IRL: Homestead: Honda Racing race report

Wheldon Dominates IndyCar Series Opener in Miami For the third consecutive time, Dan Wheldon has won the IndyCar Series season opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway, leading teammate Scott Dixon home by more than six seconds in a dominating ...

Wheldon Dominates IndyCar Series Opener in Miami

For the third consecutive time, Dan Wheldon has won the IndyCar Series season opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway, leading teammate Scott Dixon home by more than six seconds in a dominating performance for both the 2005 series champion and the entire Target Chip Ganassi Racing organization. Defending series champion Sam Hornish Jr. rounded out the top three finishers, but was more than 17 seconds behind at the checker.

It was also an extremely successful debut for the new 3.5-liter Honda HI7R IndyCar Series engine, racing on 100 per cent fuel-grade ethanol for the first time in a major motorsports event. In all, the 20 drivers and teams competing at Homestead completed 5,310 laps of practice, qualifying and racing this weekend -- a total of 7,965 miles -- without a single engine-related failure.

Starting from the pole, Wheldon led 179 of the 200-lap race distance, losing the lead only on pit stops. Even what could have been a major problem on his Lap 105 pit stop, when Wheldon's crew lost time due to a jammed air line under his Honda Dallara, turned out to be only a minor setback. Resuming in ninth place after the stop, it took Wheldon only 10 laps of green-flag racing to move to the front of the field, where he remained for the rest of the night.

After posting the strongest challenge to Wheldon for the first half of the contest, Hornish faded slightly after his own pit stop miscue on Lap 105, when a stall cost him six positions. He was back to third by Lap 133, but could gain no further ground in the final stages of the race.

After a strong opening segment, Tony Kanaan faded with handling problems just before the first round of pit stops, but a strong recovery by his Andretti Green Racing team saw the 2004 series champion close on Panther Racing's Vitor Meira for fourth place in the final laps, but the checker fell with Kanaan just one-half second behind his fellow Brazilian.

In the closest on-track action of the final 20 laps, Vision Racing's Tomas Scheckter completed a daring high-side pass of Helio Castroneves on the final lap to snatch eighth place.

After opening the 2007 season on a high speed, 1.5-mile oval, the IndyCar Series now travels across the state of Florida to a temporary street circuit for the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on April 1.

Dan Wheldon (#10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) Started 1st, finished 1st, his 12th career IndyCar Series victory and record third-consecutive win at Homestead-Miami Speedway:
"It was a great way to open up the season. We've worked very hard as a team over the off season to perfect the things we learned in 2006. A lot of credit goes to the engineering staff and especially [technical director] Andy Brown. As well, I credit Honda. It's been a seamless transition to 3.5 liters and ethanol fuel. It was fun out there tonight. Even when we had our problem in the pits, I didn't get upset. The car was fast all night and comfortable to drive, and we had a lot of laps to make up the positions we had lost. I didn't want to force the issue, I wanted it to come to me, and it did. I didn't expect to dominate, but everything went our way tonight. Since I'm a Florida boy [Wheldon makes his home in St. Petersburg], it must be the weather or something that brings out the best in me."

Robert Clarke (President, Honda Performance Development) on Honda's performance this season:
"First, I'd like to offer my congratulations to Dan Wheldon on his record third-consecutive victory here at Homestead, and to the entire Target Chip Ganassi organization on their dominating performance tonight. It was a perfect night for Honda. There were no engine-related issues that we're aware of, and reports from the drivers have been very favorable. This was a bit more of a test from an engine standpoint than we will face next weekend at St. Petersburg, but we're looking forward to the drivers' feedback from the road course event there. Overall, I'm very pleased with the engines' performance and reliability."

-credit: honda racing

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Helio Castroneves , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Dan Wheldon , Chip Ganassi , Robert Clark , Sam Hornish Jr. , Vitor Meira
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing