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Tagliani To Sub For Franchitti

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, October 10 2013

Alex Tagliani will take the seat of injured Dario Franchitti in the season finale.

Open-wheel veteran Alex Tagliani will replace the injured Dario Franchitti for Target Chip Ganassi Racing during the season-ending MAVTV 500 INDYCAR World Championships at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., on Oct. 19.

Franchitti, a four-time series champion, is recovering from multiple injuries suffered Sunday in Race 2 of the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston.

“As a driver you never want an opportunity like this to come under these circumstances, but I’m up for the challenge and looking forward to working with my friend Scott (Dixon) and the whole Target team,” said Tagliani, who will drive the No. 10 Dallara/Honda. “I’m thinking of Dario as everyone else is, and wishing him a quick recovery. This team has a championship on the line and I’m ready to step-in and help them win it.”

Tagliani will team with Dixon, the point-leader and two-time series champion, after completing 13 rounds of the 2013 season in the No. 98 Dallara/Honda fielded by Barracuda Racing.

“Obviously, the situation is not ideal with Dario being unable to compete in Fontana,” team-owner Chip Ganassi said. “As we look to the season-finale we needed a driver with experience and the ability to step-in and get the job done in the No. 10 car, and Alex was a logical choice for us.”

A three-time winner of the Indianapolis 500, Franchitti underwent surgery to stabilize a fracture in his right ankle in a Houston hospital Sunday evening, one of several injuries suffered in a grinding, last-lap crash on the bumpy, 1.634-mile/10-turn MD Anderson Cancer Centre Speedway at Reliant Park.

Franchitti , 40, was admitted into Memorial Hermann Texas Medical Center Sunday afternoon and diagnosed with a concussion, two spinal fractures and a fracture to the right ankle. He will remain in Houston before being transported to Indianapolis for further evaluation.

In 17 starts in 2013, Franchitti recorded three poles, four podiums and led 64 laps. The Scotsman is eighth in the point standings led by Dixon, who emerged from Sunday’s second 90-lap event as the new series’ point-leader following his runnerup finish to Team Penske’s Will Power. Meanwhile, Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves _ who began the weekend with a 49-point lead over Dixon _ suffered through a second day of mechanical issues en route to a season-worst 23rd-place finish.

Dixon, driver of the No. 9 TCGR Dallara/Honda, will take a 25-point lead (546-521) over Castroneves and his No. 3 Shell Pennzoil Dallara/Chevrolet into the season-ender. Dixon must finish fifth or better to clinch _ even if Castroneves earns maximum points. A total of 54 points will be on the table in Southern California. Dixon and Castroneves are the only drivers eligible to win the 2013 championship.

In four starts at Fontana (2000-2002, 2012), Tagliani has one pole (2001), one top-three (third, 2001) and three top-10 finishes. Overall, he has completed 945 of 970 laps and has 22 laps-led at the track.

A.J. Allmendinger will rejoin Team Penske for the MAVTV 500 INDYCAR World Championships in an effort to help Helio Castroneves secure the 2013 IndyCar Series championship. Allmendinger will drive the No. 2 IZOD Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet in the season-finale.

Allmendinger competed in five races during the first half of the season, with a best finish of seventh (led 23 laps) in the Indianapolis 500 after starting fifth at the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“I’m looking forward to racing the IZOD Chevy in the INDYCAR season-finale,” Allmendinger said. “It’s always a great opportunity to compete for Team Penske and I had great time and a solid result in the last 500-mile race back in May at Indianapolis. Hopefully, we can close-out the season with another good finish for Team Penske and for Chevrolet.”

Allmendinger will join Castroneves and Will Power _ winner of two of the past four races _ on the starting grid. Castroneves enters the 250-lap race 25 points behind championship leader Scott Dixon of Target Chip Ganassi Racing.

“A.J. has been a good addition to our team this season and he was terrific racing the IZOD Chevrolet in the Indianapolis 500,” team-owner Roger Penske said. “With his experience racing on the Auto Club Speedway oval in the past we believe he will be very competitive as we try and end the season with a strong result for Team Penske.”

Twenty-three drivers, including the title contenders, tested at Auto Club Speedway on Sept. 24.

Allmendinger won five races in Champ Car from 2004-06, but the 31-year-old California native hasn’t competed at Auto Club Speedway in an Indy car. In addition to his IndyCar Series races, Allmendinger has two victories while competing with Penske Racing in the NASCAR Nationwide Series this season.

Engine suppliers Chevrolet and Honda will decide the 2013 Manufacturer’s Championship during the season-ender at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.

Scott Dixon, driver of the Honda-powered No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara, won Race 1 of the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston on Saturday. Will Power won Race 2 in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet _ results that left the engine-makers tied with nine victories each.

“It’s a shame we were unable to score our 10th win, but we will do everything we can in the next two weeks to bring the Manufacturer’s Championship home to Honda,” said Roger Griffiths, Honda Performance Development technical director.

Engine manufacturer competition returned to the series in 2012, when Chevrolet won the title.

“Congratulations to Will Power, Tim Cindric and the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar team on their win in Houston,” said Jim Campbell, U.S. vice president/performance vehicles and motorsports for Chevrolet. “We are looking forward to the final IndyCar race in Fontana.”

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, October 10 2013
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