Rice, Kanaan and Wheldon Run 1-2-3 at Michigan Buddy Rice scored his third Indy Racing League IndyCar Series win of 2004 Sunday at Michigan International Speedway, sweeping past the previously dominant Tony Kanaan with 10 laps remaining to...
Rice, Kanaan and Wheldon Run 1-2-3 at Michigan
Buddy Rice scored his third Indy Racing League IndyCar Series win of 2004 Sunday at Michigan International Speedway, sweeping past the previously dominant Tony Kanaan with 10 laps remaining to win the Michigan Indy 400. Rice trailed Kanaan for much of the 200-lap race, emerging second after the final round of pit stops on Lap 158, then passed Kanaan on the outside on Lap 190. Kanaan attempted the same maneuver on the final two laps, but came up just 79-thousandths of a second short.
It was the ninth consecutive IndyCar victory this season by a Honda-powered driver and the third 1-2-3 sweep of the top positions for the manufacturer, with Dan Wheldon running third. Honda's other sweeps took place at the Indianapolis 500, where the manufacturer finished first through seventh, and a first-through-sixth showing at Kansas Speedway. At an average speed of 182.123 mph, today's race also was the fourth-fastest IndyCar Series race in IRL history.
Rice's Rahal Letterman Racing teammate, Vitor Meira, overcame a flat tire and one of three pit incidents in the race to charge back to a fifth place finish, just ahead of Bryan Herta's Andretti Green Racing Honda. Rookie points leader Kosuke Matsuura had one of the quickest cars in the field, running as high as second, but was hobbled by poor fuel mileage, was delayed when teammate Adrian Fernandez spun in pit lane on Lap 158, and finally damaged a front wing in contact with Helio Castroneves.
Fernandez would recover to finish 12th, but Matsuura was forced to make an additional pit stop to replace a damaged front wing and dropped to 17th. Rookie Mark Taylor ran 21st after an early stop to repair an electronics problem, while Milwaukee race winner Dario Franchitti dropped out of today's contest on Lap 123 with mechanical problems.
After three consecutive race weekends, the IRL IndyCar Series now takes a rare weekend off, before resuming with another three-in-a-row run at the August 15 Belterra Casino Indy 300 at Kentucky Speedway, where Honda could clinch its first IRL Manufacturers' Championship.
Buddy Rice (#15 Argent/Pioneer Rahal Letterman Racing Honda) Started 6th, finished 1st, his third win of 2004 and Honda's ninth consecutive IRL race victory: "We knew it was going to be a long race--a mental race--so we worked mostly on full tanks during the practice sessions to get an idea how the car would act in race conditions. We didn't spend as much time on qualifying, because we wanted to be strong in the race. The setup and fuel strategy that Scott Roembke and Todd Bowland put together worked out exactly the way we wanted it to. When the time came, we wanted to go to the front, stay strong and pull away, and that's just what happened."
Tony Kanaan (#11 7-Eleven Andretti Green Racing Honda) Started 1st, finished 2nd, continues to lead the drivers' championship: "We had a very good car today. We dominated the race. We led, I don't know, 180 laps [actually 183], but we let it get away at the end. Honda, again they were 1-2-3, I need to thank them. I'm always proud of those guys, they were a big part of the reason why I came to this series. At the end of the race, I was doing what I was told to do. On the last lap, I tried the outside line, but I couldn't make it, the inside was faster. Today, the other team was smarter than us. Going back to the Nashville race, I didn't have the best car and still won, so now I know how Buddy [Rice] felt that night."
Dan Wheldon (#26 Jim Beam/Klein Tools Andretti Green Racing Honda) Started 8th, finished 3rd: "I think we were just a bit off today from a setup standpoint. I was just a little bit off Tony [Kanaan] and Buddy's [Rice] pace, so it made it difficult for me. But I think it was a good result. Obviously, one of my guys got knocked down in the pits. I was amazed. The poor guy gets knocked down and it only loses me two spots. I think that's pretty amazing. I'm glad Mike [Horvath] is OK. Third was probably the best we could do. I am a little disappointed, now Buddy and Tony each have three wins, and I'm still at two."
Vitor Meira (#17 Centrix Financial Rahal Letterman Racing Honda) Started 5th, finished 5th: "We had a very good car today. But then we had a flat tire, a bent front wing and an accident in the pits. Everyone changed the tire and the wing real quick, and that's what I call teamwork. I wanted to win, but my day's going to come. When the wing was bent, the car was really loose, and we were just hanging on. But after the wing was replaced, the car was back to normal. I was really pushing hard, but everybody was pretty crazy there in the last 10 laps, which is normal. This was a much better car than fifth place, but with all the problems we had today we'll take it."
Adrian Fernandez (#5 Telmex/Quaker State Fernandez Racing Honda) Started 10th, finished 12th: "It was a tough day, and it was a shame because we had a good car. We were battling well on the race track, passing cars and having fun. I had an incident with Vitor Meira when I was coming out of the pits and he was coming in. Then when I was running third, I came into the pits under yellow and I came in too hot, hit the brakes and it spun me around. I hit one of my guys [Rhodri Griffiths, outside front tire changer for Kosuke Matsuura] and I also screwed up Kosuke's pit stop. I got a penalty for that, which was a good call. Two mistakes, unfortunately, but we learned from this."