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This could hurt a bit...

Chris Estrada
| Jun 12, 2011


It’s still June, but the IZOD IndyCar Series championship may have already been decided – by a stroke of luck, no less.

Normally, race winners are supposed to be happy about their success. Instead, Dario Franchitti was furious on Saturday night at Texas Motor Speedway. After claiming the first of two 114-lap races on the agenda, the three-time series champion (as well as the other 29 drivers on the grid) were subjected to a blind draw that determined the starting grid for the second race.

His title rival Will Power’s draw? Third.

Franchitti’s draw? 28th.


Try as Franchitti might, he couldn’t make up the distance and had to settle for seventh place while Will Power followed up his third-place finish in Race One with his long-awaited first oval victory. And with that, Power’s lead in the championship over Franchitti increased a little bit to 21 points.

But as we all know, a little bit goes a hell of a long way in this form of motorsport.

“We shouldn’t have been in that position to start with,” Franchitti said. “To have a championship round of the [IZOD] IndyCar Series and drawing the grid from a hat is a joke. Through no fault of our own, we started 25 places behind Will. He took advantage of it and he did a great job, but through no fault of myself and the Target [Chip Ganassi Racing] team, we had a massive handicap.

“We had great pit stops. I drove as hard as I could all night and made up 21 places, and still lost – again, through no fault of our own – a lot of championship points…I’m sitting there thinking, ‘Okay, I won the first race,’ but at the same point, my emotion right now has just been pissed off about the hand we were dealt tonight.”

In stark contrast to Franchitti’s agitation after the race was Power’s exuberance at finally winning on a speedway. However, the Team Penske pilot also sympathized with Franchitti’s plight, agreeing that the blind draw was not fair.

“I thought coming into this race that you don’t control your own destiny basically – it’s just a draw,” Power said. “It was going to be very unfair to someone and it happened to be Dario.

“In a tightly fought championship, you just can’t have that because if it comes down to five points at the end of the year, Dario will look back at this race and say, ‘Well, if I started where I should’ve, I would’ve had those five points.’”

Considering how tight their title duel in 2010 ended up, as well as how they’ve seamlessly continued the nip-and-tuck rivalry in 2011, Texas may well be the turning point of this year’s championship for all the wrong reasons.

For fans that have watched a series produce one battle to the finish after another on its own merit – i.e. without the assistance of a contrived “playoff” system – it must be tough to fathom that a gimmicky blind draw may wind up as the difference when the dust settles in Las Vegas. 

INDYCAR and Texas Motor Speedway certainly had their hearts in the right place and wanted to drum up excitement for the fans. That’s admirable and necessary. But with the potential effects of Saturday’s events on the championship, perhaps some changes need to be made to the Texas twin format if it is to survive as a points-paying entity.

Full inversion comes to mind automatically of course, and Franchitti said himself that he would have been cool with that since he would’ve started just two spots further back and everyone else “would’ve been in the same boat.”

Franchitti also relayed an interesting idea from teammate Scott Dixon, who lost to Franchitti in Race One by .05 of a second – give points for each pass a driver makes.

“Not bad for a daft Kiwi, huh?,” Franchitti jokingly said of Dixon with a grin that, up to that point, had been elusive since the end of Race Two.

Rest assured, though, if he loses the championship on account of what happened deep in the heart of Texas, the Scotsman will not be smiling.




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  15. 15 Prof. Bucket 14 Jun

    Have 28 cars split into 4 heat races of about one fuel load each.  First and second of each heat advance to the final for about an hour's worth of racing.  Plenty of full-tilt racing action, less pacing to make fuel, few traffic-jamming crashes, plenty of sponsor decal exposures, more TV commercial breaks (income).  First and second place in heats get half points.  Final field gets full points.  $5,000 contribution to the charity of your choice for post-race whines.

    Indycar is some of the best racing anywhere and all the competitors are remarkable.  Keep it going and growing--whatever it takes to keep the whole season in business and available for the fans.  My son and I were at the Indy 500 this year and it was breathtaking and a lifetime memory for us both.  To see the incredible skills of the crews and drivers in a slightly different format on another track will be just fine for us.


  16. 16 racingAsh 13 Jun

    I think Dario & Chip's criticism was on the mark. He's trying to win a championship.  Frankly, I am glad he is so passionate about the IZOD IndyCar title.  Every time we've spoken to Dario at the track he has been genuine and nice. He's never rude or arrogant.  He's never spent the whole time texting or never looked up.  This is first and foremost a motor sport competition.  I still don't understand the entertainment value of the lottery beyond watching drivers turn tires during the intermission.  I don't see what's exciting about seeing a strong car at the front and another strong car at the back (If Dario was doing this for an extra million dollars, I would understand).  Neither, do I see what's so great about seeing a car that performed poorly in the first race, draw a number that put them at the back of the field for the second race.  The lottery system ruined the second race for me.  I really wanted to see a smaller team win the race.  When Power drew the 3rd position, we all knew the race was over.  Most likely, there would not be another driver to challenge him. Penske's trying to win a championship, so it was unlikely Ryan or Helio would have passed him.  Inverting the field would have been awesome.  Will had to pass two cars for the lead. Scott passed 16.  Dario passed 20.  Frankly, it didn't take long for us to have a Penske 1,2,3...  Frankly, I walked away from this weekend with a much greater admiration for Target Chip Ganassi and the skill of their drivers.

  17. 17 Richard 13 Jun

    Dario's comments and feelings are right on! The starting lineup for the second race, determined by a blind drawing was/is a contrived fiasco. The whole series used to have its champion determined by who was the best overall. It certainly now has the potential of a champ getting the title by the luck of the draw. Let's have them race all season and as tradition, let the best driver win. (No offense aimed at Will or any other driver, they all followed the rules for the Texas race.)

    If Texas or any sppedway wants to set up a Race of Champions with a contived lineup, go ahead, it might even boost interest in the event, but it should be a non points race.

    I was at Texas, and have been there for about 5-years now. Always used to be a good race. It didn't need to be changed. And by the way...the fans all had to kill an hour wating for the second race to get set up and start.


  18. 18 bill 13 Jun
    The second race was great,IRL tried something new,it was exciting for fans.DARIO made a big charge to the front.Many drivers would kill for a run like that.ALSO,plenty of time and racin left for any DRIVER to win the crown.Maybe a HUG IS WHAT YOU NEED... Nice Job I. R.L.
  19. 19 Lynn 13 Jun
    It was great for fans therefore great for the sport. Get over your self Dario!! Starting in the back and driving to front would have shown your talents as a driver, instead your whining showed, well, you're a whiner.
  20. 20 indyfan 13 Jun
    In the first race, Will definately had the stronger car after the last caution and should have won the first race, but Dixon was clearly blocking for Dario. At Barber, Dixon was all over Will for "blocking" on the restarts. Same thing for last year at Miami; Dixon was clearly blocking for Dario. Ganassi nedds to pull up their Huggies and just drive the car; Dario isn't the only one having bad luck. Helio punted Will at Long Beach or Will would have had a lot better finish. Go Will Power.
  21. 21 Katfaefife 13 Jun
    Dont ever rule him out, He's not called the Flying Scottsman for nothing,    ya ken!!!!!
  22. 22 Jason 13 Jun
    It is apropos for Dario to be sponsored by Huggies. He was whining like a little baby.
  23. 23 Shields 13 Jun

    Yellow flags rob the leader of their big leads.
    The small teams that come up with good qualifying times and can't afford fast pit crews.
    Debris on the course causing flat tires.
    Drivers running out of gas, causing a rookie to go high and hit the wall one corner before winning Indy.
    Rained out qualifying and going with a points start (specially early in the year).
    Having an issue during qualifying.
    Overtaking backmarkers racing for position.
    Getting taken out in someone else's wreck.
    My favorite driver not getting the pole and winning every race.

    Making racing fair would make it less entertaining. One race with everyone having a chance for position at the draw is entertaining.
    Although, the fist race should have been a draw and the second race an inversion of the first draw to make it more even. 

    I do believe an inverted field by qualifying or finish would tend to put each row over taking the row in front of them at about the same tine. having all of the cars that close would likely generate a big one.

  24. 24 tutorindie 13 Jun
    Wasn't Dario further behind last year with fewer races left?  I hated the draw, but he can find a way.  It's still going to come down to the wire.
  25. 25 Brett 13 Jun

    I miss spoke earlier it wouldn't be Gram on pole if done by laptimes in race 1 it would be EJ Viso.  Just look at this grid and think "Oh what could have been"


  26. 26 Duncan 13 Jun

    If you are going to use a lottery system for starting positions it needs to be done for the first race. Then make the second race an inverted grid. It is more fair that way.

    We used that system at our kart club. If you start up front one race your are at the back the next, and vice versa.

  27. 27 Marty 13 Jun

    I thoroughly enjoyed the draw for setting the grid of the second race.  While I don't want to give in to whining from the Target Ganassi team, I agree with Brett's idea.  I spent some time after the race thinking about what would be fair, different, and interesting.  Using the fastest lap times from Race 1 to set the grid for Race 2 would be the way to go.  Every once in a while we hear about some of the "little guys" turning really fast laps farther back in the field.  It would be fun and different to see them start up front for a race, while still having the starting positions based on merit instead of luck.  Perhaps to spice it up, IndyCar can hide this part of timing and scoring from the fans, media, and teams.  Then during halftime, reveal the fastest lap times one by one.  That way we can have a surprise, a little drama, and get those halftime driver interviews, which I enjoyed.

  28. 28 Artie 13 Jun

    Although the lottery was extremely entertaining, Dario's absolutely right that's not fair especially given how competitive the championship has been even up to the final race in the last few years.  Flipping the field would have been every bit as entertaining and would have been a great solution.

  29. 29 DZ 13 Jun

    I can understand the complaint, but can tell you that while at a friend's party, instead of myself and maybe one other 'sneaking' into the living room for a quick TV update of a typical race, we had 12 people (2 diehards and 10 new fans) watching the draw play out and the beginning of the 2nd race. People eventually settled back into the party (outdoors on a gorgeous night) but kept checking the outcome of the 2nd race. 

    As a competitor, and specifically for Dario, yes this could prove to be a cruel handicap, yet with this format, someone will always complain about drawing a bad spot.  Also, did anyone hear a peep from Justin Wilson who got the worst starting spot?  Maybe since Justin's not on one of the 'elite' teams, DRR's plight doesn't matter to Dario and Ganassi as much. Yeah, sorry Captain Huggies, sometimes luck bites you and it hurts a little.

  30. 30 Rogue63 13 Jun
    I saw someone suggested on Facebook that the Starting Grid  from the first race should have been reversed instead of the lottery draw.  I agree it would make the race alot more interesting.  I don't know if IZOD Indy Series would pick it up if the fans suggest it.  Wouldn't it even up the field alittle bit putting all the fastest to slowest in back to see what happens.
  31. 31 David 13 Jun
    Dario needs to move on.  It was exciting for the fans.  The old adage of the cream rising to the top was true.  He drove conservative at the start and then made it to 7th.  Maybe in the half hour teams could work on cars, TCGR should have set his car up for dirty air.  It was stated several times during the 1st race that Dario's car was set up for clean air.  Quit complaining and just enjoy the race for what it was.  Your driving skills were on display by finishing where you did.
  32. 32 DanSanfy13 13 Jun

    I agree with Dario. A drive can not run a race hoping to get lucky. They work hard! Work on the set up, strategies, their mental trength. Qualify the car at the best of their ability to have more chances to win.

    The races can not be a matter of luck.

  33. 33 Brett 13 Jun
    Having passing points would still make the most possible points based on the luck of the draw that solves nothing.  Full inversion puts the slowest cars in the front of the field this is a worse case scenario.  I give Wade Cunningham huge credit jumping into a new car for the first time on the out side of row one and not causing a big wreck.  Make that the standard and you well have a big wreck sooner rather then later. So a full inversion also solves nothing.  If you are going to have a twin race format (which I wish they would just do away with) there are only two ways to set the field for the second race.  The "old way" set on finishing position of the first race.  Which makes it more of a competition red flag where you reset and put everyone back on the lead lap but other then that nothing changes.  Or what I think is the best idea, would be to use race 1 not only as a points paying race but also as a group qualifying for race 2.  So the fastest lap time turned in race 1 would get the pole and so on.  This would still shake up the field some (putting Gram on pole for race 2) but would still be a legitimate way to set a grid, it's the best of both worlds!
  34. 34 Duke 13 Jun
      I applaud IndyCar for trying different ways to make racing more exciting.  Most everyone agrees it not a fair format for the Championship. Make the 1st races a points race, invert the field and run for some cash in the 2nd.
  35. 35 Chuck Burns 13 Jun
    At least Gossage is trying something different, but I agree that an inverted start would have been much more equal, or like Scotty 'D' said, give the drivers points to pass. Perhaps 1/2 poinr per car passed. That would have left Dario right about where he would've been had they inverted. Hmmmmmm!
  36. 36 Andrew 13 Jun

    i think the lottery was a good idea. but if they do it again i think they should run a practice session first and then do a lottery from slowest time to fastest time.


    the cars who are the fastest obviously move up the grid quicker which was proven by both ganassi drivers, plus it is more exciting for the fans. the racing was great on the weekend, 11 races to go, plenty of time to make up points!

  37. 37 Elizabeth 13 Jun

    I love this format and Dario needs to get over it.  I don't know what's been happening over at Ganassi racing, but when did they become such whiners.  I have never been a Ganassi fan, but I was still a fan of Dixon and Dario, not so much any more.  Their whining and complaining is getting very old and I'm tired of them complaining like 3 year olds.


  38. 38 sejarzo 13 Jun
    Damn straight, Dario. This was just another example of Gossage's pandering to the lowest common denominator in an attempt to manufacture some unneeded drama...and all it did was give us two rather boring races compared to the typical TMS event and hand Will points on a platter.

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