DETROIT, Mi. – June 4, 2012 – KV Racing Technology driver Tony Kanaan finished sixth yesterday in the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix in Detroit, Michigan. Teammates E. J. Viso and Rubens Barrichello placed 18th and 25th respectively.
The race, which was held on the .2.1-mile, 14-turn temporary street circuit on Belle Isle, was shortened from 90 laps to 60 because of a two-hour red flag for crews to repair Three sections of patched asphalf and concrete.
Kanaan, in the No. 11 GEICO | MOUSER ELECTRONICS – KV Racing Technology Chevrolet/Firestone machine, started 18th. Stuck in traffic the team employed an alternative fuel strategy that saw Kanaan pit on lap 12, which dropped him to 20th. Kanaan started to work his way back through the field and when most cars pitted for the first time between laps 27 and 33 he found himself in third place. Kanaan pitted for the second time on lap 38 and rejoined the contest in sixth. Two laps later a yellow flag came out when James Hinchcliffe crashed after hitting a piece of rubber and concrete patch that had separated from the track surface. Shortly thereafter, with Kanaan now in fourth after two cars ahead of him pitted, a red-flag came out stopping the race to repair three areas where large strips of patch had come up. Once repairs were affected teams were informed that the race would be shortened to 60 laps and that they could change their tires, but had to remain on the same compound, either the primary “black” or alternate “red”, that they had on prior to the stoppage. This gave drivers who were on the alternate red an advantage since they would now be on brand new alternate tires, which are softer and have more grip, but go off optimum performance quicker than the primary tire, for a short 15-lap stint. Kanaan was on the primary tire. During the restart, Kanaan, who is considered one of, if not the best at restarts, was passed by two cars. He dropped to sixth place where he remained until the end of the race.
“My team did a brilliant strategy and put me upfront with the other guys,” Kanaan said. “I think I was in a good shape for a podium, but when the decision was made that all cars could get new tires before the new start of the race it left me in a bad position, because I was already on my last set of primary tires and had nothing new to put on. So as expected I got passed by the cars on new tires on the restart.”
Kanaan made his seventh appearance, but contested just his fifth race on Belle Isle (third time in the IndyCar Series). In five race races, Kanaan has finished in the top-eight all five times with one win, in 2007 and a third in 2008. In 2000 and 2001, Kanaan had qualifying accidents and did not race. The 37-year old Brazilian has earned three top-six finishes in the first six races this season. In addition to today’s sixth place showing he finished fourth at Long Beach and third last week in the Indianapolis 500. Kanaan earned 28 points today and remains ninth in the championship race with 141 points.
Viso, driving the No. 5 CITGO | PDVSA – KV Racing Technology Chevrolet/Firestonecar, who has been the team’s best qualifier so far this season, started a team-high fifth. He held station through the first stint, saving fuel and battling a loose car that brushed the wall once and almost a second time. Only Viso’s driving skill kept him from crashing. Viso pitted for the first time on lap 27 and came back out in 18th place, but lost valuable track position as several cars were able to go three to six laps further before making their first pit stop thus picking up valuable track position. Viso was in 14th place when the yellow came out and sat in 12th when it went red. He made a solid restart, avoiding the trouble that knocked two cars out, and was sitting in eighth place on lap 51 when he was punted from behind by Marco Andretti. The contact spun Viso and his car stalled. By the time he was restarted he was a lap down and in 18th place.
“It was not a very rewarding race after a top five qualifying.” Viso said. “Things didn't really pay off. I believe the first part of the race really hurt us, not being able to stay in contact with the top-three when I was running in fourth. I was running with old tires and I believe the top-three were on new, which made a huge difference. I did everything I could to keep the cars behind me, but was suffering from a big lack of grip. After the red flag, I restarted from 12th and managed to gain a lot of places. However I then got punted from Marco Andretti, which pretty much ended my race. It’s a real shame because I was having a very positive second half and would have had a great result.”
Viso, who made his second career start on Belle Isle earned his best finish here at Detroit. In 2008, he qualified ninth and finished 24th. The 27-year-old Venezuelan, who has finished every race this year, has had two top-10 performances this season (St. Petersburg, eighth and Brazil, 10th). He scored 12 points and now sits 16th in the championship standings with 106 points.
Barrichello, behind the wheel of the No. 8 BMC | EMBRASE – KV Racing Technology Chevrolet/Firestone machine, qualified 20th, but started 24th, after switching to his backup car for the race. He was in 20th place by lap eight, but shortly thereafter developed a problem that is still being diagnosed. The team tried to make repairs in the pits, but it quickly became apparent that Barrichello’s day was done.
“We had a problem with the car and we tried to fix it in the pits but unfortunately we couldn't,” Barrichello said. “I feel really sorry for the team, they worked so hard last night to change my chassis, I was going quite quick and saving fuel but then we had to stop.”
Barrichello made his Detroit debut yesterday. This is the first time this season the 40-year-old Brazilian and Formula One veteran, hasnot finished a race. He has earned three top-10 finishes this year (Barber, eighth; Long Beach, ninth; Brazil, 10th) and finished 11thlast week in his Indy 500 debut earning the Chase Rookie of the Year award. Barrichello scored 10 points and is 14th in the points race with 112,