In one of the most popular victories in recent years, Ed Carpenter exorcised the runner-up demons of the last two years to score his first IZOD IndyCar Series win for Sarah Fisher Racing at Kentucky Speedway.
The closest Carpenter had come to a win in his first 112 starts was second at this race the last two years. He edged Dario Franchitti by 0.0098sec at the line, the closest finish at Kentucky and sixth closest in series history.
“It felt way better than I thought it would,” Carpenter said. “I knew we had a better car. My visor was falling off, but I wasn't about to let a loose visor stop me. I drove 15 or 20 laps one-handed.”
His team repaired the visor, which was loose at the top left of his helmet, on one of his stops.
Carpenter had one of the strongest cars all 200 laps, and after passing Scott Dixon on the race's final restart, he trailed and then shifted to Dario Franchitti's outside in the waning stages. Once he got outside, he was able to conserve his remaining push-to-passes better than Franchitti, and nosed ahead toward the line.
“We had very good restart gears,” Carpenter explained. “Dixon struggled on the bottom, and he didn't get the chance to slot in behind Dario. I had one more push-to-pass and that helped.”
An unofficial second home for both Carpenter and Fisher, Fisher scored the first pole by a female driver at Kentucky in 2002, and now has her first win as a team owner.
For Fisher, the win was a huge range of emotions after welcoming new baby Zoey O'Gara with her husband Andy only last month, and revealing a possible departure of primary sponsor Dollar General.
“To see Ed just drive his tail off was so amazing,” Fisher said. “Dollar General had said earlier they weren't coming back, maybe they will now reconsider. I haven't been in the shop in three weeks. She's (Zoey) obviously a good luck charm.”
Franchitti came second, having lost one decision but moving ahead in the title chase over arch-rival Will Power now by 18 points. Power led by 11 entering the weekend.
“I would have enjoyed it a lot more had we won, but congrats to Ed for just a great job,” he said. “I had to use my overtakes early. If he would have cleared me sooner, it was over.”
Power's car was quickest in the first stint of the race, but things went terribly awry on his first pit stop. Dreyer & Reinbold Racing released Ana Beatriz into Power's path as the Australian entered his pit. Beatriz's front wing contacted Power's left sidepod, punching a hole that created a serious amount of drag and eliminated what speed he'd shown.
“She was sent into me, there was nothing I could do,” Power said. “We had the quickest car, by far. But the contact punched a hole in the sidepod and we lost 4mph. I fought to hold on to the back of the field but there was so much drag.”
An awkward situation to begin with is slightly exacerbated by the fact Power is married to D&R's ace PR representative, Liz Cannon.
Power finished 19th and Beatriz's day got worse after a hard crash in Turn 3 late in the race. The third and final caution for Beatriz meant everyone who stopped on lap 140 could make it to the finish.
Everyone that was, except Graham Rahal, whose short-fill on his prior stop left him with yet another result unrepresentative of where he ran. The outside front row starter wound up a disheartened 12th.
Carpenter, Franchitti and Dixon led home James Hinchcliffe in fourth and Ryan Hunter-Reay to complete the top five. Hinchcliffe now moves ahead of JR Hildebrand by six points to lead the Rookie of the Year standings into Las Vegas.
Oriol Servia advanced from ninth to sixth, Wade Cunningham was an impressive seventh from 15th in his second full weekend in an IndyCar, with Ryan Briscoe, Buddy Rice and Danica Patrick in the top 10.
Hildebrand was involved in one of four pit incidents on the day – he had hit one of his team's crew members on a late stop and fell from the top five to 20th by the flag.
The Power/Beatriz was another dust up, along with Simona de Silvestro losing control of her HVM Racing entry and contacting a crew member on EJ Viso's KV Racing Technology-Lotus effort, while Marco Andretti cost himself his race by drag-racing Rahal out of the pits.
Andretti was caught in a four-wide moment in the pits sandwiched in-between Rahal, Viso and Alex Lloyd, before Lloyd's pit. Lloyd was hit on entry into his pit, which took him out. Incidentally, this marked the second time of the year Andretti has collided with the No. 19 Dale Coyne entry in the pits – the other was a coming-together with Sebastien Bourdais at Long Beach.
“They came in as I came out, but Dad pointed out it was my fault because I launched out next to where Rahal was before he turned in,” Andretti said.
Unofficially, Franchitti heads to Las Vegas up 573-555 over Power. Dixon is third at 528 points after a split day for him where he clinched the A.J. Foyt Oval Trophy but was mathematically eliminated from the overall championship.
Oriol Servia has clinched fourth regardless of the Las Vegas result, while the battle rages for fifth between Tony Kanaan and Briscoe. Hunter-Reay, Andretti, Rahal and Patrick complete the top 10 in points.
Results - 200 laps:
Pos Driver Team Time/Gap
1. Ed Carpenter Sarah Fisher 1h42m02.7825s
2. Dario Franchitti Ganassi + 0.0098s
3. Scott Dixon Ganassi + 0.1048s
4. James Hinchcliffe Newman/Haas + 0.3007s
5. Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti + 0.4040s
6. Oriol Servia Newman/Haas + 0.6806s
7. Wade Cunningham Sam Schmidt + 0.7020s
8. Ryan Briscoe Penske + 0.7895s
9. Buddy Rice Panther + 1.0011s
10. Danica Patrick Andretti + 1.0076s
11. Townsend Bell Dreyer & Reinbold + 1.1767s
12. Graham Rahal Ganassi + 1.2320s
13. Charlie Kimball Ganassi + 1.7795s
14. Dan Wheldon Sam Schmidt + 2.0668s
15. Takuma Sato KV + 2.1166s
16. Vitor Meira Foyt + 2.4294s
17. Tony Kanaan KV + 3.0101s
18. Mike Conway Andretti + 3.4607s
19. Will Power Penske + 6.4970s
20. JR Hildebrand Panther + 1 lap
21. James Jakes Dale Coyne + 2 laps
22. Pippa Mann Rahal Letterman Lanigan + 3 laps
23. EJ Viso KV + 8 laps
Ana Beatriz Dreyer & Reinbold 165 laps
Simona de Silvestro HVM 141 laps
Alex Lloyd Dale Coyne 140 laps
Marco Andretti Andretti 140 laps
Dillon Battistini Conquest 124 laps
Helio Castroneves Penske 34 laps