NEWTON – The only thing that prevented Dario Franchitti from sweeping races in the early years at Iowa Speedway was himself.
Franchitti won twice in the first three years at the 0.875-mile track, but those wins were separated by a season competing in NASCAR.
The four-time IZOD IndyCar Series champion will attempt to earn his second win of the season and climb closer to the top-five in points at the Iowa Corn Indy 250 Saturday at Iowa Speedway. The race will run under the lights, starting at 9 p.m.
He placed fifth here in 2011, and was impressed by the event won by Marco Andretti.
“Last year’s race was incredible,” said Franchitti, who led 170 laps. “I think this year’s will be just as good.”
Like 2007, the Scottish race car driver would like to pair up an Indianapolis 500 with a win in Iowa. Franchitti, who has four top-10 finishes and three in the top five, won his third Indy 500 in May, which was a highlight of an inconsistent season for his standards.
“Indy was very special,” said Franchitti, who earned his second pole of the season last week at The Milwaukee Mile and led 63 laps before late crash ended his day in 19th place. “It’s a special race, and anytime you can do well there it is great.”
The crown jewel of the IndyCar season was more memorable due to the honoring of the 2011 Indy 500 champ Dan Wheldon, who died in a crash during the final race of last season at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Wheldon won the Iowa Corn 250 in 2008.
“There was an out-pouring of emotion for Dan,” Franchitti said. “Just paying respect to him and that was really great to see all the fans, drivers, teams, IndyCar Series, (and Indianapolis Motor) Speedway itself.”
Target Chip Ganassi Racing finished first and second with Scott Dixon finishing behind his teammate. Franchitti was spun out and was sent to the back of the pack, maneuvering through the field for the win.
“Credit to Dario,” Dixon said in a TCGR news release. “He had a bad start to the day and came through the field. It’s a 1-2 finish for Target on their 50th anniversary. You couldn’t have it a better way.”
Franchitti has been successful at Iowa Speedway, leading 69 laps before a gear box issue dropped him to 18th.Many drivers compare the speeds at the short oval to that of a super speedway. He has a handle on the intricacies of the track.
“By character, are you talking about bumps?” Franchitti asked with a laugh when asked about Iowa Speedway after a test session last week. “It’s not as bad as it looks on TV. I watched the Nationwide race and really thought it was going to be tough, but it’s not quite as bumpy.”
The treacherous bump between Turns 1 and 2 have wreaked havoc on IndyCar drivers in previous years. That has not changed much, and third trip to Iowa Speedway’s victory lane could depend on how Franchitti handles it.
“Turn 2 is obviously the big problem still,” Franchitti said. “We’ve got to get the car working there.”