Franchitti Captures Iowa Corn 250

Iowa Speedway – June 21, 2009 – Good ingredients can turn a so-so recipe into a fine dining experience. And Dario Franchitti and his crew became gourmet cooks today, turning Iowa corn into a race win with some successful ingredients.

Franchitti, who won the inaugural Indy Car Series race here at the Iowa Speedway in 2007, turned good pit stops, a comfortable car setup and success on a changing race track into a five- second win over Ryan Briscoe in the third running of the Iowa Corn 250.

“The first part of the race was kind of strange because people were pitting, including ourselves, at odd times, trying to position themselves for the end of the race. After the second stop, Ryan and I were running 1-2. I passed him on a restart and then he passed me. And that was after a green flag stop. But that was really the key- a good in lap, good out lap on cold tires, and amazing pit stops,” noted Franchitti who missed the 2008 Iowa event while trying his hand on the NASCAR circuit.

“Then (we) made up three places on one yellow stop. To gain that kind of advantage against the kind of competition we have on the pit lane is amazing. On the final stop, with the changes we made, was fantastic. I was able to pull away and have a good gap on Ryan. He was catching me a little bit. I was able to pull away through traffic and then go.”

To make it to the end though, the field had to survive six cautions in the first half of the race- two of which involved early race leaders.

” I think it was very tough for the start of the race. With all of the rain we’ve had the track was very green, so it was slippery, said Briscoe, whose runner-up finish kept him in the series’ points lead over Franchitti. “I think that’s why we saw the cautions that we did early on.”

One of those, on lap 18, involved then leader Scott Dixon and challenger Helio Castroneves. The duo touched in turn two with the right front wing on the Indy 500 winner’s Team Penske entry sustaining damage, while Dixon’s Target mount was forced to pit with a flat tire.

Then on lap 111, Tony Kanaan, who had led 48 laps, crashed due to cold tires after a green flag pit stop. “I tried to get it (the lead) back after the stop. Maybe it was my mistake,” said Kanaan who has crashed the Team 7-Eleven car in that corner in each of the three Iowa races.

By the half-way mark only thirteen cars were running, but that was it, as the final 126 laps were contested without incident as the green track took on tire rubber, giving it better grip.

Franchitti’s TOM-TOM Dallara led 66 laps in the final half, taking the lead for good on lap 200 when Danica Patrick pitted for tires and fuel. He built a 1.1 second lead over Briscoe into his final winning margin, with Hideki Mutoh third, Dan Wheldon fourth and a resurgent Scott Dixon coming back from his incident to finish fifth.

So the recipe for success was perfect- many competitors dropped out, the slippery track got better, efficient pit stops gave Franchitti a competitive advantage and recent practice sessions at the track taught his crew the best set-ups.

“You just trust your guys, you trust them to put the car together right. You trust them to make great pit stops. You trust the engineers to set the car up right. And they trust me to do my job, so we just let each other get on with it. And today they showed why they are the best (crew) in the business.”

Iowa Corn Notes:
Despite persistent rain in the area, the Iowa Corn 250 green-flagged on time as a crowd of 40,142 settled in for 250 laps around the tight, less-than-a-mile oval. Prior to the race, Speedway officials and the IRL announced that a two-year extension is almost completed to keep the Indy Car Series running here in Newton. Track CEO Stan Clement said that this was a good weekend to announce the extension as all seats were sold for today’s race, including seats that were added for this event. He also said that the track has plenty of room to expand, and the upcoming NASCAR Nationwide race in August will see a possible seating capacity of near 60,000 if needed. Speaking for the IRL, Terry Angstadt, President of their commercial division, said that the sanctioning body is looking for “motivated promoters… Who know how to deliver entertainment value.” He went on to say that when you find a welcoming home like Iowa, that “you don’t want to leave.” Angstadt also noted that the IRL’s 2010 schedule will be released later in July and will be a “balanced” one showing nine ovals, and nine street/ road courses. The current balance of tracks is ten ovals and seven road/street circuits. Jerry Jauron, the track’s President and CFO also noted that the Iowa Corn producers have been “great partners,” and that he was “confident” that they would also renew as event sponsors.
? Rusty Wallace, who co-designed the Iowa track in 2006, flew from his NASCAR announcing duties in Milwaukee on Saturday to talk to the media here on Sunday. He said that they would, “do some research after this event is over and see if there’s anything we can do to help that ( sepage problem). Despite rain over night, no “weepers” were noted on Sunday.
? With five “incidents” in the first half of the race, only thirteen of the original twenty starters were running at the 125 lap mark.
? Ryan Hunter-Reay , who was involved in E. J. Viso’s early race wreck, has replaced the injured Vitor Meira in the A. J. Foyt/ ABC Supply car for the remainder of the season. A.J. IV was in that seat for the Texas round and Paul Tracy drove the Foyt entry at Milwaukee.
? IRL pilots missing from the Iowa grid included Milka Duno, A. J. IV, Mike Conway, Sarah Fisher and Alex Tagliani.
? With the announcement earlier in the day Sunday that the 2010 IRL schedule will feature nine ovals and nine street/ road circuits, there was discussion among the gathered media regarding which current oval would be cut, and which road/ street courses might be added. Given previous attendance, Kansas or Homestead were mentioned as possible oval candidates. Among non-ovals, Brazil and Birmingham, Alabama were thought of as possible additions to the schedule. Brazil was noted due to the ethanol fuel produced there for the Indy Cars. Time will tell.
? Indy Lights driver Gustavo Yacaman was released from Mercy Hospital Sunday after experiencing abdominal pain during Saturday night’s Lights race. A CT scan showed no signs of appendicitis.
? It’s not often that the leaders in any race crash while out front-today it happened twice. First Scott Dixon and Helio Castroneves made contact with each other in turn two, and later Tony Kanaan spun and hit the SAFER Barrier, also in turn two. Kanaan: “I’ve crashed in that corner the last three years. It just stepped out on me. Everybody has been complaining about the bumps, but I can’t blame blame anything. I think it was a combination of the cold tires and me pushing a little too hard Maybe it was my mistake. It’s been quite a different year for me, so I guess I have a lot of catching up to do.”
? With Mike Conway (8th) and Tomas Scheckter (6th), each finishing in the top-ten, it marked the first time that Dreyer & Reinbold had two cars in the top-ten since the Indy 500 in 2008.That fete was accomplished for the team by Buddy Rice and Townsend Bell.
? Newman/ Haas/ Lanigan had a disappointing race as Robert Doornbos was caught up in E. J. Viso’s lap two crash, while Graham Rahal came together with Danica Patrick in turn four, but managed to keep his McDonalds mount off the wall. Rahal soldiered on to an 11th place finish, while Doornos was 15th.

Share Button