Dan Does It Again, Honda Clinches Championship As has been his habit this year at key events, Andretti Green Racing's Dan Wheldon came through for Honda Sunday at Pikes Peak International Raceway, taking advantage of teammate Dario...
Dan Does It Again, Honda Clinches Championship
As has been his habit this year at key events, Andretti Green Racing's Dan Wheldon came through for Honda Sunday at Pikes Peak International Raceway, taking advantage of teammate Dario Franchitti's problem during the final round of pit stops, and pulling away for a dominating victory at the Honda Indy 225. Wheldon took the checkered flag more than 12 seconds ahead of second-place finisher Sam Hornish Jr., the largest victory margin in an Indy Racing League event in more than four years.
Wheldon's win was his fifth of the season, tying the IRL record, and clinched the IndyCar Series Manufacturers' Championship for Honda. His other victories this season have included the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the Honda-owned Twin Ring Motegi Circuit in Japan, and the Indianapolis 500. Wheldon now has a 97-point lead in the drivers' championship with four races remaining.
For much of the middle portion of the 225-lap event, Franchitti was the driver to beat. The defending race winner at Pikes Peak, Franchitti chased down and passed early leader Sam Hornish Jr. shortly after the first round of pit stops, then pulled out a five-second lead on the field. But an apparent clutch problem and resulting stall during his final stop dropped Franchitti off the lead lap. He charged back hard during the final 60 laps, moving up to seventh at the checkered.
Tony Kanaan solidified his hold on third place in the championship with a third-place run, while Vitor Meira rounded out the top five, and was the top finisher in a Panoz chassis, for Rahal Letterman Racing. Danica Patrick ran in the top ten all day, finishing eighth, just ahead of last week's winner at Kentucky Speedway, Scott Sharp.
Buddy Rice battled handling problems throughout the race to finish 11th, while Bryan Herta ran as high as third during the opening segment, but faded mid-race to finish 12th. Kosuke Matsuura was 13th for Super Aguri Fernandez Racing and Roger Yasukawa 15th for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing as all 10 Honda-powered drivers completed today's race.
Dan Wheldon (#26 Jim Beam/Klein Tools Andretti Green Racing Honda) Started 11th, finished 1st, record-tying fifth victory of 2005, ninth Honda race win: "It seems I win a lot of these special races for Honda [including Twin Ring Motegi and the Indianapolis 500], and I'm very proud of that. I'm very happy to bring them this win, and I hope Robert [Clarke, HPD President] will announce that he's sponsoring the Indy 500, because that race is very special to me too! [On his championship prospects] I'm not counting on anything. I've got three teammates who will feature very strongly during the rest of the season and I don't think any of us should sell Sam [Hornish Jr.] short, either. I'm looking forward to the rest of the season, but until it is mathematically impossible for anyone to catch me, I'm going to keep doing the same thing I've been doing, which is to go out and try to win races."
Robert Clarke, President, Honda Performance Development, on Honda clinching its second Indy Racing League Manufacturers' Championship: "Everything came together for us this weekend. It was the 10th anniversary of our first Champ Car race victory [with Andre Ribeiro at New Hampshire in 1995], our 90th open-wheel race win and our 25th victory in the IRL. So, the weekend has been a point of great reflection for all of us at HPD. Winning our second Manufacturers' Championship is a tribute to everyone involved in the IndyCar program, and who have worked so hard to make it all happen: all of our associates at HPD, our technical partners at Ilmor, our drivers and teams."
Tony Kanaan (#11 7-Eleven Andretti Green Racing Honda) Started 6th, finished 3rd: "It was a tough race today. I was trying so hard to catch Sam [Hornish Jr.] in the final laps that I was hardly breathing all the way around the track. So it's a good thing I have a big nose! I don't think we had a car capable of winning today, but we did the best we could with what we had. Honda's clinched the Manufacturers' Championship, so now our next goal is to finish 1-2-3 in the driver's championship as well."
Vitor Meira (#17 Menards Rahal Letterman Racing Honda) Started 9th, finished 5th, sixth top-five result of 2005, moves to 7th in points standings: "We have struggled on the short tracks this year but I think we found some things today that will help us in the future. To score a solid fifth is good for the Rahal Letterman Racing team on a short track. It was a good day overall because Honda clinched the IRL Manufacturers' Championship. I know that the race conditions changed a lot. We got very loose [oversteer] early in the race and I was just hanging on. But later, the car came around and it was fast. We were able to move through the field. Again, our pit stops were quick and I picked up a few spots through the crew. Now it is on to Sonoma [Infineon Raceway] and that is going to be a tough race. That place is hard on the body. It is as physical track in an IndyCar as anywhere in the world. But I'm happy to get back to road racing next week."