Franchitti rekindles fond memories at Toronto
Ah, how Exhibition Place in Toronto rekindles memories for Dario Franchitti. There were the pole starts in 1997 and '98 that didn't end up so well.
But 1999 was something different -- 11th race of the PPG/CART season, a mid-July afternoon with a sizable crowd watching the competitors on the tight turns and long straits of the temporary street circuit. Franchitti picks up his first victory at Toronto (and fourth overall) with Team KOOL Green to creep up to Juan Pablo Montoya in the championship standings. He's seven points back, with Emerson Fittipaldi and Michael Andretti also in striking range.
Ten years almost to the day removed and Franchitti again visited Victory Circle at Toronto by virtue of holding off Ryan Briscoe and Will Power for his third victory of the season (11th in the IndyCar Series).
With the victory - and three bonus points for winning the PEAK Performance Pole Award and leading the most laps on the 1.755-mile, 11-turn course - Franchitti regained the championship points lead after 10 of 17 races.
Much like '99 leaving Toronto, it's a tight title race. Franchitti's Target Chip Ganassi Racing mate, Scott Dixon, is three points arrears, and Briscoe is 13 back. Helio Castroneves remains fourth, though a DNF because of a collision late in the race with the car driven by Paul Tracy didn't do him any favors. Andretti Green Racing's Danica Patrick remained steady, advancing 12 positions to finish sixth and remain fifth in the standings.
In 2007, Franchitti held a 47-point lead through 10 races but had to finish ahead of Dixon in the final race to claim the championship. Franchitti is aware he doesn't have that cushion this year in seeking his second championship as the series heads to the 1.96-mile airport course for the Rexall Edmonton Indy on July 26.
Dixon won there last year and Castroneves was second. Briscoe, who started on the pole and finished sixth at Edmonton, has five runner-up finishes in the past six races to stay in this year's title hunt.
"I don't think there's a better thing than to be fighting for the championship than with your teammate," Franchitti said. "You're in the same equipment. One week Scott is going to be better than me, I'm going to be better than him, and we'll go out there and we'll have fun and we'll go racing and we'll try and beat each other."
It's a similar scenario to '07 and even 1999, when he left Toronto with title aspirations within reach. Franchitti wound up tying Montoya in points, but lost on the first tiebreaker (seven victories to his three). He's resolved to avoid on-track landmines and see what transpires.
"Everybody makes mistakes; everybody also gets caught up in other people's problems," Franchitti said. These things happen when you're at a race.
"It's about risk, how much risk do you want to take. There were a couple instances (in the Toronto race) I felt if I'd have taken a bigger risk there was a good chance I was going to end up with a bent race car. So I wasn't prepared to take that because we've got to finish, we've got to keep finishing."