IRL: Homestead: Race report

WHELDON DOMINATES INDYCAR SERIES SEASON OPENER AT HOMESTEAD-MIAMI SPEEDWAY HOMESTEAD, Fla., Saturday, March 24, 2007 -- Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Dan Wheldon started his season off with a victory for the third year in a row, winning the ...

WHELDON DOMINATES INDYCAR SERIES SEASON OPENER AT HOMESTEAD-MIAMI SPEEDWAY

HOMESTEAD, Fla., Saturday, March 24, 2007 -- Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Dan Wheldon started his season off with a victory for the third year in a row, winning the season-opening XM Satellite Radio Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Wheldon, who became the first IndyCar Series driver to win at the same racetrack three consecutive years, led 179 laps to win under the lights in the IndyCar Series season opener. Teammate Scott Dixon was 6.4993 seconds behind, as Target Chip Ganassi Racing scored its third 1-2 finish in the series. Reigning IndyCar Series champion Sam Hornish Jr., driving the No. 6 Team Penske Honda-powered Dallara, finished third for the second year in a row. Delphi Panther Racing's Vitor Meira was fourth, followed by Andretti Green Racing's Tony Kanaan and Vision Racing's Ed Carpenter.

RACE DAY NOTEBOOK: Dreyer & Reinbold Racing announced today that the Valspar Corporation will serve as an associate sponsor of the No. 5 and No. 15 cars driven by Sarah Fisher and Buddy Rice. Valspar is the global leader in the paint and coatings industry, with a broad range of products including industrial, architectural, packaging, automotive refinish and floor coatings, specialty polymers and colorants.

ROBBIE BUHL (co-owner Dreyer & Reinbold): "We are thrilled to have a global brand like Valspar join our growing team. It's a great opportunity for DRR to introduce Valspar to motorsports and the IndyCar Series. Buddy Rice and Sarah Fisher will represent their company well both on and off the track."

JEFF ALEXANDER (Division Vice President, Valspar): "Valspar is excited to participate in the IndyCar Series by joining the Dreyer & Reinbold Racing team. We feel this will give us the opportunity to spread the Valspar brand to a growing IndyCar Series fan base. Valspar has a 200 year history of creating superior quality paints for many markets. We look forward to a prosperous relationship with the entire DRR team."

Selected quotes from the Brian Barnhart and Terry Angstadt media availability:

TERRY ANGSTADT (president of commercial division): (About the opportunity that you are facing): "I could not be more excited about the opportunity. Anyone who has been in and around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Indianapolis 500 and the Indy Racing League for the last few years can understand why. I think we are really positioned for explosive growth."

(About explosive growth): "I think it's a lot of customer relationship management, it's making the people, the sponsors, the partners, the suppliers that are involved with us now, feel even better and do even more to attract even more at a pretty accelerated manner."

BRIAN BARNHART (president of competition and operations): (About the new restructuring): "I'm excited about it overall. As Tony (George) said, it was a situation where we probably could have continued to tread water and stay where we are at. But that's not what the league's about; that's not what we're trying to do. We've actually had a situation develop in the last 12 to 18 months; we're starting to get momentum, some excitement about the series that perhaps didn't exist for a couple of years. A lot of that has to do with our ability to run road and street races, opportunities on the business side that needs someone dedicated to commit a full day's work. If we don't take advantage of them, they become wasted opportunities, and we won't progress as a company."

XM SATELLITE RADIO INDY 300 POST-RACE NOTES:

* Dan Wheldon won his first race of the season and the 12th of his IndyCar Series career.

* This is the first win of the season for Target Chip Ganassi Racing and its 11th win in the IndyCar Series. The team has won three times in four years at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

* The win was Wheldon's third-straight win at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and marks first time in IndyCar Series history a driver has won three consecutive events at one track.

* Wheldon's win combined with his win at Chicagoland to end the 2006 season was the second time a driver won the season opener after winning the season finale. Sam Hornish Jr. won the 2001 season finale at Texas and the 2002 season opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Wheldon is the 13th driver to win back-to-back IndyCar Series events.

* Wheldon had led 345 of 600 laps in the last three years at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

* Four times in the previous six years the driver to win the season-opener went on to win the series title, including Wheldon in 2005.

XM SATELLITE RADIO INDY 300 POST-RACE QUOTES:

DAN WHELDON (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestrone, winner XM Satellite Radio Indy 300): "It's great to be at Homestead and win three in a row. I'm not sure how we've done it, because I've done it with two different teams.

(About slow pit stop): "I'm not exactly sure (what happened). I think everyone was pushing hard, because the series is so competitive. We made a slight mistake. The win looked dominant, but anytime you have (Scott) Dixon and (Sam) Hornish (Jr.) around, you know it's going to be tough.

(About run to the front): "I'll have to put that down the engineering staff and Andy Brown, who has worked very hard for me as has the team as a whole. Now that I've been with the team for a year, they've worked very hard to suit my style and they did today."

SCOTT DIXON: (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestrone, finished second): "We had it covered. It was good to see. With the No. 9 car, we couldn't get enough speed. Dan (Wheldon) was very good on the long runs. We'd get ten laps from the end of of a stint and just start getting a bit loose. It was a bit of a handful. It was great to see the team with another 1-2 finish. It's a good way to start the year."

SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished third): "I could stay with Dan (Wheldon), but as soon we got that gap I couldn't quite get there in time. It's unfortunate for the Team Penske crew. I said we'd be happy if we came out of here with a top-three tonight, and we did that. We'll move on to our next race and see what we can do.

VITOR MEIRA (No. 4 Delphi Panther Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished fourth): "It was good. We had a very solid car. Old tires were a little hard to stay flat and stay fast. I think we took 100 percent of what we had. There were faster cars. Ed Carpenter was very fast. But I think we took advantage of everything the race gave us."

TONY KANAAN (No. 7 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished fifth): "I wasn't having a good time out there tonight. We took a big risk and to be able to catch those guys in the future, that's the way it's going to have to be. I definitely know what not to do next time in the setup, but I have to give credit to the Team 7-Eleven guys. I was a lap down, and they put me back on the lead lap with a great pit stop, and they know I can race so I just went for it. We've found the speed, now we just have to make it last."

DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 27 Canadian Club Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished seventh): "Very disappointed. Very difficult night. I started off and I felt like we were in very good shape. I moved my way to the front and then we had a little problem with the fuel cell in the first stint. That put us back in traffic a little bit and then we really struggled. As soon as there was a car in front of us we just didn't have the grip. We struggled all night with grip and both with understeer and oversteer. I just fought my way as hard as I could to the finish."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished ninth): "We didn't finish where wanted today, but points are points. We definitely have some room for improvement, and now we just have to work hard and focus on the rest of the season. It's a long year and I think we can certainly learn from this race and come back strong."

BUDDY RICE (No. 15 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished 10th): "This wasn't exactly what we were looking for but we got into the top 10. We had one bad stint; basically with loosing the radio and the car got loose caused us to lose some spots. Had we not had that one bad stint, we would have been right there. In this day and age and with the IndyCar Series as competitive as it is, you cannot make a mistake like that; you loose track position and it stays green for so long. Otherwise for the weekend, it was a good start for everybody. Sarah (Fisher) had a good finish and it's a great way for all of us to start the season off. Basically, we were last in owner points and now we are in the middle for the 2007 season. We just need to keep moving up. St Pete is going to be solid. For myself and Dreyer & Reinbold, this was an excellent way to start the season off."

A.J. FOYT IV (No. 22 Vision Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "(Jeff) Simmons lost his car there in the turn, and I was up on top of the race track and there was nowhere for me to go. It's unfortunate for the Vision race team, they had built me a real good race car. Now it's all torn up but we will have it ready for St. Petersburg."

JEFF SIMMONS (No. 17 Rahal Letterman Team Ethanol Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "I don't know. The car came around real quick. We were loose for a real long time but made the changes during a stop. The cars was then a lot, lot better and didn't come loose again until that moment."

DANICA PATRICK (No. 7 Motorola Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "I'm just so disappointed. I don't make mistakes like that, and I can't believe it happened. I guess the law of averages should tell me that it's possible. When you're pushing 100 percent out there all the time, it is bound to catch up with you. I'm just glad it doesn't happen very often."

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 NYSE Group Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "I'm sure there's something wrong with the NYSE car. It's nothing visual, so they're taking the car back. I really couldn't tell you what's wrong. It's incredible. It's a shame because the guys have worked so hard closing the gap."

The next IndyCar Series event is the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg at 2:30 p.m. (ET) on April 1. The race will be telecast live by ESPN and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network. A Spanish-language telecast of the race will be carried by ESPN Deportes. The IMS Radio Network broadcast also is carried on XM Satellite Radio and www.indycar.com.

-credit: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Sarah Fisher , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Dan Wheldon , Buddy Rice , Chip Ganassi , Brian Barnhart , Sam Hornish Jr. , Ed Carpenter , Vitor Meira
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing , Dreyer & Reinbold Racing , Chip Ganassi Racing , HART