Kanaan Conquers Infineon Defending IndyCar Series champion Tony Kanaan scored his second victory of the season Sunday at Infineon Raceway in northern California, conserving fuel early in the 80-lap contest, then taking charge just past the...
Kanaan Conquers Infineon
Defending IndyCar Series champion Tony Kanaan scored his second victory of the season Sunday at Infineon Raceway in northern California, conserving fuel early in the 80-lap contest, then taking charge just past the halfway mark to maintain a steady, one-second margin over second-place Buddy Rice for Honda's seventh 1-2 [or better] finish of the 2005 season.
As a result, on a day when his close friend Alex Zanardi scored his first major victory since losing his legs in a 2001 racing accident [the German round of the World Touring Car Championship], Kanaan moved to second in the championship standings, 79 points behind his Andretti Green Racing teammate, Dan Wheldon, who dropped out of the contest after his fuel pump failed on Lap 52.
Rice had his best race of the season, starting sixth and running the lead pack throughout the day in an event backed by team sponsor Argent Mortgage. Previously, the 2004 Indianapolis 500 champion had only a third-place finish at Twin Ring Motegi in Japan to show for a season marked by bad luck and mechanical failures.
Kosuke Matsuura was another Honda driver to score his best result of the season for Super Aguri Fernandez Racing. Starting 15th, Matsuura moved up three positions in the opening laps, with team pit strategy gaining him additional spots in the field. He then held off repeated attacks from a pack of five competitors to finish sixth.
Also rebounding at Infineon was Dario Franchitti, who started 21st and last in the field after a spin during qualifying on Saturday. Franchitti passed six cars on the opening lap and ran as high as fourth until a late caution period spoiled his team's pit strategy, resulting in an eighth-place finish, just ahead of Vitor Meira's Rahal Letterman Racing Honda. Roger Yasukawa equaled his best previous result with his third 11th-place finish of the season, followed by Scott Sharp and Bryan Herta. Rookie points leader Danica Patrick was eliminated after being struck by fellow rookie Ryan Briscoe on Lap 19 and the resulting crash also eliminated Helio Castroneves.
Tony Kanaan (#11 7-Eleven Andretti Green Racing Honda) Started 3rd, finished 1st, his second win of 2005 and Honda's 10th victory, moves to second in the championship point standings : "It was a great team effort. I had a great car and I didn't have to push it too hard. The car was just very consistent all day long. So I was able to save a lot of fuel early in the race and then wait for people to make mistakes. That's what put me in the position to win, even though everyone was running very hard from the last pit stop to the finish. Earlier this year, I was very disappointed after the St. Petersburg race [where Kanaan finished second to teammate Dan Wheldon]. That was a good day for the team, but I thought I deserved to win the race. God gave me this one today, so I guess it all evens out."
Buddy Rice (#15 Argent Mortgage/Pioneer Rahal Letterman Racing Honda) Started 6th, finished 2nd, his best result of 2005: "It wasn't the overall win, but it was a win for the '15' car. And after the season we've had, this feels terrific. The Firestone tires were great all day long and the Honda horsepower was there anytime we needed it. There's no doubt this was a large boost for everyone at Rahal Letterman Racing. If we can finish the season strong, that will raise the morale of the team and increase everybody's expectations for next year and that's our goal now. 'TK' [Kanaan] had a little more than me today, but we're very happy with this result, to say the least. This is a good rebound for us and we are going to two big ovals [Chicagoland and California Speedway] and another road course [Watkins Glen] so we should be able to finish the season on a positive note."
Kosuke Matsuura (#55 Panasonic/ARTA Super Aguri Fernandez Racing Honda) Started 15th, finished 6th, his best result of 2005: ""It was a really good race, even though the car wasn't perfect. Every session this weekend we were sometimes more than two seconds slower than the quickest drivers. But I was able to hold my position the last 25 laps, which was a little bit difficult because I had to save fuel as well until the last two laps. I am really happy to finish in the top six. I was really pushing hard to hold my position. I think I did my best, and my engineer [John Dick] did a good job, but we can't be happy because sixth place is not the winner of the race. We have to keep working hard to make a good car for Watkins Glen and hopefully we can end the season strong in the next three races."
Dario Franchitti (#27 Arca/Ex Andretti Green Racing Honda) Started 21st, finished 8th: "We struggled in the final session, so we made some pretty big changes to the car for the race. It was better, but still had a lot of understeer. But we had a good start, and made a lot of passes  on the opening lap. After that, though, it got a lot harder to get by anyone. The team made a gamble on the pit stops [staying out when most of the field pitted during an early caution] and that looked like it was going to work out well for us, but the last yellow hurt our strategy, so eighth was the best we could do today."