Franchitti, Castroneves locked in battle

DEAN McNULTY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:59 PM ET

INDIANAPOLIS — Scotland’s Dario Franchitti delivered a message to Brazil’s Helio Castroneves on Carburetion Day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway: Don’t start engraving your name on the Borg-Warner Trophy for the fourth time just yet.

Franchitti laid down a lap of 225.574 m.p.h. Friday in the sunshine on the final day of practice before Sunday’s Indianapolis 500.

Castroneves, who has been anointed by most experts as the odds-on favourite to win for the fourth time at the Brickyard, was only fifth fastest on Friday at 224.753 m.p.h.

To add to the budding rivalry between the two veteran drivers, Chip Ganassi Racing, for whom Franchitti toils, is locked in a battle with Penske Racing that runs Castroneves, to claim another Indy 500 victory.

In the past 10 years at IMS, Penske and Ganassi have collected seven victories in May.

But Penske is still the king with a record 15 Indy 500 victories compared to Ganassi’s two.

And the pair also compete in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series.

So Franchitti is under some pressure to get his boss back into the win column at Indy on Sunday.

After Friday’s practice he thinks he can do it.

“We worked hard on our race setup throughout the week and I’m pretty happy with the car,” said Franchitti.

He will be up close and personal with Castroneves right from the green flag as his No. 10 Honda-powered Dallara will start next to the Penske No. 3 on Sunday afternoon.

It will be Franchitti’s fourth start from the first row in his seven Indy 500 races.

Castroneves, however, isn’t about to move out of the way to let Franchitti win. He said he is confident that his team will be ready to go for win No. 16.

“We kind of shuffled people around (on the team) this year, but we all still have everybody in sync,” Castroneves said. “But with this team, the minute after we won last year everybody started to work on winning this year. That is what makes Penske so great and what gives me the confidence to think we can do it again.”

The second fastest lap Friday was turned in by Franchitti’s teammate Scott Dixon — at 225.159 m.p.h. — which shows how well the Ganassi team is also running.

Dixon was only a couple of laps away from beating Castroneves in 2009 and he, too, would like a chance to drink the milk in the winner’s circle.

“Last year we made a couple of mistakes at the end of the race on pit stops and it kind of ruined our day,” Dixon said. “This is a long race but you and the team have to function perfectly to win.”

If there is one unknown factor that might throw both Penske’s and Ganassi’s plan in the garbage pile, it’s that of the FAZZT Racing team of Montreal’s Alex Tagliani and his teammate Bruno Junqueira.

Tagliani will start fifth on Sunday and yesterday had a top 10 speed of 223.523 m.p.h.

“I’m just very happy again today,” Tagliani said.

“The car is good in traffic and I think we have a very competitive car.

“My goal today was to make sure the car was consistent through the long runs and so far, mission accomplished. We just have 500 miles to go and if we can be there at the end, I think we can contend for the win.”

The biggest surprise, however, came from Junqueira who ripped off a lap of 224.898, fourth fastest on the day.

“I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think I can win,” Junqueira said. “There is a lot of experience on this team and the car is very fast. Don’t count me out.

“I think I’m getting the groove of it now.”


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