Sarah Fisher Racing competitor Ed Carpenter nailed down his first IZOD IndyCar Series (IICS) victory in today's "Kentucky Indy 300" by sneaking his No. 67 Dollar General Dallara/Honda/Firestone past the No. 10 Downy Dallara/Honda/Firestone of Chip Ganassi Racing's Dario Franchitti by 0.0098 of a second in the closest series finish in Kentucky Speedway history.

The victory was fitting for Carpenter, who placed second in Kentucky by 0.0162 of a second to Team Penske's Ryan Briscoe on Aug. 1, 2009 and runner-up to Penske driver Helio Castroneves by 13.1597 seconds in the track's Sept. 4, 2010 event. He's earned each of his three career top-two IICS finishes in the commonwealth.

Carpenter closed out his victorious campaign by rocketing past second-place running Chip Ganassi Racing driver Scott Dixon on the third and final restart of the race on Lap 178, taking his first race lead from Franchitti on Lap 188 and entertaining a sundrenched crowd by exchanging the lead with the three-time defending IICS champion three times in the closing 11 laps.

"It feels way better than I thought it was going to feel. Dario raced me hard and clean. I knew we had a better car than him the second or third stint of the race.

"We had really good restart gears and good restarts all day. Dixon was struggling around the bottom, so I believed if I'd be able to stay underneath him, I'd get a good start (on the last restart). The window opened up and he didn't get a great run. I think he was just hoping to be able to follow under Dario and it didn't happen so he just tucked right in.

"I started racing Dario because we were faster. I had to check one time to make sure we had enough fuel for the end. I think with nine laps to go is when I knew I'd beat him. I set it up, used a push to pass. The team got it to where I'd have one more push to pass than him and I was able to use in the last five laps. They did a great job and it worked," said Carpenter, who posted his previous season best 11th- place finishes at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Iowa Speedway and New Hampshire Motor Speedway this season.

Franchitti, who entered today's race second in the series standings and 11 points behind Team Penske Racing driver Will Power, clicked off his best Kentucky Speedway IICS finish in his seventh career start at the track after leading a race-best 143 laps after starting 11th.

He registered his 13th top-five and 15th top-10 finish of the season and advances to the Oct. 16 IICS season finale with the championship lead and an 18-point advantage on Power, who started from the pole position and led the opening 48 laps this afternoon before placing 19th after the side pod of his No. 12 Verizon Dallara/Honda/Firestone was damaged when his car made contact with the No. 24 Team Ipiranga Dallara/Honda/Firestone of Dreyer & Reinbold Racing's Ana Beatriz during a Lap 50 green flag pit stop.

"We had a tough day yesterday, really were slow in qualifying and we did what we do, do our best. We made some good places on the first stint, had a good in lap, good pit stop, really good pit stop, really good out lap and we came up from fifth or sixth to the lead.

"From then on, I just tried to stay low and keep going. The guys told me to use an overtake every lap and I miscounted by one and Ed got me. He drove a great race," Franchitti said.

Power ended a stellar three-race stretch in which he earned victories in Sonoma, Calif., and Baltimore, Md., along with a second-place Motegi, Japan finish with his third-worst finish of the season this afternoon.

"We had the quickest car, we had an unbelievably fast car. After that (pit road contact) happened, it tore a hole in the side and I lost four mile an hour. It was just even a fight to hang in the back of the field. The car still ran really well. I just had no speed, it had so much drag it was just impossible.

"Our car was really fast, you saw in the beginning. I wasn't expecting those guys (Franchitti) to finish in the top three. I wasn't expecting us to have a day like we did and lose so many points and so much potential. It's racing and we'll just go to Las Vegas," Power said.

Dixon took third in the No. 9 Target Dallara/Honda/Firestone, James Hinchcliffe finished fourth in the No. 06 Sprott Dallara/Honda/Firestone with Newman/Haas Racing and Ryan Hunter-Reay completed the race top-five in the Andretti Autosport No. 27 Team DHL Dallara/Honda/Firestone.

The race concludes the 2011 Kentucky Speedway season. Visit this Web page, find Kentucky Speedway on Facebook and follow @KySpeedway on Twitter for the latest news and 2012 schedule information.

Story by Mike Schmaltz

-KYS -