On a night when tire management and consistent handling were the keys to success, Dario Franchitti and his Honda-powered Target Chip Ganassi Racing team recovered from a poor opening segment in Saturday night’s Firestone 500K and combined long runs between pit stops with handling improvements during each stop to finish sixth at Texas Motor Speedway.
Other Honda-powered IZOD IndyCar Series drivers and teams, including Josef Newgarden, Justin Wilson, James Jakes and Scott Dixon, all ran in the lead pack at times during the 128-lap contest, but all encountered problems at various times to prevent strong results.
Dixon was the first to encounter difficulty, a broken rear axle component resulting in a long pit stop, followed by a brief flash fire during attempted repairs that resulted minor injuries to three Ganassi pit crew members. Newgarden, who ran as high as second in the early laps, was caught out by a pair of unfortunately-timed yellow flags, putting him one lap down to the leaders in eighth at the checkers.
Wilson, the 2012 Texas race winner, and Jakes, coming off a second-place finish last week in Detroit, both had long runs in the lead group. Like Newgarden, Wilson also ran as high as second, but rapid tire wear during the closing third of the race sent him spiraling down the order to an unrepresentative 15th-place finish. Jakes also spent the first half of the contest near the front of the field, but dropped in the final 30 laps to finish 12th.
Honda Fastest Seat in Sports winner Mona Wimberly from San Antonio, Texas, led the field prior to the race start in the two-seat Honda IndyCar driven by racing legend and Indianapolis 500 champion Mario Andretti.
Next week, the IZOD IndyCar Series continues its June run of oval track weekends with the first “short track” race on the 2013 schedule, the June 15 Milwaukee IndyFest at the historic Milwaukee Mile in West Allis, Wisconsin.
Dario Franchitti (#10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda Dallara) started 4th, finished 6th: \"We had way, way too much understeer at the start of the race – massive ‘push’, probably the most I’ve ever had on an oval, and that cost us a great deal of track position. But the team made some great calls in the pits, we improved the car at every stop and our strategy of long runs [between pit stops] gained us back a lot of what we lost in the early going. By the end of the race, the car was quite good, better than last year’s car. But we started out too far off on the setup and ran out of time to completely recover.”
Josef Newgarden (#67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda Dallara) started 2nd, finished 8th: “We had a good result, considering everything. I think we got hosed a little bit on some of the yellows and that pushed us back a bit. I think we had a top-five car; I don\'t think we had the winning car, but we were pretty good in the mix and I think to secure decent results is satisfying. We definitely want more, but I think we learned a lot tonight.”
Roger Griffiths (Technical Director, Honda Performance Development) on today’s race win: \"It was a disappointing outcome to the weekend for Honda and our teams. Several of our teams and drivers showed signs of competitiveness tonight, but no one was able to run consistently at the front. We trust that the three Target Chip Ganassi Racing mechanics injured in Scott Dixon\'s flash fire [Tyler Rees, Adam Rovazzini and Greg Shuker] are all okay. It appears transmission oil leaked out onto the exhaust while the team was attempting to repair Scott\'s driveline issue, causing the fire. We\'ll regroup from this and work hard for better results next weekend in Milwaukee.\"