Kanaan Victory Sets Up Championship Showdown Tony Kanaan's series-leading fifth victory of 2007 Sunday at the Detroit Indy Grand Prix -- combined with a penultimate-lap crash that dropped fellow championship contenders Scott Dixon and Dario...
Kanaan Victory Sets Up Championship Showdown
Tony Kanaan's series-leading fifth victory of 2007 Sunday at the Detroit Indy Grand Prix -- combined with a penultimate-lap crash that dropped fellow championship contenders Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti down in the finishing order -- has set up a three-way battle for the IndyCar Series championship to be decided at next week's season finale in Chicago.
With just three laps remaining in the two-hour Belle Isle street circuit event, Kanaan held a narrow, but secure lead over the Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Honda Dallara of Buddy Rice, with Dixon and Franchitti close behind. But Rice, headed for his best finish of the season, ran short of fuel on the next lap and, as his car suddenly slowed, Dixon was unable to avoid contact and the pair spun into the barriers. Franchitti was blocked by the crash and went down one lap as a result, but kept his Andretti Green Racing Honda running and crossed the finish line in sixth.
As a result, Franchitti leads the IndyCar Series Championship by the very narrow margin of three points over Dixon, with Kanaan third, 39 points back. Among several possible scenarios, a win for either Franchitti or Dixon at Chicagoland Speeway would clinch the championship. Kanaan, however, needs a strong finish combined with problems for both Dixon and Franchitti to complete a come-from-behind title charge, that has seen him three of the last four races.
The first IndyCar Series race on the tight and twisting 2.07-mile street circuit in Detroit's Belle Island park produced a half-dozen incidents over the course of the 89-lap contest that eliminated, among others, pole qualifier and early race leader Helio Castroneves. Others to crash out of the contest or be significantly delayed by contact included Sam Hornish Jr., Vitor Meira and Tomas Scheckter.
But the race also provided opportunites for others to shine. Danica Patrick led nine laps and finished a career-best second to her teammate, Kanaan. Dan Wheldon's Target Chip Ganassi Racing team used pit strategy to rebound from a troubled weekend and finish third after starting well back in the field in 16th.
Darren Manning's fourth-place finish was the best result of 2007 for his A.J. Foyt Racing team, while frequent golfing partner Kosuke Matsuura ran fifth for Super Aguri Panther Racing. Before his late-race incident, Rice led seven laps and was headed for his best finish of the season.
Tony Kanaan (#11 Andretti Green Racing Honda) Started 4th, finished 1st, series-leading fifth victory of 2007 and 12th career IndyCar win: "I'm happy. We're back -- still in with a shot at the championship, so I'm really enjoying this win today. As you could see, the team went three different ways with the pit strategy for the final third of the race and, depending on cautions, any of us [Andretti Green Racing drivers Kanaan, Dario Franchitti and Danica Patrick] could have won today. At the end of the day, our strategy proved to be the correct one. I didn't see what happened with Scott [Dixon] and Dario at the end because they were behind me, but I don't think it changed the points situation too much. We all three have a chance at the championship, so we'll go to Chicago next week and see what happens there. May the best man win."
Danica Patrick (#7 Andretti Green Racing Honda) Started 11th, finished 2nd, career-best IndyCar result: "We weren't the fastest out there today, but sometimes street races turn into 'survival of the fittest' and we were pretty strong in that regard. We survived two different incidents, where we could easily have crashed out of the race -- and our pit strategy paid off pretty well, too. Congratulations to Tony [Kanaan], he drove a great race. I feel sorry for Dario [Franchitti] getting caught up in someone else's crash right there at the end, but at least he heads into Chicago with the points lead again. All in all, it was a pretty good day for us."
Robert Clarke (President, Honda Performance Development) on today's race: "Although there were a lot of incidents in the race - not too unusual for a street race - it was a 'clean' weekend for Honda. We really had no significant problems all weekend, and that's always our goal. Congratulations to Tony Kanaan, Danica Patrick and Andretti Green Racing. The title fight is going down to the final race, and I'm looking forward to the Chicagoland finale next Sunday."