Great Scot! Dario Franchitti defends IndyCar championship as leader Will Power fadesBy Will Graves, AP
Saturday, October 2, 2010
Dario Franchitti captures 3rd IndyCar title
HOMESTEAD, Fla. — Dario Franchitti won his third IndyCar championship on Saturday, wearing down points leader Will Power and then smartly avoiding disaster in the season finale at Homestead.
Franchitti dominated early then played it safe late after Power went to the garage following a scrape with the wall as he scrambled to keep pace.
The 37-year-old Scotsman finished eighth behind winner Scott Dixon to edge Power by five points and become the first IndyCar driver to repeat as series champion since Sam Hornish Jr. in 2001 and 2002.
Franchitti celebrated with a trademark burnout while owner Chip Ganassi shared a hug with Franchitti’s wife, actress Ashley Judd.
Danica Patrick finished second, followed by Tony Kanaan, Ryan Briscoe and Helio Castroneves.
A year ago, Franchitti used some savvy pit strategy to leapfrog Dixon and Briscoe for the title and cap his comeback from an ill-fated trip to NASCAR.
This time, he dominated, at least when it mattered. He started from the pole and with Dixon proving as a bodyguard for long stretches, led enough laps to pick up two valuable bonus points and increase the pressure on Power.
Watching Franchitti’s No. 10 power his way around the 1.5-mile oval, Power blinked. He was trying to overcome lapped traffic when he drifted a little too high coming out of Turn 2. His two right tires left long black streaks as he tried to regain control.
He went to the pits, the right rear of his car in miserable disrepair. He sat sullenly in the cockpit while his crew made hasty repairs to his No. 12 Team Penske Honda.
“When you brush up against the wall, you’re pretty certain it’s over and done with,” Power said.
Power briefly returned to the track, but his car — and his championship hopes — were cooked, dashing a comeback story of his own. His career was nearly over a year ago following a horrific crash at Sonoma.
He became IndyCar’s king of the road, winning five times on road and street circuits to stamp himself as a serious championship contender.
Franchitti, however, never panicked. He never does. He spent the last month of the season slowly cutting into Power’s lead. Power joked he heard the theme from “Jaws” whenever he saw Franchitti in his rearview mirror.
As the sun dipped behind the horizon in the early autumn twilight, Franchitti closed in for the kill.
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