WEST ALLIS, WI - JUNE 19: Dario Franchitti of Scotland, driver of the #10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Downy Dallara Honda celebrates winning the IRL IndyCar Series Milwaukee 225 at The Milwaukee Mile on June 19, 2011 in West Allis, Wisconsin. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
It had all of the makings of a karmic make-up call for Dario Franchitti.
Poor Dario was all tied up in knots after last week's Twin 275 races at Texas Motor Speedway, when the points he gained in his first-half victory were totally negated by a second-half seventh-place finish after drawing poorly in the halftime qualifying lottery. His very public and very extensive bemoaning of that fact may have earned him the sobriquet "Whine ‘Em Wallace" (a riff on the legendary Scot of Braveheart fame), but most at least begrudgingly agreed that he had a point.
Therefore, Franchitti's win at Milwaukee on Sunday could have appeared to be a balancing of the scales.
After all, as strong as he ran all day, it was not Dario's best race. And it was clearly apparent that his was not the fastest Dallara on the track, given how persistently Tony Kanaan's Lotus/KV Racing car kept passing him. Not to mention that pesky penultimate pit stop, when Helio Castroneves' Penske Racing team got the Brazilian out in front of Dario.
But Kanaan, as much in control of the race as he appeared to be, succumbed to a bit of KV Racing luck, spinning and wrecking on his own with only a handful of laps to go. Castroneves, meanwhile, had to pit out of the lead during TK's caution because of a cut left rear tire.
Thus, the fates apparently wanted Dario to win. They certainly did their part by eliminating his two strongest competitors. IndyCar race control pitched in as well, to be sure. After penalizing Takuma Sato for hitting one of his crew members on a pit stop, they elected not to follow that precedent when Franchitti collided with a tire and crew member as he pitted later in the race.
So Dario ended up with the trophy, the champagne, and the points. Problem is, Will Power didn't get Fate's memo, and with his steady, patient fourth-place finish he earned enough points to stay tied with Franchitti heading to Iowa Speedway this weekend.
It's clear that while a higher power might want salve Dario's wounded professional ego, it also wants to keep things interesting in the championship. That seems fair to me.
- Graham Rahal moved up from 12th to finish runner-up to The Main Ganassi Operation. It was a good showing for Ganassi's satellite team, whose most memorable moment by a country mile this season unfortunately has been Charlie Kimball's role in the Indianapolis 500 finish.
- Is that Oriol Servia on the podium again? Tell me again why it took him so long to get another IndyCar ride...?
- Danica Patrick finished fifth, which should give her a ton of confidence heading to her next Milwaukee start in a NASCAR Nationwide Series car.
- Takuma Sato was racing with a heavy heart after losing his father this week. It showed on the track with two major pit road errors; still, he recovered to finish eighth - the only KV Racing car to finish the race, by the way.
- Simona de Silvestro wrecked hard in qualifying in her eight-year-old "Pork Chop" Dallara - HVM's only remaining car. She went to the hospital while the crew worked on trying to get the car rolling again. The next day, she and the car were in good enough shape to start the race. Though she quickly parked it - the car was a sled to begin with, and crash damage certainly didn't help its performance - her chutzpah was impressive. "Iron Maiden," indeed.
- That forced smile from Kevin Kalkhoven at Texas? Pretty much gone by now. With Tony Kanaan wrecking from the lead, Sato's pit woes, and EJ Viso returning to carbon-fiber-shredding form, the feel-good story of KV Racing's qualifying performance was definitively erased.
- JR Hildebrand replicated his Indy 500 final lap in almost comically perfect detail on lap 120. Afterwards, the ABC broadcast crew made 110% sure that the viewing audience got the similarities. No, really - did you notice? C'mon, you noticed, right?
- Ryan Hunter-Reay didn't even last a full lap in his perplexing sponsor swap with Mike Conway, demolishing his #28 GoDaddy.com car in turn one of lap one. When Vitor Meira went out of the race with handling problems later in the race, it didn't take long for the wags to wonder whether the "mechanical issues" were just A.J. Foyt's excuse to cover up another ride buy by Michael Andretti.
- Count Sarah Fisher Racing and Sam Schmidt Motorsports as two teams who aimed at the setup target and missed by several city blocks. Alex Tagliani, in particular, looked like he was driving on a mess of ball bearings instead of four Firestone tires.
- I don't know if Marlo Klain held another wedding or if people were more interested in beer and brats on Father's Day, but the stands at the Milwaukee Mile were worryingly bare. It's tough to justify the fan angst over losing oval races in the IZOD IndyCar Series when it's so blatantly clear that they can barely draw flies, let alone fans.