Tony Kanaan won the Firestone Indy 200 at the Nashville Superspeedway after holding off a last lap challenge from Sam Hornishâ€™s Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota. After spending several laps trying to determine Kanaanâ€™s weakness, Hornish...
Tony Kanaan won the Firestone Indy 200 at the Nashville Superspeedway after holding off a last lap challenge from Sam Hornish’s Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota. After spending several laps trying to determine Kanaan’s weakness, Hornish moved to the inside of Kanaan’s Andretti Green Racing Team 7-11 Dallara/Honda on the final set of turns. Fully aware of Hornish’s presence, Kanaan slammed the door shut, crossing the finish line with a 0.3375 second margin of victory.
“It was the last lap,” Hornish said. “I knew if I didn’t make it work that I would have to get out of the throttle and that someone might get a run on me. I wanted to save it. I just didn’t get the job done.”
Hornish’s teammate Helio Castroneves finished a close third.
The race started off as a Rahal Letterman runaway, with Vitor Meira dominating the field before a mishap during a lap 110 pit stop sent the Team Centrix Dallara/Honda to the rear of the field. Luckily, the entire field had pitted under caution and Meira tore through the field after the restart, passing six cars to pick up four positions on one lap. Driving flawlessly, Meira drew closer to the frontrunners, passing them one by one until he found himself in fifth place. When Bryan Herta crashed in a single car incident on lap 166, the field reported to the pits, where Meira had problems again, returning to the track in ninth. Meira finished 12th.
“We had a misunderstanding in the pits,” said Meira. “And we made some mistakes. Everyone here knew the Centrix Honda was the car to beat. Buddy and I ran away from the rest of the pack. But things don’t always go your way.”
When Meira experienced his first problem, the second Rahal Letterman car, driven by Buddy Rice, assumed the lead. Rice, who led a total of 52 laps, built an eight second lead over Sam Hornish with 40 laps to go.
After the field reported to the pits during the caution for Herta’s accident, the stage was set for the final dash to the finish. Dan Wheldon, who ran with the leaders all day, gambled with his decision to take fuel only, and returned to the track with the lead.
“We raced side-by-side at Kansas for many laps with no problems,” said Rice. “Obviously, he didn’t want me to go to the inside, and he pushed my car onto the apron. We touched. We should have had a solid finish tonight, but there are some people who think otherwise.”
“I was defending my position,” said Wheldon. “I didn’t think he had room to make a move.”
Debris from the contact caused the sixth of seven caution periods. Tony Kanaan surveyed the damage on Wheldon’s car, reporting that Wheldon’s right rear tire was losing pressure.
When racing resumed, Wheldon was passed by Kanaan and then faded quickly until he nearly brushed the turn four wall when his right rear tire disintegrated. Wheldon reported to the pits under the final yellow and returned to the track, finishing 13th.
Darren Manning matched his career best with a fourth place finish and Townsend Bell finished fifth, earning his first top-five. Mark Taylor marked a career best, finishing seventh driving for Greg Ray’s Access Motorsports team. Taylor started 18th.
The Indy Racing League moves to the Milwaukee Mile next weekend with four races on the bill for the IndyCar Series, Infiniti Pro Series, USAC Silver Crown and USAC Midgets.