Franchitti wins IndyCar race at Milwaukee

June 19, 2011 - 6:14 PM
IndyCar Milwaukee Auto Racing

Drivers including Dario Franchitti (10), of Scotland, head through the fourth turn during the IndyCar Series' Milwaukee Mile 225 auto race at the Milwaukee Mile on Sunday, June 19, 2011, in West Allis, Wis. (AP Photo/Darren Hauck)

WEST ALLIS, Wis. (AP) — Dario Franchitti took over the lead when Helio Castroneves had a tire problem, then held on to win the IndyCar Series race at the Milwaukee Mile on Sunday.

It was the third victory of the season for Franchitti, who stayed out of trouble as two fellow contenders fell by the wayside. Tony Kanaan crashed with 31 laps to go, and Castroneves gave up the lead when he had to make a late extra pit stop to change a tire that was going flat.

Graham Rahal was second, followed by Oriol Servia, Will Power and Danica Patrick.

Castroneves finished ninth.

It was a return to racing for the Milwaukee Mile, a historic track that dates to 1903 but didn't host major events last year because of previous promoters' financial problems.

IndyCar was back on the schedule this year but fan response was tepid at best, with the grandstands perhaps one-third full at the green flag. That was despite increased efforts by the new event promoter, including a two-for-one ticket deal.

NASCAR still hasn't returned to the Mile; the Nationwide Series instead will race next weekend on the road course at Road America, about an hour north of Milwaukee.

Franchitti dominated the early stages of the race, but Kanaan and Castroneves eventually emerged as contenders.

Castroneves took the lead after a round of pit stops on lap 167, but began to slow down gradually when his left-rear tire began going flat. Castroneves stayed on the track, hoping for a caution flag.

He got it when Kanaan spun out and crashed with 31 laps to go — a boost for Castroneves, who could make a pit stop under caution. But Franchitti regained the lead when Castroneves pitted and fell back to 10th.

Franchitti then surged away on the restart with 20 laps to go and wasn't challenged the rest of the way.

It turned out to be a decent day for Power, who came into the race with a 21-point lead over Franchitti but started 17th on Sunday after a bad run in qualifying while Franchitti won the pole.

A good pit stop near the end helped Power pull off a top-five finish.

It was a rough weekend for Simona De Silvestro, who was hospitalized Saturday night after crashing in qualifying Saturday.

IndyCar officials cleared De Silvestro to race Sunday morning, after her crew worked into the early morning hours to repair her car. But she didn't last long once the green flag fell, pulling into the pits and getting out of the car just a few laps into the race.

It's the continuation of a run of rough luck for De Silvestro, who burned both her hands in a crash during Indianapolis 500 practice last month.