IRL: Rice by a kernel in Kansas

IRL: Rice by a kernel in Kansas

Buddy Rice and teammate Vitor Meira staged a classic duel in the final ten laps of the Argent Mortgage Kansas Indy 300 today and logged the second-closest finish in Indy Racing League IndyCar Series history. Buddy Rice takes the...

Buddy Rice and teammate Vitor Meira staged a classic duel in the final ten laps of the Argent Mortgage Kansas Indy 300 today and logged the second-closest finish in Indy Racing League IndyCar Series history.

Buddy Rice takes the checkered flag 0.005 ahead of Vitor Meira.
Photo by Ron McQueeney - IRL.
MBNA polesitter Rice, driving the #15 Argent Mortgage/Pioneer Panoz G Force/Honda, crossed the finish line .0051 seconds in front of Meira's #17 Team Centrix Panoz G Force/Honda. Tony Kanaan was third in the #11 Team 7- Eleven Dallara/Honda, just .2015 seconds behind the scrapping Rahal Letterman Racing duo.

In a 200-lap contest that suffered only two interruptions for caution, the 21-car IndyCar Series combatants did 169 laps of continuous green flag running, setting a new record for the League. Rice led the most laps, 83, followed by Kanaan with 75 and Meira with 37 laps led.

"I knew Vitor was there the whole time but I thought I got him right at the line," Rice alleged. "He had me at the line on the white flag lap but I stayed on my line and it was the shortest distance to the checkered flags," he explained. "This is a great day for Rahal Letterman Racing; my car was very good all day and, while traffic was tough a couple of times, I knew Tony had a little more trouble than Vitor and I with lapped traffic."

Meira, disappointed not to beat his teammate raced him cleanly throughout those ten laps, passing and being passed what seemed like two or three times per round of the 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway oval. "I didn't know who won, it was so close. But I'll take second to Buddy because it was a total team effort. The stall (on his second pit stop) hurt me because I had to come through the field, but the team gave me a superb setup for the race."

Pitstop for Tony Kanaan.
Photo by Ron McQueeney - IRL.
Kanaan knew he had nothing for the Rahal Letterman duo but bided his time, hoping against hope they'd make a mistake, even though he doubted they would. "They did what they were supposed to do and I would have done the same if I was there with my teammates. I had a couple of troubles with my car," Kanaan confessed. "I could only run sixth gear," making it impossible to fight his competitors.

Dario Franchitti finished fourth in the #27 Arca/Ex Dallara/Honda after starting last following an engine change after qualifying yesterday, citing problems with backmarkers during the race. "I spent a lot of time side by side with Bryan [Herta, who finished fifth in the #7 XM Satellite Radio Dallara/Honda]. He wouldn't give up and I wouldn't give up, so we just kept running after it."

Herta "just didn't seem to have the speed" to keep up with the four guys in front of him. "Our car was good in practice and good early in the race. We couldn't run the pace the front guys could, but at least we got a top five," noted the 2003 Kansas race winner.

Adrian Fernandez took sixth in the #5 Quaker State/Telmex Panoz G Force/Honda and also admitted he had nothing for the leaders today. "I could fight with Dario and Bryan and we had a good race and good pit stops," the Mexican said.

Helio Castroneves and Kosuke Matsuura.
Photo by Ron McQueeney - IRL.
Helio Castroneves finished seventh, the final car on the lead lap and the first non-Honda finisher in his #3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota, leading two laps during the final exchange of pit stops. Sam Hornish Jr.'s #6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota was one lap down in eighth and Hornish led three laps during pit stop exchanges, followed by Richmond winner Dan Wheldon in the #26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda.

Wheldon's was a rather adventurous weekend. He was, once again nowhere in qualifying and took 12th on the grid. In his first visit to the pits, Wheldon left before his fuel nozzle was uncoupled, yanking the rig down and nearly spilling the race-load of methanol. He overcame this problem and kept his cool in finishing ninth.

Alex Barron drove the #51 Red Bull Cheever Racing to tenth place today, also one lap down, the best Chevy finisher this afternoon. "The way we managed our fuel and pit stops today worked out for us, but when the front- runners broke away, we just couldn't stay with them," the Californian explained.

Darren Manning finished 11th in the #10 Team Target Panoz G Force/Toyota, showing some impatience once again while trying to gain positions in the later stage of the race. Teammate Scott Dixon took 12th in the #1 Team Target Panoz G Force/Toyota, and at one point railed to his team that the car was undrivable.

A.J. Foyt IV overcame a 10-second penalty imposed when he departed his pit stall with the air hose flapping behind him and took 13th in the #14 Conseco Dallara/Toyota, while Ed Carpenter earned 14th in the #52 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Chevy. Felipe Giaffone brought the #24 Purex/Aventis home in 15th and Townsend Bell was the final driver still running in 17th place, finishing his first race in the #2 Menards/Johns Manville Dallara/Chevy despite having to make at least eight pit stops to try and repair a faulty fire extinguisher that kept going off in the cockpit.

Tora Takagi in his wrecked car.
Photo by Ron McQueeney - IRL.
The first caution came at the green flags when the field arrived at start/finish slower than normal for a late-thrown flag and Scott Sharp had to check up in the #8 Delphi Dallara/Toyota, throwing his race away and collecting the hapless #12 Pioneer Dallara/Toyota of Tora Takagi.

The long, 169-lap green flag period that ensued was clean and close, until rookies Kosuke Matsuura (#55 Panasonic/ARTA Panoz G Force/Honda) and Jeff Simmons in the #20 Patrick Racing/Stacker 2 Dallara/Chevrolet came together on lap 174, while running three wide turn 2 with Manning.

"I was giving enough room to more than one car going into the corner, with Jeff Simmons running inside of me," Matsuura explained. "After the crash he told me that Manning tried to go inside and he hit Jeff and then Jeff crashed up against me."

Simmons was a bit more harsh in his criticism of Manning: "Matsuura and I were just giving each other enough room to run and I knew Manning was getting impatient back there. He just dove down in there and I didn't have room to go higher. I tried to back out of it easily, but they slammed together too quickly."

While the race time wasn't the fastest or shortest in history, it did offer 18 lead changes among five drivers, with Rice leading the most -- 83 laps.

As the Indy cars take a one-weekend breather before the final night race of the year at Nashville SuperSpeedway on July 17th, Kanaan retains the point lead with 275, Wheldon lies second at 247 and Rice holds 225 third place points. Castroneves is fourth with 207 points and this season is still not even halfway done: it's anyone's championship to win or lose.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Darren Manning , Felipe Giaffone , Scott Sharp , Helio Castroneves , A.J. Foyt IV , Adrian Fernandez , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Tora Takagi , Alex Barron , Townsend Bell , Dan Wheldon , Buddy Rice , Kosuke Matsuura , Jeff Simmons , Jim Beam , Sam Hornish Jr. , Ed Carpenter , Vitor Meira
Teams Team Penske