Two weekends, two oval track races, two completely different outcomes with a common thread. Two weeks ago, Dario Franchitti used pit strategy to take the win for Target Chip Ganassi Racing in Chicago. This past weekend, Helio Castroneves used pit strategy to take the victory for Team Penske in Kentucky; aside from that, the two races could not have been more dissimilar.
Chicago, sadly absent from the 2011 IndyCar schedule, was a nail-biter complete with three wide racing through corners the entire night. Kentucky, on the other hand, was a boring game of follow-the-leader, with the only wild card occurring when Panther Racing’s Ed Carpenter snatched the pole away from Team Penske’s Will Power. Good drivers on under-funded teams can still be competitive in IndyCar, which makes me wonder why Andretti Autosport is struggling so much this year.
Anyway, back to Kentucky: Helio Castroneves relied on an alternate pit strategy and fuel conservation to win Saturday night’s Kentucky Indy 300. Castroneves had the slowest car of all the Team Penske drivers, but managed to stretch his fuel load the longest. With a handful of laps remaining, Castroneves took the race lead when the front runners pitted for a splash-and-dash fuel stop. Ed Carpenter finished second, and Carpenter’s Panther Racing teammate Dan Wheldon took the last podium spot.
With two races remaining in the 2010 IndyCar season, Will Power (Team Penske) retains a 17 point lead over Dario Franchitti (Target Chip Ganassi) in the championship points standing. Scott Dixon (Target Chip Ganassi) sits in thirds position, but is some 66 points back from Franchitti. Barring any truly bizarre twists of fate, the points battle comes down to Power versus Franchitti, which should make for some good racing in the final two events.