Franchitti Or Power – Who Will Win First?

When the 2012 Indianapolis 500 was completed, Dario Franchitti finally had his first win of the season. Franchitti was coming off of his fourth straight IndyCar championship, keeping in mind that he did not compete in the series in 2008. When Franchitti won his third Indianapolis 500 that day in 2012, not only did he cement his face for a third time on the Borg-Warner trophy – he also ended a losing streak that had dated back to July 11, 2011 at Toronto.

A drought of ten and a half months was unheard of for the Scottish driver. Little did we know that we had seen the last of Dario Franchitti in Victory Lane for any race since then…for the time being. The last time Franchitti did not win at least one race was in 2006, when he finished eighth in points. The good news is that after that winless season, Franchitti reeled off four straight championships. Today, Dario Franchitti is mired in twelfth place – one hundred thirty points behind points-leader Helio Castroneves; but I’d be lying if I thought he was setting himself up for another string of championships.

At the time of Franchitti’s lone win of the 2012 season, Will Power was coming off of a string of three victories and was sitting atop the 2012 championship standings. After a decent seventh place finish at St. Petersburg, Power ripped off impressive wins at Barber, Long Beach and São Paulo. The Brazil race took place on April 29, 2012. Power has not won a race since – a span of twenty-one races.

During the 2010 and 2011 seasons, Dario Franchitti and Will Power battled throughout the season for the IndyCar championship – with Franchitti coming out on top both times. In 2009, it was another Team Penske driver- Ryan Briscoe -that took the fight to Franchitti. Franchitti won that battle too. If you are a fan of Team Penske, Dario Franchitti has been a thorn in your side over the past few years.

We are now one and a half seasons removed from Dario Franchitti’s last championship. Franchitti finished seventh last season, but was never a factor in the point standings. On the other hand, Will Power was in a position to finally win his first championship, but he wilted under pressure down the stretch and inexplicably crashed in the season finale at Fontana, setting the table for Ryan Hunter-Reay to grab the championship with a decent finish that hot September night in Southern California. Hunter-Reay did what he had to do and Power was left with another offseason to ponder what might have been.

Now the two traditional combatants from 2011 and 2012 have both gone well over a year without tasting victory. This Saturday will be fourteen months since Power won. Franchitti has gone just a little over thirteen months since his last win. For 2013, Team Penske has one win, while Chip Ganassi Racing is still seeking its first. What in the world is going on here?

In the meantime, we’ve seen three drivers get their first career wins this season and victories have come from unlikely teams like AJ Foyt Enterprises, Sam Schmidt Motorsports and Dale Coyne Racing. As we have crossed the halfway point of the season, it seems that normalcy is beginning to take hold. The last three races have been won by Team Penske and Andretti Autosport. As the earth begins to settle back on its axis, there is one question that is looming. Which of the iconic drivers will win next – Dario Franchitti or Will Power?

Much has been made of the struggles at Chip Ganassi Racing this season. Most point to the Honda engine, which has won only three races compared to seven for Chevrolet. That certainly can’t be dismissed, but Scott Dixon is seventh in points and has been somewhat competitive. Dario Franchitti’s car has been well off the pace this season. I realize cars operate separately and independent of each other within a team. But at some point you would think that both cars on a two-car team would get on the same page with each other. If that’s the case, how can you explain the differences in the two Target cars at several races this season?

One theory suggests that Dario has never come to grips with the left-foot braking that is required in the DW12. Supposedly, the team rigged up something to allow him to continue his right-foot braking last year. I’m not sure how that has worked out, but it is worth pointing out that the other fully right-front braking driver in the series – Helio Castroneves – has adjusted pretty well to the left-footed style used in the DW12. Besides, how much braking do drivers do on ovals? Dario has been as uncompetitive on ovals as he has the non-ovals for the past two seasons.

Perhaps there is just some characteristic of the DW12 that Dario can’t deal with. I don’t know. Dario’s personal life in dealing with his divorce may be intruding into the cockpit. Father Time may be intervening – he is now over forty. Add these factors and theories to the Honda engine and a general downturn and it may all add up to a lack of performance and results for Franchitti.

On the other hand; although Will Power has gone winless for a longer period of time – my money is on Will Power to score a victory before Dario Franchitti. Power is only thirty-two, so he has time on his side. Although both “power teams” are struggling this season, Ganassi has struggled much more than Penske. Having a sub-par Team Penske behind you is still better than most teams that are having a good day. Then there is the Chevy engine that is under Power’s cowling. The Chevy has out-performed Honda at most tracks this season.

So on paper, it looks like the odds are in favor of Will Power making his way back to victory lane before his old nemesis does. But paper means very little. Don’t discount the wily Scotsman just yet. After Pocono, there is Toronto where Franchitti got the best of Power two years ago – prompting Power to denounce Franchitti as “always being a bit of a wanker”.

With two more double-headers, there are eight races remaining on the IndyCar schedule. The chance that both of these great drivers will continue their winless ways throughout the season is unlikely. One of them will win. Who will do it first – Franchitti or Power? My money is on Power, but don’t be surprised if it’s Franchitti. How’s that for waffling?

George Phillips

Please note: With the IndyCar Series getting some time off this weekend, I’ll do likewise. There will be no post here on Friday June 28 or Monday July 1. I will return here on Wednesday July 3 – just before the Fourth of July and Pocono. Have a great pre-Fourth weekend. – GP

8 Responses to “Franchitti Or Power – Who Will Win First?”

  1. Brian McKay Says:

    another very enjoyable blog post, George
    Keep up the good work for our infotainment.

  2. Dario just seems like he’s given up on the season at this point. I know, that’s a strong accusation to make, but there is just something about his demeanor that gives the impression he’s resigned to his fate this year.

    Power’s got the car & the team to win, he just needs to have some good luck for a change.

    I don’t buy the Honda excuse. Sato, Conway & Pagenaud all won with Honda power and fewer team resources. Even Rahal looked racy on Saturday. Ganassi just missed the boat this year on their setups.

  3. The Lapper Says:

    Do you think that Dario might have a compromissing picture of Chip that let’s him keep his seat? Wheldon lost his Ganassi seat after a year that had 2 wins and 8 other top 5 finishes and was 4th in points.

  4. billytheskink Says:

    I would agree that Power would seem to be the obvious choice between the two drivers, given his engine and the large slate of road and street courses coming up between Pocono and Fontana.

    Franchitti’s Honda should be a match for the Chevrolets on the road and street courses, but Franchitti himself may not be. He has found qualifying speed from time to time in the DW 12 (5 poles), but does not seem to race the car well for whatever reason.
    We’re probably seeing the beginning of the end of Dario’s Indycar career. Even so, he remains fairly competitive, so the end could last probably about as long as he wants it too.

  5. I am in agreement with Power winning before Dario. By the way, Will has been running pretty fast in the Pocono tests.

  6. jhall14 Says:

    Quite frankly if neither one of them won again, it is fine by me. No wonder Graham wanted out of Ganassi. Every comment you hear from Dario is whining, only includes Scotty in his comments, apparently Charlie is not on the team. As far as Power, if I never see that “pussy” victory jump of his again, it would be too soon. Always complains about the double wide restarts. He has talent, but needs a spitoon for all the choking he has went through the past few years.

  7. In some ways 2013 is a “full moon Saturday night” of a season. Helio Castroneves, who has started over 250 races and never won the championship, is easily in the lead with Marco Andretti (who was 15th last year) chasing him, while Dixie, Dario, & Willy P are stuck with a goose-egg. Penske’s win total equals Dale Coyne’s. Huh?

    And Power’s “wanker” comment from 2011 was about (former team mate) Alex Tagliani, who tried an optimistic move in Turn 5 shortly after he and Dario had their run-in.

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