Carpenter edges out Franchitti for maiden win
2 October 2011 – Ed Carpenter picked up a dramatic first IndyCar victory for himself and Sarah Fisher Racing at the Kentucky Speedway on Sunday afternoon. As Dario Franchitti missed the win by just nine thousandths of a second and Will Power struggled home to 19th, the race also saw a dramatic twist in the 2011 championship battle.
A well-received victory came for Carpenter, who edged out Franchitti in a nail-biting climax which saw two seconds cover the top 14 drivers. In third, Scott Dixon confirmed a two-three podium result for Ganassi as James Hinchcliffe and Ryan Hunter-Reay completed the top five for Newman/Haas and Andretti Autosport, respectively.
Penske’s aforementioned Power clinched pole on Saturday, although a crucial sequence of events saw the Australian tumble down the order. Approximately a quarter of the way through the way, he pitted from the lead he had held since the start, although his left sidepod was damaged when the Dreyer & Reinbold team released Ana Beatriz directly into the path of the front man. Having lost much time for repairs, Power rejoined the action 23rd and, now hobbling, could only make up three place.
From a lowly 11th on the starting grid, Franchitti grabbed the lead courtesy of a superb stop, aided by an accident for Beatriz which brought out an extensive yellows period and allowed the Scotsman to save more fuel; was it not for this, the chances of being overhauled in the late stages would have been significantly increased.
Further back in the field, Helio Castroneves retired in the early stages for Penske and Graham Rahal plummeted to 12th late on in the race, having to pit only 30 laps from home and thus losing several places.
The race also featured a bizarre selection of pit lane dramas, with Simona de Silvestro’s HVM car spinning sideways and hitting a representative of the KV Racing crew, resulting in another yellow period. Marco Andretti pitted from second place, only to end his day by attempting to pass Alex Lloyd just as the Dale Coyne car peeled into its pit box. Somewhat unbelievably, JR Hildebrand of Panther then lost fourth position by running into a member of his own pit crew.
The consequential reshuffling of the top ten left Oriol Servia in sixth place, leading home Wade Cunningham and Ryan Briscoe as Buddy Rice and Danica Patrick rounded out the top ten. Substituting for the wounded Justin Wilson, Townsend Bell picked up 15 places to finish 11th for D&R Racing while Indy 500 victor Dan Wheldon – who had failed to pass a pre-race technical inspection and was therefore relegated to the back of the grid - crossed the finish line 14th for Sam Schmidt Motorsports.
With only one race remaining, Franchitti now heads the championship table from Power by 18 points, setting up a thrilling climax in a fortnight's time.
The 2011 IndyCar finale will be staged in Las Vegas on 16 October