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DATE News (chronologically)
07/01/07
irl
IRL comes up short on thrills
Seven years into an ambitious experiment, the Indy Racing League's invasion of Virginia seems to have reached its full adult dimensions. The circuit's tour stop at Richmond International Raceway doesn't appear to be shrinking, growing or changing in any meaningful way.

Last night was, as you might guess, typical. About 45,000 people showed up, almost all of them got their peek at celebrity spouse Ashley Judd, and the guy with the best equipment got things hooked up early and romped to a dominating win.

"It was a weird race, really," said Scott Dixon, who had the second-best car and finished in second place. "It was like no one could make up any ground on anyone."

Precisely. Winner Dario Franchitti led 242 of 250 laps, numbers that actually understate how good he was. Franchitti was passed coming out of the pits after the first caution and let Tony Kanaan play with the lead for a little while.

Maybe Franchitti was just being kind to a teammate. Or maybe he needed to return a cell phone call from Judd, who's his wife. In any event, as soon as Franchitti wanted the lead back, he got it and kept it.

"This was a year when it was hard to pass here," Dixon said.

How could he tell?

In competitive terms, the IRL's "time capsule" moment at RIR came in 2002, when Sam Hornish tapped into some previously undiscovered speed to roar past Gil de Ferran with one lap remaining to win. It was a thrilling finish. Otherwise, we've had a lot of races a lot like last night's:

2001: Winner Buddy Lazier led 223 laps of a 250-lap race.

2003: Dixon led every lap of a 206-lap race cut short by rain.

2004: Dan Wheldon led the final 55 laps and won.

2005: Helio Castroneves led the final 101 laps and won.

2006: Hornish led the final 212 laps and won. More at inRich.com

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