Kiwi Wade Cunningham looked set for an impressive IndyCar Series debut at the Firestone Twin 275s meeting in Texas on Saturday night - only to be sent spinning into the wall late in the first of two 114 lap races
Two Kiwis were in the running at the latest round of the IZOD IndyCar Series at the Texas Motor Speedway. Kiwi Wade Cunningham looked set for an impressive series debut at the Firestone Twin 275s meeting on Saturday night - only to be sent spinning into the wall late in the first of two 114 lap races by a lapped driver, Charlie Kimball. Meanwhile, Scott Dixon went onto take second place in both IndyCar races and now moves up to third on the championship table.
Having qualified eighth out of a field of 32 cars, alongside Dixon, Cunningham - driving the #99 Creatherm-backed, Sam Schmidt Motorsport-run car - was circulating in ninth place and confident he could get to eighth when the incident happened and - unfortunately - was powerless to do anything about it.
"I had put him (Kimball) a lap down but he had been drafting me for several laps after that then tried to go under me into Turn 3. Instead he understeered into the left rear of my car and put me in the wall. I was just lucky Sam (Sam Schmidt Motorsport team boss Sam Schmidt) had another car I could use in the second race."
Dario Franchitti held off his Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon by 0.0527 of a second to win the first of the Firestone Twin 275s at Texas Motor Speedway. Franchitti, who started second in the No. 10 Huggies car, overtook pole sitter Alex Tagliani before Lap 1 was complete and earned the two bonus points for leading the most laps (110 of 114) plus the 25 points (half points) for the victory.
Will Power, who finished third in the first race of the Firestone Twin 275s at Texas Motor Speedway, drew the third starting position for the second 114-lap race. It certainly was advantageous in a sprint.
Power overtook Tony Kanaan on Lap 39, and after cars cycled through two pit stops (the latter with 10 or so laps left), he was out in front again to stay to score his first IZOD IndyCar Series oval victory. The 25 points (plus two bonus points for leading the most laps) gave Power a 239-218 points advantage over second place Dario Franchitti heading into the Milwaukee 225 on June 19.
Dixon, who started 18th, was 0.9466 of a second behind Power; he was runner-up in both races to move up one spot in the championship standings to third.
Cunningham luck held through the grid draw process for the second race, Cunningham starting from the front row of the grid alongside poleman Tony Kanaan
However, as Cunningham soon found out, the second car was not as well set up as the first, and he slowly slipped back down the field to cross the line in 25th place.
Afterwards he told the official IndyCar.com website: "It's been a long night! Looking at the positives? I got a lot of experience out there tonight and I was in a lot of traffic, especially in the second race where I was just trying to stay out of the way. I didn't know what to expect heading into the first corner in a different car, with a different set-up and in a car I hadn't even sat in before. It was just a big unknown. I tried to make the most of the new tyres on the first few laps. But unfortunately, it's a road-course car and not in superspeedway trim. Once I got back into third or fourth, and you get in the turbulent air and obviously I wasn't comfortable in the car, it was just tough to hang on at that point. Overall? It was a tough night and it was particularly tough to get over the crash in the first race because we were running so well."
This weekend's meeting was the first of three 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series ones Cunningham will contest this year in a Creatherm/Sam Schmidt Motorsports cars with the second and third - both again on ovals - in October.