SONOMA, CA- Andretti Green's Dario Franchitti had Sunday's Motorola Indy 300 presented by Jackson Rancheria Casino & Hotel race easily won at Infineon Raceway having led almost the whole way, but he made a brain head move and tangled with his teammate Marco Andretti with 11 laps to go taking out Andretti and damaging his own car.
Scott Dixon overtook Franchitti in Turn 3 on the restart and then held off Team Penske's Helio Castroneves to win the Motorola Indy 300 by 0.5449 of a second (the closest margin in three years of IndyCar Series road/street racing).
Franchitti soldiered on to third place, but the swing allowed Dixon to take a four-point lead into the penultimate race of the season. Tony Kanaan finished fourth and Sam Hornish Jr. fifth.
Scott Dixon holds off Helio Castroneves
Franchitti led the first 58 of 69 laps. He was dominating, and he held a comfortable lead going into the last round of pit stops and, as things cycled through, he was about to assume the lead again on Lap 69.
However, his teammate. Marco had stayed out longer and inherited the lead for Laps 67-68. He pitted, and then stormed out onto the track on cold tires right in front of Franchitti. He moved over to the center of turn 2 to let Dario through on the inside but Dario had too much momentum, slid a little wide on the exit and clipped Marco who spun into the gravel trap while Dario's left-front wing was broken, and with it any chance for either of them to win.
After the cleanup for Marco, Franchitti, with his broken wing was a sitting duck and both Dixon and Castroneves stormed past. Why Dario did not wait for the next turn to pass the obvious slower Andretti is still a mystery. The speed Dario carried into that turn indicated has was in a big hurry to get past. It was a rookie error by a veteran.
Of course the AGR team is partially to blame for not warning both drivers over the radio.
Dixon's win coupled with Franchitti's third place meant that Dixon moved ahead of Franchitti by 4 points with just two races remaining.
Polesitter Dario Franchitti jumped out to an immediately lead at the start of the race. Danica Patrick held onto Franchitti in the opening laps, but as we usually see on road courses, she faded.
Dixon scored his fourth victory of the season in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Honda Dallara, holding off the No. 3 Team Penske Honda of Helio Castroneves by 0.5449 seconds.
"They played the team tactics very good," Dixon said. "It was very frustrating when Tony Kanaan was holding me up earlier in the race. But what goes around, comes around. I knew my car was going to be strong on the last restart, and I drove to the front."
"It was almost a perfect day, but it turned out bad at the end," said Franchitti, who finished 8.3 seconds behind Dixon. "It’s a shame when something like that happens."
Sam Hornish Jr. finished fifth behind Kanaan, followed by Danica Patrick, Dan Wheldon, Tomas Scheckter, Vitor Meira and Kosuke Matsuura.
Andretti, the defending winner of the event, took the lead with 13 laps remaining when Dixon made his final stop. One lap earlier, Dixon came back on track in front of Franchitti following his final stop, only to be passed two turns later, Andretti also exited the pits slightly ahead of Franchitti, but the two made contact in the first turn.
"Patience is what wins championships," team owner Michael Andretti said. "Dario knew he would have gotten Marco in the next corner."
The next IndyCar Series event is the Detroit Indy Grand Prix presented by Firestone at 3:30 p.m. on Sept. 2 at the Raceway at Belle Isle. The race will be televised live by ABC and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network. The next Indy Pro Series event is the Chicagoland 100 on Sept. 9 at Chicagoland Speedway.
. This is Scott Dixon's fourth win of the season and the 10th win of his IndyCar Series career. His last win came at Mid-Ohio in July.
. This is Target Chip Ganassi Racing's 16th win in the IndyCar Series.
. Scott Dixon took the point lead for the first time since he led the points at the Indianapolis 500 in May. Dario Franchitti led the points from Milwaukee, nine races ago.
. Helio Castroneves finished second, his best finish since winning at St. Petersburg in April and his fifth top-five finish of the season.
. Dario Franchitti finished third, his 12th top-five finish of the season..
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, winner Motorola Indy 300): "This is exactly what we needed. It was a tough day and a tough weekend to be honest. We're still having problem with the Dallara car. It's the first year we've used it (on road courses) and it's been tough, especially in qualifying where we qualified fifth. AGR played it tough today. We had to deal with TK (Tony Kanaan) holding us up a lot and trying to build a gap for Dario (Franchitti). It's fantastic for us with the points and it's another race win this year is what we wanted." (About passing Franchitti for the lead): "What goes around comes around. They were playing tactics and it seemed ironic that both of their cars got in an accident. It ended up ruining (Dario's) day. I think our car was better on restarts, so we may have had the upper hand there. I don't think his front wing would have mattered in that. But it doesn't matter now. We won the race. That's what matters."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished second): "My car was really good towards the end. In the middle of the race, when Scott (Dixon) and I were leaving the pits, he was able to find a little bit of my track and we touched wheels. I was like, 'Hey, I have nothing to lose buddy.' He was racing hard and forcing it. I was like, 'You know what, I'm going for it if I have an opportunity.' I would not put a stupid move on him. That's not what I want to do. I tried everything I could, but he did a good job. I guess that was a payback from St. Pete for him."
DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 27 Canadian Club Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished third): "Scott (Dixon) and I almost had the same situation, but I think that Scott was a little further forward so I was able to wait a bit. With Marco (Andretti) he came out at the wrong point. Tony (Kanaan) and I had a similar situation on the stop before that and Tony opened up the door and gave me the room. I really want to look at it and talk to Marco. We're teammates. We look after each other and that shouldn't happen. I'm going to talk with him, look at the video and we'll see from there."
TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished fourth): "I had to protect Dario as much as I could over the final few laps. The guy has done a lot for me over the years and I was thinking about the team. Motor racing is a very selfish sport but I'm proud of what I did today in the Team 7-Eleven car. It wasn't going to change anything for me to be second, third or fourth. I want this team to win the championship and I'm pretty sure Dario will. It's a little setback but we've still got two races to go."
SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished fifth): "We couldn't get the setup quite where we wanted it this weekend, and we started the race a little loose. We went off the course early on and dropped down a few spots. I really have to hand it to Roger (Penske). He called a great strategy to get us back up near the front. To be able to finish in the top-five after where we were halfway through the race is great. Team Penske worked hard all weekend and now we head to Belle Isle on the strength of a solid performance here in Sonoma."
TOMAS SCHECKTER (No. 2 Vision Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished eighth): "The race was OK. It's the best race I've had here, and I'm pleased with a top-10 finish. The guys gave me good stops and a good car, and we just made the best of it. We need to stay in the top-10 and challenge for top-five finishes in the final two events as we keep an eye on the points situation, so we will take the good run we had today and focus on the races coming up."
DANICA PATRICK (No. 7 Motorola Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished sixth): "We had a pretty fast car, but races like this are all about track position. We lost so much time in the pits, and there is just no need for that. It just seemed like there was something on every pit stop. You can't win races when you have problems on every stop. There are things that we all need to improve on when it comes to our pit stops, but the stall -- I barely got it going the second time, so that is something that needs to be looked into on the car."
VITOR MEIRA (No. 4 Delphi Panther Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished ninth): "I think we finished where we should have been. That's the car we had and where we are now as a team on the road courses. The track was slippery, but it was much better after our second stint. The car was loose early, but it got better. We were sometimes as fast as the leading group so I think we have the speed we need in the Delphi car. Again I think we need to keep our heads down and keep trying."
KOSUKE MATSUURA (No. 55 Panasonic Panther Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished 10th): "I've been having lots of oversteer since the first practice session, but the engineers were able to solve that problem for today. We didn't have many yellows today, so it made me realize how important the qualifying position is. I was able to set some fast time in the race, so I think we are making good progress on road courses. I think it was a very productive weekend for us and I am looking forward to the next race."
Winner's average speed: 98.593 mph
Time of race: 1:51:58.5533
Margin of victory: 0.5449 of a second
Cautions: 2 caution flags for 5 laps
Lead changes: 9 among 4 drivers
Lap leaders: Franchitti 1-21, Kanaan 22, Dixon 23, Franchitti 24-44, Dixon 45-47, Franchitti 48-63, Dixon 64-66, Andretti 67-68, Franchitti 69-72, Dixon 73-80.
Point standings: Dixon 560, Franchitti 556, Kanaan 498, Wheldon 414, Hornish 409, Castroneves 398, Patrick 365, Sharp 363, Scheckter 328, Andretti 325