June 16, 2009

Short Trackin' Indy style

For the next two weeks, the Indy Racing League is going short trackin', but don't look for the same beating and banging you've grown accustomed to in NASCAR competition. The sleek open wheel cars are all about precision, even on ovals measuring less than a mile in length. Of course smaller tracks mean that drivers are rarely out of contact with another car, and a different mindset is required to run well on these.

Three drivers have been nearly perfect at Iowa Speedway—a .875-mile course—and Richmond International Raceway—the .750-mile short track that Iowa was patterned after. Foremost among these is Dario Franchitti. He took last year off to race with NASCAR good old boys, but in 2007 he swept both races at Iowa and Richmond. Before 2007, the IRL ran at Richmond only and Franchitti finished second in 2005 and third in 2006. The only time he failed to finish in the top five was in his first effort in Virginia in 2004.

Dan Wheldon has finished in the top 10 seven times in eight starts on IRL's two active short tracks and he also has a pair of victories on these courses. He won at Richmond in 2004 and Iowa last year. With a worst finish of 11th, Wheldon has an average of 5.25 at Richmond and Iowa, which lags well behind Franchitti's 3.80.

Marco Andretti has the third-best average finish among active IndyCar drivers. With a 6.0, he's had higher lows than his three principal rivals. Andretti has failed to win one of his five short track attempts, but he came close at Iowa in 2007 when he finished second to Franchitti. With three top-fives, four top-10s and a worst finish of 12th, he nevertheless makes a great candidate for this week's lineup.

IndyCar short tracks, last five races

DriverAvg Finish2008 Richmond2008 Iowa2007 Richmond2007 Iowa2006 Richmond
Dario Franchitti1.67

Dan Wheldon5.60413119
Marco Andretti6.00931224
Scott Dixon6.003421011
Hideki Mutoh7.50132

Helio Castroneves 9.0021411810
Danica Patrick9.206661315
Justin Wilson9.50712

Tomas Scheckter 11.00

Ryan Briscoe11.00157

Tony Kanaan11.4011841618
E J Viso11.501013

Sarah Fisher11.50

Ed Carpenter11.6011231068
Ryan Hunter-Reay12.00168

Anthony Foyt IV13.502451312
Graham Rahal14.001810

Mario Moraes18.001719

Milka Duno20.33

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