Change the curly black hair and pork chop sideburns to balding ginger hair and brick-red beard, exchange the firesuit for a tartan, and Dario Franchitti could have been Groundskeeper Willie from The Simpsons - the stereotypical enraged Scot.
Franchitti seemed ready to channel Mel Gibson's William Wallace and deliver a stirring monologue of rebellious rage straight out of Braveheart last night, only moments after his victory in the first of two Twin 275 IZOD IndyCar Series races at Texas Motor Speedway. The reason? He had just randomly drawn the 28th starting position for the second race while his championship rival, Will Power, had lucked into the inside of the second row.
Prior to the race, Franchitti told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that "it will be interesting" to conduct the blind draw between events. "If they said the winner will start last and the guy who was second starts second to last I would be OK with it, but I think a drawing out of a hat is a little too random. But I look forward to making the most of it."
But after the draw was over, after his forced grins and waves to the crowd, he launched into a much harsher assessment of the lottery system that didn't stop until after the post-race press conferences had ended and everyone was headed home.
You could understand his frustration considering that Power led the most laps and won in the second race, which not only erased the points gains that Franchitti had made by winning race #1 but actually extended Power's lead by a handful. And as distant as the competition is behind Power, Franchitti, and Dario's teammate Scott Dixon, Franchitti knows that the one car that could spoil his championship bid could be even more dangerous now that Power has learned he can win on ovals.
It's a tough call for the IZOD IndyCar Series, because the lottery system was clearly a success with the fans at Texas - more of a success, actually, than the actual racing, which ended up being surprisingly dull for a night in the Lone Star State. Eddie Gossage and company know how to cater to their fans, and it showed in the race format. But to Dario and Power and company, they cannot reconcile the fact that racing would not be going on without fans in the stands and in front of their televisions with the fact that they are racing to win trophies and wheelbarrows full of season-ending prize money.
Where INDYCAR goes from here on the Twins concept is anyone's guess, but it's a sure bet that whatever they decide if they keep the format will result in more complaints from someone. It wouldn't be IndyCar racing without them.
- Will Power discovered he can win oval races. That sound you hear is the rest of the IndyCar field deflating in despair.
- Who would have guessed that EJ Viso would not only not wreck in either race, but would get two top-ten finishes out of it?
- Scott Dixon finished runner-up twice last night, charging from 18th position in the second race without the benefit of a caution period.
- Marco Andretti channeled High Line Harry Gant to finish sixth in the second race, a strong rebound for his Andretti Autosport team after a disappointing May.
- Tony Kanaan and Will Power showed the crowd some terrific reactions after drawing the pole and third starting spot, respectively, during the halftime qualifying draw for the second race.
- Dario Franchitti could only muster a 12th place finish in the second Twin, likely muttering Scottish curses under his breath the whole way. His post-race presser gave him a chance to vent... unfortunately for everyone who had to listen.
- Calamity almost ensued when Graham Rahal ran out of fuel late in the going and Will Power nearly collided with him on the backstretch apron as Power was headed for his final pit stop.
- Fans apparently began leaving Texas Motor Speedway at the conclusion of the first race. Maybe it was the heat, or maybe it was confusion over the halftime schedule. The stands weren't all that full to begin with, and the sight of plenty of bare aluminum was not a thrill for anyone watching.
- Helio Castroneves turned down Tony Kanaan's suggestion to draw qualifying numbers for each other before the second race. Too bad - Kanaan ended up drawing pole position, while Castroneves drew 6th.
- Dan Wheldon acquitted himself admirably as a TV commentator, but nobody could forget that the winner of the Indianapolis 500 was without a ride for the rest of the season (and if they tried, Wheldon kept reminding them). Even worse, he was forced to watch the destruction of his Indy 500-winning car after contact with, ironically, Charlie Kimball's car - the driver who inadvertently handed Wheldon the Indy win in the first place.