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MOTOR RACING

Dario Franchitti wins IndyCar series title

October 11, 2009|staff and wire reports

On a day when no caution flags came out, Dario Franchitti reigned supreme over the IndyCar series again.

Franchitti emerged victorious from one of the closest points races in series history Saturday, winning the season-ending Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Florida in the first caution-free IRL race ever. He used a significantly different fuel strategy than did the other two title contenders, Scott Dixon and Ryan Briscoe, and was rewarded with his second championship in three years.

"I still can't believe it," said Franchitti, the scent of champagne obvious on his soaked race suit an hour after the checkered flag came out in his honor. "Really, I can't."

Maybe it was all in the numbers: On the 10th day of the 10th month of the year, Franchitti's No. 10 car won a championship -- the 10th win of the season for Target Chip Ganassi Racing, to boot.

Franchitti's IndyCar contract with Ganassi was drawn up on a cocktail napkin. In the end, it was genius.

"There's a lot of guys who can win races," Ganassi said. "There aren't as many who can win championships."

Franchitti sat back in third place, about 25 seconds behind Dixon and Briscoe, saving fuel over much of the final 50 laps. When his two fellow contenders pitted late, the title was his.

Only a caution could have saved Dixon and Briscoe, and somehow, that flag was never needed.

Dixon, Franchitti's teammate in the Ganassi garage, was second in the points standings. Franchitti finished with 616 points, Dixon had 605 and Briscoe -- who led 103 of the 200 laps for Penske Racing -- finished with 604.

Tony Kanaan was fourth and Helio Castroneves fifth.

The average speed of 201.420 mph was the second-quickest in IRL history.

NHRA

Second-place Larry Dixon cut into Tony Schumacher's top fuel points lead with his fourth straight No. 1 qualifier in the NHRA Virginia Nationals at Virginia Motorsports Park in Dinwiddie.

Jack Beckman (funny car) and Mike Edwards (pro stock) also led qualifying in the fourth event in NHRA's six-race playoff, the Countdown to 1.

Dixon, who had his eighth No. 1 qualifier of 2009 and 39th overall, sliced his deficit behind Schumacher from 54 to 47 points with a 3.783-second pass at 311.27 mph.

Irwindale

M.K. Kanke of Frazier Park took over the lead from Brennan Newberry on Lap 78 and went on to win the NTS 125 SRL Spears Southwest Tour 125-lap race at Toyota Speedway in Irwindale. The win was Kanke's fourth of the season and he maintains the series points lead over Greg Voigt.

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