Wheldon claims IRL Rookie honors for Honda Tony Kanaan's Indy Racing League championship hopes came to an end on lap 179 Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway, when he brushed wheels with title rival Helio Castroneves and was forced to pit to replace...
Wheldon claims IRL Rookie honors for Honda
Tony Kanaan's Indy Racing League championship hopes came to an end on lap 179 Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway, when he brushed wheels with title rival Helio Castroneves and was forced to pit to replace the resulting flat left rear tire. That unscheduled stop dropped the Honda driver from second at the time of the incident to a 14th place finish; and fourth in the final IRL IndyCar Series standings.
Gil de Ferran went on to win the season-ending event, his final race as an IndyCar driver after announcing his retirement earlier this year. Scott Dixon claimed the Drivers' Championship with a second-place finish. The race was halted after 195 of a scheduled 200 laps due to a major crash involving Tomas Scheckter and Team Rahal driver Kenny Brack.
Scheckter escaped serious injury in the accident, but Brack was transported to Parkland Hospital in Dallas for further treatment injuries to his extremities. The Honda driver currently is awake, alert and listed in serious, but stable condition.
Another pair of Honda drivers took the battle for IRL Rookie of the Year honors down to the final race, with Andretti Green Racing's Dan Wheldon securing the honor following a career-best third place finish. Rookie rival Roger Yasukawa also ran in the lead group for the first half of the race, but transmission problems robbed him of his top two gears and the Super Aguri Fernandez Racing driver faded to a 10th- place finish.
Bryan Herta ran in the lead group all day in the third Andretti Green entry, and was a possible race winner until the Californian stalled while exiting the pits during his final stop, dropping him back to a fifth place finish. Access Motorsports owner/driver Greg Ray struggled early in the race, but steadily increased his pace throughout the race to finish eighth.
Tony Kanaan (#11 7-Eleven Andretti Green Racing Honda) Started 9th, finished 14th:
"I told my guys I'm sorry, but I gave it my heart and my soul today. Deep inside myself I am satisfied because I know we did everything we could. Things like that [his contact with Helio Castroneves and resulting flat tire] can happen and unfortunately it happened to us today. It was a long year, but a great year. Let's look forward to next year."
Dan Wheldon (#26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Andretti Green Racing Honda) Started 16th, finished 3rd, his career best IndyCar finish; wins IRL Rookie of the Year:
"It was a tough race, we dug ourselves a hole by not qualifying very well. But I had good Honda power in back and that was able to push me to the front. Once I was up with the leaders, I could run with them all day. I'm very happy with my first IndyCar podium finish and looking forward to coming back for more next year."
Roger Yasukawa (#55 Panasonic Super Aguri Fernandez Racing Honda) Started 15th, finished 10th, second in the final rookie standings:
"Things were looking pretty good for us for the first half of the race. We were running with the leaders easily and I was looking forward to a strong finish. But then I lost fifth gear, and that meant I couldn't use sixth gear either. Without those gears, I could run okay by myself, but I had nothing in traffic. It was impossible to pass anyone and it became a matter of hanging on to the finish. I'd like to congratulate Dan [Wheldon] on his third place finish and winning Rookie of the Year. It was good racing him this year, and he earned it."
Greg Ray (#13 Trim Spa Access Motorsports Honda) Started 13th, finished 8th:
"We had high hopes coming into today's race, but we really struggled with the handling at the start of the race. We pitted every chance we could to make changes, and the car got better, better, better as the race went on. By the end of the race I think we were as fast as anyone out there, but we'd run out of laps. We just needed the race to be 500 miles instead of 500 kilometers."
Bryan Herta (#27 Archipelago/Motorola Andretti Green Racing Honda) Started 8th, finished 5th:
"I had a great car today, we were capable of winning the race. But I stalled on my last pit stop and that took us out of the hunt. It's a shame, but right now I'm thinking about Kenny [Brack] and hoping he gets well soon."