Franchitti rockets to IRL race victory

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Associated Press
June 22, 2009
— Dario Franchitti was disappointed that Saturday’s qualifying for the Iowa Corn Indy 250 was canceled. He felt that a few late tweaks made to his No. 10 car had turned it into a “rocket ship.”

Franchitti settled instead for Sunday’s checkered flag—his second victory in two tries at the Iowa Speedway.

Franchitti took the lead with 50 laps to go and cruised to victory in the Iowa Corn Indy 250. Franchitti beat Ryan Briscoe by just over five seconds to grab his first victory since the Streets of Long Beach in April and move into second place in the IRL standings.

It was the 10th career IndyCar win for the Scot, who took the lead three laps after making his final pit stop on the 7/8-mile oval.

“In the last stop, the changes were fantastic and I was able to pull away—I had a good gap on (Briscoe),” Franchitti said. “I was able to get through traffic really well.”

Briscoe finished second for the third straight race despite leading for 85 laps. Hideki Mutoh took a season-best third after notching a career best of second in Iowa in 2008.

Dan Wheldon was fourth, while pole-sitter Helio Castroneves took seventh.

Briscoe maintained his lead in the points race—becoming the first driver this season to do so for more than one race. He’s three points ahead of Franchitti and 15 up on Scott Dixon, who finished fifth.

The start of the race was marred by a number of accidents and cautions. By the halfway point, seven cars had been knocked out—including Tony Kanaan, who had led for 48 laps.

Danica Patrick took her first lead of the season 38 laps in after Justin Wilson’s spinout brought out a yellow flag. Raphael Matos then spun out and Mario Moraes lost control trying to avoid him, drawing the fourth caution of the day just 55 laps in.

Patrick led for 24 laps but wound up ninth, her worst finish since taking 19th at the Streets of St. Petersburg.

Vettel wins British Grand Prix

Sebastian Vettel cruised to victory in the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, England on Sunday, leading Red Bull to a 1-2 finish for the second time this season.

The 21-year-old German’s faultless 15.1-second win over teammate Mark Webber duplicated their finish at China in April. Both cars benefited from revamped aerodynamics.

“I had a fantastic car, it was unbelievable. I was able to push, push more,” said Vettel, whose car had a new nose, undertray and diffuser. “It shows we are going the right way. I’d like it if we could finish the season like that, but this circuit suits our car.

“On the other hand, we have made quite a step forward.”

I think we have improved the car a bit everywhere and it all came together, with the team working perfectly well.”

Brawn GP’s Rubens Barrichello was third after struggling with back pain, but teammate and championship leader Jenson Button finished a season-low sixth in front of home fans.

Having won six races out of eight, Button still leads the standings despite finishing outside the top three for the first time this season. He has 64 points, followed by Barrichello with 41 and Vettel with 39. There are nine races left.

Webber said placing third in qualifying made it difficult to challenge the pole-sitting Vettel.

“We needed to get on the front row, and then the race was virtually lost in the first stint,” said the Australian, who is 28.5 points behind Button. “The gap at the end of it was way too big. I couldn’t bridge it and then ... in the second stint there was a lot of traffic.”

Button had a daunting task to improve from sixth on the grid, and it got tougher when his tires lacked grip.

He dropped to ninth early on, but with 10 laps to go reclaimed sixth place to earn three points after leaving the pits ahead of Toyota’s Jarno Trulli and Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen.

“If you don’t get the tires in their working range, it doesn’t matter what car you’ve got, it doesn’t work. So, that was my problem here and Rubens seemed to be struggling as well,” Button said. “The pace wasn’t there.

“Hopefully, this will be the worst race of the year. And after struggling so hard to get three points, in a way this might be an important three points.”

F1 president willing to talk

The president of motor sports’ governing body said on Sunday that legal action against the eight Formula One teams planning a breakaway series will be halted to encourage reconciliation.

But in another twist to the standoff threatening to tear F1 apart, FIA president Max Mosley said that his organization would still regulate any rival championship.

That’s despite the fact that the teams say they want to leave F1 because talks with Mosley over his plans for a $65 million budget cap in 2010 have collapsed.

After the Formula One Teams Association announced the split on Friday, the governing body had said that proceedings would be issued without delay due to “serious violations of law.”

But Mosley told The Associated Press on Sunday: “I think we would rather talk than litigate. We are very, very close as far as the facts are concerned. It’s just if the teams want to sit down and iron out the last few difficulties.”

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