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Franchitti wins finale

Dario Franchitti, left, showers teammates with champagne after winning the Indy 400 in Fontana, Calif. 
 (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Dario Franchitti, left, showers teammates with champagne after winning the Indy 400 in Fontana, Calif. (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Associated Press

Dramatic finishes have become commonplace in the Indy Racing League, so it was no surprise that the season-finale ended with a breathtaking two-car duel at speeds near 218 mph.

The only surprise Sunday was that Dario Franchitti’s two car-length victory over teammate Tony Kanaan in the Toyota Indy 400 in Fontana, Calif., wasn’t even closer.

Kanaan, who had been just behind Franchitti for the last 31 laps of the 200-lap event, got a final chance to overtake his teammate after a late caution flag set up an eight-lap dash to the finish.

The Brazilian driver stayed tucked in behind Franchitti for seven laps as the two pulled away from the rest of the field. Kanaan made his move on the last trip around the 2-mile oval, pulling alongside the leader as the two drove off turn four.

Kanaan pulled just ahead for a moment before suddenly appearing to bog down just as the cars reached the finish line.

“I could see him coming,” Franchitti said. “He was coming up quickly and I really don’t know what happened. But it all came down to that, as usual, last two feet, didn’t it?”

The disappointed Kanaan, the 2004 series champion, wasn’t sure, either.

“Either I missed a shift or I hit the wrong button,” Kanaan said. “The team thinks I hit the pit speed limiter instead of the overtake button. What can I say? People make mistakes. But it’s not so bad since my teammate won.”

The actual margin was 0.117 seconds, which is only the 23rd closest finish in IRL history.

“I actually thought it was closer than that,” Franchitti said. “It was close enough.”

Franchitti’s victory was the 11th in 17 races this season for the dominating Andretti Green Racing team, which previously had Dan Wheldon clinch the IndyCar Series championship.

Rookie sensation Danica Patrick, who spent most of the day hovering near the back of the top 10, saw her magical season end in a jarring crash that brought out the fourth and final caution flag just 16 laps from the end of the 200-lap event.

It was a very emotional finish for both Franchitti and Kanaan, whose good friend and competitor Greg Moore was killed in a crash on the track in 1999 in a race sanctioned by the CART series.

Kanaan hurried to Victory Circle to congratulate Franchitti and the two hugged and spoke for several seconds.

Franchitti had tears in his eyes after he took off his helmet.

“I lost a good friend here six years ago and this means a lot to all of us who were friends of Greg Moore,” the Scot said.

It was the second victory of the season and the fourth of Franchitti’s IRL career, ending what had been a frustrating season on a high note.

“I was not very happy with the way things were going,” said Franchitti, who finished fourth in the season points. “I’ve lightened up considerably, but I will push very hard for that championship next year.”

Vitor Meira, Patrick’s teammate, finished third, followed by Scott Sharp, Sam Hornish Jr., Wheldon and pole-winner Tomas Scheckter.

Formula One

World champion Fernando Alonso won the season-ending Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai to clinch Renault’s first Formula One constructors’ title.

The Spaniard started from the pole and held off McLaren’s Kimi Raikkonen for his seventh title this season and eighth overall.

On his victory lap, Alonso broke into the Queen song “We are the Champions” over the team radio. Alonso was embraced by Renault director Flavio Briatore after leaving the car.

“For the team it has been a fantastic season,” Alonso said.

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