SONOMA, Calif. — Scott Dixon took advantage of Dario Franchitti’s late collision Sunday, winning for the fourth time this season and taking the lead in the IndyCar Series championship with two races remaining.
Franchitti, starting from the pole and beginning the Motorola Indy 300 with an eight-point lead over Dixon in the title fight, dominated the
80-lap race at Infineon Raceway, controlling it until the last round of pit stops.
Dixon, the 2003 series champion, stretched his fuel further than the other leaders almost all day and came off pit road just ahead of Franchitti on lap 68. With cold tires, the New Zealander had to yield to Franchitti heading into turn one, but did hold off Franchitti’s Andretti Green Racing teammate Tony Kanaan for second place at that point.
Marco Andretti, last year’s Infineon winner and another AGR driver, was the last of the leaders to pit, and he also came out just ahead of Franchitti on lap 69. But the 20-year-old Andretti tried to hold off Franchitti and the two banged together, with the son of team co-owner Michael Andretti spinning out and Franchitti’s car sustaining damage to the front wing.
The incident brought out the first full-course caution flag of the day and, after the restart on lap 72, Dixon and Helio Castroneves both easily drove past Franchitti, struggling with the handling of his damaged car.
“We’re teammates and we look after each other and that shouldn’t happen,” Franchitti said of the contact with Andretti. “I’ll watch it first and then talk to Marco about it. It was a near perfect day until Marco and I got together in turn one.”
There was one more caution flag for a collision between Scott Sharp and A.J. Foyt IV, but the race finished under green with Dixon holding off Castroneves to take a four-point lead over Franchitti heading into next week’s race at Belle Isle in Detroit.
Franchitti, who has seen a
65-point lead over Dixon shrink steadily over the past six races, thought he had turned things around after coming off two straight races in which he walked away from scary crashes and had his worst finishes of the season.
“We did just about right today,” Franchitti said. “It’s really too bad.”
“There was a similar situation earlier with Tony and he let me go,” he added. “Even Dixon did it on cold tires. But Marco is out there trying to win a race and we’re trying to win a championship. It’s a case of priorities, I guess.”
Dixon, who has 10 career wins, was frustrated late in the race, running behind Kanaan, who appeared to be protecting Franchitti despite the fact that he had won two straight races to move into third in the points race.
“Today was very frustrating, especially having to deal with TK a lot. He was not playing fair at all. We were all warned in the drivers’ meeting about team tactics and I think the IRL were obviously watching another race because it was definitely going on.
“I guess what goes around comes around. They ended up taking themselves out. I just wanted Dario one-on-one. It definitely changed up on that caution. I knew my car was good on cold tires all day.”
Kanaan was right behind Franchitti at the end and didn’t try to pass his struggling teammate in the waning laps, helping his friend and likely giving up any chance at adding another championship to his 2004 title. Kanaan trails Dixon by 62 points.
Sam Hornish Jr. finished fifth, followed by Danica Patrick, the fourth AGR entry, who started alongside Franchitti on the front row but was unable to stay with the leaders after the first pit stop.