had 3rd but he had problems with his brakes the last 30 laps and he locked a wheel in Turn 11 that allowed Conway to slip under for 3rd.

KV Racing team owner Kevin Kalkhoven said it best after the race, "Mario drove the race of his life, especially given the recent loss of his father."

Dario took maximum points on the weekend - pole, leading the most laps and winning, to keep himself in the hunt for the title while Helio Castroneves had a DNF and Scott Dixon finished way back in 13th.  He originally was 14th, but Marco Andretti was moved back from 11th to 14th for avoidable contact with Dixon at the end.

Andretti, who won his one and only IndyCar race at this track, started a promising 4th, but the first lap melee ruined his chances at the win.

"It's disappointing to start fourth and finish 14th, especially when you have a strong car like we did," said Andretti. "We got caught up with Graham (Rahal) at the very beginning which gave us a flat tire, so we had to pit and it put us to the back of the field. We spent the rest of the day fighting our way back through traffic. I feel bad for the Venom boys; they gave me a great car and worked hard in the pits all day. We're on to ovals for the rest of the season, and I think we'll be strong in the remaining races."

Ryan Briscoe now retakes the points lead with 497, followed closely by Franchitti with 493, Scott Dixon falls to third with 477 and Helio Castroneves in 4th at 371.  Only those top-4 drivers mathematically still have a chance to win the title.

QUOTES:

DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, winner Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma): "It was a good weekend for Target Chip Ganassi Racing. The Target cars were pretty good. On the red Firestone tires they were very good. Qualifying up front allowed us to control the pace of the race and go just as fast as we used to go and that really helped us."

RYAN BRISCOE (No. 6 Team Penske, finished second): "I got into a pretty big deal with Dario's (Franchitti) rear wing there today. That was pretty much the story of my race. I was pretty conservative on the fuel during that first stint and I actually thought I was going to be able to get him (Franchitti) by going a lap further and I was surprised to see that he went a lap further than me. That's something we need to work on for this track, fuel mileage, but the Team Penske car was pretty good today. I think if I would have had clean air I would have been quicker than Dario (Franchitti). With dirty air there wasn't much I could do. Unfortunately, it is a really tough track to pass on if the guy in front of you doesn't make mistakes. I don't think that Dario (Franchitti) made one today, but congratulations to him and his team. Team Penske did an awesome job and had great pit stops. We're leading the championship so hopefully we can hang onto it."

MIKE CONWAY (No. 24 Tran Systems/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, finished third): "Yeah, it was good. In the beginning, we got hit from behind and I got a puncture in my rear tire. I thought my race was finished.pushing all the way and just kept moving forward .Towards the end, The Tran Systems car was really good today. If we had a few more laps, it would have been interesting to see if I could get past those guys."

MARIO MORAES (No. 5 Azul Tequila/Votorantim/KVRT, finished fourth): "The last two weeks have been really tough for me, but it felt good to get back into the car and have a good race. The KV Racing Technology team did a great job today, in fact, for the whole weekend. In qualifying, we had a little problem, but we went back to our original plan. In morning warmup, we thought the No. 5 Azul/Votorantim car was fast, and I think moving up 10 places in the race today proved it. I would like to thank the whole KVRT crew again for everything and also the fans for all the support over the last two weeks."

HIDEKI MUTOH (#27 Formula Dream, finished fifth): "If I was able to keep the third position, it would've been a great finish, but the Formula Dream car was fantastic. Our pit stop was great, as well, so we were able to pass Helio. I really would like to thank all the Andretti Green people for their great support and the fans here. I enjoyed the race today, and am looking forward to next week's race at Chicagoland."

ORIOL SERVIA (No. 06 Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing, finished sixth): "The weekend started as bad as it could, which was not running in the only practice session before qualifying.  But the car was good and I started to feel more comfortable with the track in the morning warm-up and we were fifth fastest.  It was just a matter of getting some clear laps to prepare.  I knew we had a car to go fast.  We saved a lot of fuel at the beginning which gave us an extra two or three laps on others and when they pitted we pushed and made up track position.  For some reason I had a feeling that the start was going to be messy and it was; I don't even know what happened.  I just saw (car) parts and more parts flying in the air.  There was a moment where I could have been a little more aggressive but you never know where the cars are going to be coming from.  I'm happy no one touched us and we gained a lot of spots.  Its always exciting racing with Justin; we've been racing together many years and its always as hard and fair as it gets.  The proof of that is that he made a couple of over-optimistic maneuvers but he still managed not to wreck me or himself.  It's what you expect from a real racer.  I was on blacks (Firestone standard tires) and everyone was on reds so I was sliding all over the place, more than them.  But the car was great and I was able to keep ahead of Justin.  It's always exciting to come from the back and finish sixth.  When you are that close to the front you always want more and you get a little hungrier.  Considering how the weekend started and our starting position I think we should be pretty happy.  It should be a good morale boost for the next couple of races and hopefully we're going to be at the front.  I want to thank Carl (Haas), Berni (Bernadette Haas) and Mike (Lanigan) for the opportunity to race here.  I enjoyed it." 

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven, finished eighth): "I felt like a bowling pin since I got hit a few times today.  I think if we could've qualified a bit higher on the starting grid we could've stayed out of all that mess.  It was unfortunate but a good way to come back.  It's just been one of those years, but at least we finished the race.  Hopefully next weekend in Chicago we can get the Team 7-Eleven car into victory lane. We're ready."

RAPHAEL MATOS (No. 2 US Marines/Luczo Dragon Racing, finished ninth): "We started 18th and got another top 10 and added to our rookie lead so it was a good day. The key was staying out of trouble on that first lap and somehow I was able avoid Wilson who spun in front of me late. I'm a little frustrated because we could have finished seventh. I lost my dashboard in the end and made a mis-shift in turn 11 and that cost me two spots. But after struggling yesterday a top 10 is great. I give all the credit to the Luczo Dragon Marines team because they helped me pick up a lot of spots with two great pit stops."

ROBERT DOORNBOS (No. 33 HVM Racing, finished 10th): "What a day.  It's such a long day when the car is not competitive.  I'm sorry for the guys behind me, I was just holding them up in the beginning, but I was just doing everything I could to stay on the track. Obviously we had a mega start.  We got about eight positions at the start, so we were running in sixth place.  That was good.  But the pace was just not there."

E.J. VISO (No. 13 PDVSA/HVM Racing): "We had a very good start. I had a very good first corner. I think I overtook two or three cars. And as soon as I was in the apex of Corner 2, I just found Tony Kanaan sideways and I just tried to do my best to avoid him.  But he was sideways but still moving forward, so I didn't have an option."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing): "It was a tough race. Every thing we tried to do. We tried catch a yellow. We pitted early to see if it could vault us up, and we kept coming out in the same position, racing with TK and Marco and we got into a bit of  a mix-up at the end. (About the pass at the end): "We made quite a few passes on quite a few people, and at the end, he got into the back of me and spun me around. He came up and apologized. Definitely didn't do it on purpose. It was just one of those days. That's racing. Glad to move on and get out of here. I hope to get to the last three races because we fared well there last year." (About points race): "It can switch big time. That's what we've got to look at. We need to be consistent in the last three (races). And hopefully, they can have a bit of a blunder. But the Target team can win the last three races, hopefully we can do it and come home with another championship."

Results

Pos

Driver (Car No.) Start Pos Diff Gap Best Time Pits Stops Status
1 Dario Franchitti (10) 1 --.---- --.---- 1:19.3362 2 Running
2 Ryan Briscoe (6) 2 0.2488 0.2488 1:19.1986 2 Running
3 Mike Conway (24) 9 0.8293 0.5805 1:19.1868 4 Running
4 Mario Moraes (5) 14 3.6171 2.7878 1:19.7096 2 Running
5 Hideki Mutoh (27) 5 5.4536 1.8365 1:19.7953 2 Running
6 Oriol Servia (06) 17 6.3801 0.9265 1:19.8896 2 Running
7 Justin Wilson (18) 22 6.6997 0.3196 1:19.1398 3 Running
8 Tony Kanaan (11) 7 7.1808 0.4811 1:18.8654 3 Running
9 Raphael Matos (2) 18 8.5936 1.4128 1:19.9988 2 Running
10 Robert Doornbos (33) 15 10.8175 2.2239 1:20.1604 2 Running
11 Ed Carpenter (20) 20 11.3688 0.4303 1:20.0889 2 Running
12 Dan Wheldon (4) 12 12.4000 1.0312 1:19.7613 3 Running
13 Scott Dixon (9) 10 13.8968 1.4968 1:19.1636 3 Running
14 Marco Andretti (26) 4 10.9385 0.1210 1:19.3208 4 Running, moved back
for avoidable contact
15 Richard Antinucci (98) 19 19.0650 5.1682 1:20.1113 2 Running
16 Danica Patrick (7) 11 1 lap 1 lap 1:19.8971 4 Running
17 Milka Duno (23) 21 5 laps 4 laps 1:22.8016 5 Running
18 Helio Castroneves (3) 3 9 laps 4 laps 1:18.8427 2 Contact
19 Ryan Hunter-Reay (14) 16 10 laps 1 lap 1:19.3269 3 Mechanical
20 Franck Montagny (25) 8 18 laps 8 laps 1:18.9396 6 Handling
21 Graham Rahal (02) 6 45 laps 27 laps 1:18.9200 2 Mechanical
22 EJ Viso (13) 13 75 laps 30 laps -0.0001 0 Contact
23 Will Power (12) 23 0.0000 0.0000 -0.0001 0 DNS
24 Nelson Philippe (34) 24 0.0000 0.0000 -0.0001 0 DNS

Race Statistics
      Winner's average speed: 94.745 mph
      Time of race: 1:49:23.0073
      Margin of victory: 0.2488 of a second
      Cautions: 2 caution flags for 7 laps
      Lead changes: no lead changes
      Lap leaders: Franchitti 1-75.
      Point standings: Briscoe 497, Franchitti 493, Dixon 477, Castroneves 371, Patrick 335, Andretti 323, Kanaan 318, Wheldon 306, Rahal 301, Mutoh 297.

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