IRL: Nashville: AGR/Kanaan race report

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (July 19, 2003) -- Team 7-Eleven driver Tony Kanaan had a dream almost turn into a nightmare at Nashville Speedway Saturday night before he scrambled back to finish ninth in the Firestone Indy 200. Kanaan, who ...

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (July 19, 2003) -- Team 7-Eleven driver Tony Kanaan had a dream almost turn into a nightmare at Nashville Speedway Saturday night before he scrambled back to finish ninth in the Firestone Indy 200.

Kanaan, who started 10th, picked up four spots in the opening 32 laps of the race and then picked up five more on pit road by way of a lightning-fast effort on the part of his Team 7- Eleven crew. With only 42 laps down, Kanaan held the point and led for the next 54 laps, appearing to be on his way to another stellar night.

But, the ninth Indy Racing League (IRL) IndyCar Series event of the season featured two fuel strategies at that point, with Kanaan in one group and many of the contenders in another. That scenario would quickly put an end to Kanaan's trouble-free evening and led to a scramble that would last the rest of the night.

On lap 99, Kanaan relinquished his spot in the top five to pit for fuel and tires under green, and needed the race to stay caution-free long enough to force the rest of the field to the pits under green, as well. Unfortunately, a caution on lap 111 caught Kanaan's Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone nearly a lap down and in the 14th position. From there, the 28-year-old Brazilian -- buried in traffic -- fought an understeer condition that allowed him to advance no further than ninth when the checkered flag fell on the 200-lap event.

Indianapolis 500 champion Gil de Ferran led the final 28 laps on the way to his second win of the 2003 season over Scott Dixon and Helio Castroneves. Kanaan's rookie teammate, Dan Wheldon, finished a career-best fourth, while last year's Nashville winner, Alex Barron, came home fifth.

Kanaan's eighth top-10 of the year was good enough to help him maintain his grip on the IndyCar Series point standings -- now by 14 over de Ferran and 15 over Dixon.

The IRL IndyCar Series continues next Sunday with the Firestone Indy 400 at Michigan International Speedway.

TONY KANAAN, #11 TEAM 7-ELEVEN DALLARA/HONDA/FIRESTONE:

"It was just one thing after another tonight. We got off to a good start, but then everything that could happen to us did after that. But, you get races like that. That's racing. That is how people win; that is how people lose. It wasn't a good night for us. I think we ran out of luck tonight, to be honest, because there were just so many things that happened. It would be one thing and then I would say, 'OK, we got a break. Now, let's go racing.' But then, it would be something else, so it was a frustrating night

"But, I still can relive the start and my first 70 laps or so. That was pretty good, so that will cheer me up." Firestone Indy 200 KIM GREEN, PRESIDENT, ANDRETTI GREEN RACING:

"We kind of got hurt a little bit by a yellow situation (lap 111). We were leading, had worn our right rear tire out, had to come in a little bit earlier than necessary and that put us seven- eighths of a lap down. It put us in the back of the line and that is really difficult. Then, we punctured a tire and had to come in again, so we certainly didn't get any breaks. We've just got to keep working on our setups. We're hanging on by the skin of our teeth in the championship. We've got another big race coming up next week. We had a good test in Michigan, so we'll just keep pushing hard." - AGR -

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Alex Barron , Dan Wheldon