Team 7-Eleven's Kanaan pockets third-place finish at California; draws to within seven points in championship battle FONTANA, Calif. (Sept. 21, 2003) -- Team 7-Eleven driver Tony Kanaan battled to a third-place finish Sunday at...
Team 7-Eleven's Kanaan pockets third-place finish at California; draws to within seven points in championship battle
FONTANA, Calif. (Sept. 21, 2003) -- Team 7-Eleven driver Tony Kanaan battled to a third-place finish Sunday at California Speedway, and in the process, put himself squarely in the middle of the fight for the 2003 Indy Racing League (IRL) IndyCar Series championship.
Kanaan, who has driven the #11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone to nine top- five finishes in 15 starts this year, started fifth in the field on Sunday, but immediately moved to within striking distance of the race lead. Under green-flag conditions, Kanaan never ran outside the top-five -- which often-times included four of the five championship contenders.
With only one caution period during the race, green-flag pit stops became a crucial component, which proved to be a distinct advantage for the 28-year old Brazilian. Kanaan's Team 7-Eleven pit crew gained him three spots on the race track during their first effort on lap 43 and continued to improve his track position one spot at a time throughout the remainder of the 200-lap event.
Kanaan's 12th top-10 finish of the year -- coupled with the results from the other championship contenders -- moved him to within seven points of the title as the series heads into its finale at Texas Motor Speedway on Oct. 12. Helio Castroneves, who finished sixth on Sunday, and Scott Dixon, who came home second, now share the points lead at 467 points after 15 events. Kanaan sits with 460, while Sam Hornish -- who won his second-straight race and third in the last four events -- rides fourth with 448. Gil de Ferran, who struggled to a 15th place finish at California, dropped one spot to fifth and owns 437 points.
The Texas event will feature qualifying on Friday night, Oct. 10, while a 500-kilometer event will decide the 2003 title with an afternoon event three weeks from today.
TONY KANAAN, #11 TEAM 7-ELEVEN DALLARA/HONDA/FIRESTONE:
"The whole Team 7-Eleven did a great job. I ask a lot of all those guys and they give me everything I need. I've really got to thank Honda. They have really stepped up everything for us, as well, and are giving us great engines. This was a great team effort; it wasn't just me.
"We have two more weeks to work -- two more weeks to work on our car, two more weeks to work on engines. This is what we had to do. The championship is wide open. Let's go to Texas. We'll get them in Texas."
KIM GREEN, PRESIDENT, ANDRETTI GREEN RACING:
"We've got it down to a seven-point gap. The thing we can look forward to at Texas is that we had a very, very good car there the last time we were there in June and I think our engine guys have really stepped it up since then. I'm pretty hopeful for having a very good package to take in there. Obviously, we would have liked to have won this race. We got ourselves in a position, but it just seemed like we didn't quite have enough at the end for the '4' car (Hornish) and the '9' car (Dixon). But, Tony drove a fantastic race and the pit crew did an absolutely fantastic job. Those were the best pit stops I think we've had all year. Under pressure -- when we needed it -- they came through, so it shows that they mean business, too."
- AGR -