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Franchitti: One small mistake can unravel everything

Posted by Matt Pepin, BostonGlobe.com Staff  June 27, 2011 09:40 PM

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100franchitti.jpg Editor's note: Through a special arrangement with New Hampshire Motor Speedway
and Chip Ganassi Racing, two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti will blog exclusively on Boston.com throughout the IndyCar season, with extra entries around the series' event at New Hampshire Aug. 14.
It was an interesting night Saturday at Iowa Speedway. We didnít know what to expect because it was our first night race at the track. We didnít know where the conditions were going to take us before the start of the Iowa Corn Indy 250.

We got into the lead from sixth on the grid fairly early with a three-way pass on Tony Kanaan and Takuma Sato, and from that point I felt quite in control. Marco Andretti did pass me once when I lost momentum, but we were quite OK otherwise. Nobody was able to get too close, and the car was great in the lead.

Then during the final pit stop we had a problem with the left front and lost three seconds. That allowed Marco to get ahead. My engineer, Chris Simmons, was going to make an adjustment at this point to correct an oversteering condition I had, but I called it off. It got worse in traffic and I was never able to close the gap after that and finished fifth.

When things are going well, it looks easy and effortless to the outsider, but itís anything but. This race was a good example of that. When thereís one small mistake, everything can unravel. To win, it's a case of every single detail being precisely correct.

Itís very, very unusual to for the Target guys to make a mistake on the No. 10 car, but I made mistakes, too. The decision to call off Chris' adjustment was one. Then on the restart afterward I made a tactical error by staying on Marcoís outside. The extra distance I was traveling allowed Tony to get a good run and draft past me. I made another mistake when I was trying to make my way past those two. I shot up the track and nearly knocked down the wall, and my teammate, Scott Dixon, was able to pass me.

When you lead 172 of 250 laps and donít win, itís disappointing, but Marco drove a hell of a race, as did TK and Scott coming from way back to finish third. All things considered, it wasnít a bad result.

Everybody is talking about points, since this finish put us alone atop the IZOD IndyCar Series championship standings, but I think itís way too early to be thinking about points. Iím looking at it one race at a time. There's a long way to go, so it doesnít make sense to be talking about points just yet, especially after Will Power crashed.

I almost got caught in Willís accident. He'd had some issues early and I was coming up to lap him. I saw the smoke coming off his tires and lifted. I was in the corner behind him and couldnít get on the brakes at that point because it would have upset the car. Itís a very delicate thing to try to avoid a crash when youíre in a turn. You canít just hit the brakes.

Iím glad that Will is OK, because that was a massive hit. When something like that happens, the championship or race results really don't matter. Will's a great guy and a great competitor.
Now we move on to the next portion of the season, which has the street course in Toronto, the airport track in Edmonton and another road-course race Aug. 7 at Mid-Ohio. A few years ago the IndyCar Series changed the schedule to make it easier on teams. They broke the season into sections of similar tracks, placing oval races together and road and street races together. Now weíre going back to a road/street section of the schedule before we get to New Hampshire Motor Speedway in August.

The cars are different for those types of racing, mainly regarding suspension and brakes. And itís different for drivers, too. I certainly train differently, and weíre beginning our preparation for this three-race stretch by testing Thursday at Sebring. Iím sure Florida in late June is going to be a shock to the system.

After that, Iím traveling to England for the Goodwood Festival of Speed, where Iíll drive a Lotus 38 that my racing hero, Jim Clark, drove to a second-place finish at the Indianapolis 500 in 1966. Itís owned by a very cool guy in Ohio whoís letting me play with it for the weekend.

If you havenít heard of Goodwood, itís an annual celebration of vintage racing thatís part hill-climb, part motor show and part garden party on the grounds of Goodwood House, the Earl of Marchís ancestral home in West Sussex. It includes exhibitions and actual racing of classic race cars. This year the theme is 100 years of racing at Indianapolis, so youíll see a lot of vintage Indy cars.

Scott is going along, too, and weíre both going to be driving his 2008 Indy 500 winner. My brother Marino also will be there, driving a Porsche 956 with his racing hero, five-time Le Mans winner Derek Bell. Thatís definitely going to be the highlight of the weekend, watching Marino drive that iconic Porsche up the famous hill at Goodwood.

Iíve got friends coming in for all over the place, so itís going to be great fun. I just looked at the entry list, and there are drivers and cars from all branches of motor racing. It will be fantastic to see everyone and enjoy the racing and the cars.

I suppose I could have taken a break this weekend, but just getting invited to Goodwood is a privilege. Itís something I wouldnít miss, and I canít wait to get there.

See you after Toronto!

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