2010 Kentucky Indy 300 from Kentucky Speedway – Click above for high-res image gallery
For the IRL IndyCar Series
, the 2010 Kentucky Indy 300 was all about the number "200." It was the 200th race in IRL history. The drivers would be running 200 laps around the 1.5-mile Kentucky Speedway. And the speeds would be well above 200 mph as the field of 27 cars ran inches away from each other under the lights of Kentucky. Among those 27 drivers was last year's runner-up, Ed Carpenter, who still hasn't scored a full-time ride, and Paul Tracy, the fan favorite who seems to never get rusty. Maybe we'll have to start calling him Platinum Paul.
Last week's winner Dario Franchitti was making things interesting in the race for the championship by closing the gap to points leader Will Power who hasn't done as well as some of the others – including Franchitti – on ovals. Kentucky is an oval, of course, and so are Motegi and Miami, the final two races of the season. Would Power be able to get that monkey off his back? Would Franchitti take the win and close the gap even further? Would the talented and hard luck Ed Carpenter finally head to Victory Lane? Follow the jump
to see how the 2010 Kentucky Indy 300 went down.
[Images: Chris Graythen,
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images | Ed Reinke, James Crisp/AP]
Qualifying was a series of two-lap runs – the series switching from four-lap averages to two last week in Chicago – with Hideki Mutoh showing the best time until Will Power hit the track. The Team Penske driver has been just about perfect all year and his qualifying run was more of the same. The very next driver, however, didn't have as much luck. Ryan Hunter-Reay looked to be going pretty quick when his car got loose between 1 and 2 and was up into the wall in a split second. That finished his qualifying run and caused a delay before the rest of the field was able to complete their runs.
When they did come back on track, the next driver up was Dan Wheldon, who is frequently at the front on ovals. He was again very quick, but not quick enough to catch Power. With just five drivers left to qualify, it was finally Ed Carpenter who nipped Power for the Peak Performance Pole. It was Carpenter's best qualifying run ever as he became the 34th different pole winner in IRL history.
Ryan Hunter-Reay was cleared to race on Saturday night and lined up at the back of the field. After a two-seater demonstration run by Arie Luyendyk and football star, Terrell Owens, Grand Marshal Rick Mears waved the flag for the start of the race. They didn't even make it around to complete the first lap before the hard-charging Tony Kanaan took the air off of Takuma Sato's rear, sending the hard-luck rookie into the wall and bringing out a full-course yellow. Ryan Hunter-Reay also spun in that incident, his car losing downforce when he had to get out of the throttle. Ryan didn't make any contact and was able to continue on after pitting to replace his flat-spotted tires.
When they finally got back to racing, Dan Wheldon slipped past Carpenter for the lead. Wheldon held the lead until the first round of stops between Laps 55-60, when Will Power took command. He led until Lap 80, when a multi-car crash once again brought out the yellow. It looked like Simona de Silvestro tried to edge down to let faster traffic through, but failed to notice Vitor Meira below her on the track. They also collected Ryan Briscoe before Simona's car slid back down the track and slammed into the inner wall as well. She was okay, but it was another scary moment for this so-far impressive rookie.
The top five at that moment were Power, Wheldon, Marco Andretti, Scott Dixon and Franchitti. Power had a bit of a scare a few laps later as a momentary lapse caused a wiggle that had Will slapping the wall and falling back about five spots in a split second. That gave Wheldon the lead once again. The running order stayed pretty consistent up front for another long block of laps until the second round of stops started around Lap 140. Although there weren't a lot of dramatic changes in the running order, that didn't mean the race was boring by any means. The in-car cameras showed some incredibly close action, just like last race in Chicago.
It's hard to explain how the regular camera shots make the cars look like they are circling in a uniform pack, the incredible speed being completely lost in the process – but those in-car shots show how hectic the racing actually is. The bumpy track and the changing airflow as the cars pass each other make those Dallaras dart and dance so much that the cars are sometimes three feet apart and then instantly touching wheels. It's the same effect you get watching the Blue Angels flying in formation.
With ten laps to go, it was Wheldon, Franchitti, Kanaan, Carpenter, Andretti, Dixon, Danica Patrick, Powrr, Castroneves and Tracy in the top ten...but it was looking increasingly likely that they would all have to stop one more time for a splash-and-go. The timing of the yellows and the scheduled stops had meant most of the field would fall about 4 laps short on fuel. Sure enough, with four to go, all of the leaders stopped – except Helio Castroneves. Helio had been slightly out of phase with the rest of the field and the driver who lost a tough decision earlier in the season was now having one handed to him. Helio took the win followed by Ed Carpenter, who was once again the bridesmaid in Kentucky.
Dario finished fourth, but more importantly a few spots ahead of Will Power, so the championship lead is now down to just 17 points as the IRL heads to Japan in two weeks for the Indy Japan 300 from Twin Ring Motegi. Join us then, and don't forget to check out the full results and standings below.