IRL: Fontana: Honda race report

Kanaan's third-place run sets up Texas title fight The fastest closed-circuit race in history Sunday at California Speedway served only to further tighten the Indy Racing League title points chase, setting up an exciting season finale in three...

Kanaan's third-place run sets up Texas title fight

The fastest closed-circuit race in history Sunday at California Speedway served only to further tighten the Indy Racing League title points chase, setting up an exciting season finale in three weeks with Honda-powered Tony Kanaan as one of the three primary championship contenders.

Kanaan finished third in the California Indy 400, closing within seven points of championship leaders Scott Dixon, who finished second today, and Helio Castroneves, who faded to sixth in the closing laps. Sam Hornish posted his third win of the season for Panther Racing, averaging 207.151 mph for a new open-wheel racing record in a 200-lap event slowed only once for a brief, five-lap caution.

For Dan Wheldon a second consecutive fourth-place finish, his third top-five result of the year, moved him into another final-race showdown for the IndyCar Series, this one with fellow Honda-powered rookie Roger Yasukawa for IRL Rookie of the Year honors. Yasukawa finished seventh for Super Aguri Fernandez Racing, equaling his best previous effort this season, and heads to the final race in Texas with a four-point lead over Andretti Green Racing's Wheldon.

Greg Ray appeared headed for a 12th-place finish today for Access Motorsports, but stalled during his final pit stop and fell back to 14th at the checkered. Kansas Speedway race winner Bryan Herta ran in the lead group for the first third of the race, but dropped out of the contest after contact with Alex Barron on the 79th lap led to suspension damage that proved terminal aboard his Andretti Green Racing entry.

The 2003 IndyCar Series concludes with the 16th race of the season, October 12 at Texas Motor Speedway.

Tony Kanaan (#11 7-Eleven Andretti Green Racing Honda) Started 5th, finished 3rd, remains in contention for drivers' championship:

"The whole team 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. It was a long race. We had a good car, but I think everyone struggled a bit in traffic today. We cut the distance from ourselves to the championship leaders in half this weekend, and that was our goal. Now we'll see what happens in Texas. 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. I'm not going to lift off the throttle!"

Dan Wheldon (#26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Andretti Green Racing Honda) Started 4th, finished 4th, closed to within four points of Roger Yasukawa for IRL Rookie of the Year:

"I had a good, strong car all day today and the crew gave me some excellent pit stops. I was doing my best to help Tony [Kanaan] in his fight for the championship, and will continue to do that in Texas as well. That's the main goal for the team. For myself, it's great that Roger [Yasukawa] and I will fight it out for Rookie of the Year in Texas as well. I think that sometimes people forget that I'm a rookie because I'm with such as a top team. It'll be nice to have a little extra attention on my own battles, but we won't forget that the main goal is the drivers' title for Tony."

Roger Yasukawa (#55 Panasonic Super Aguri Fernandez Racing Honda) Started 16th, finished 7th, continues to lead rookie points standings:

"It was a pretty good race for us. The car was working well when we ran alone, but we struggled in traffic. We probably had a seventh-place car today, not as strong as the first group but equal to or better than the rest. That's exactly where we finished so we accomplished our goal in that respect. Dan [Wheldon] is catching up with me in the Rookie chase, and now it looks like a showdown for us in Texas. I just need to do my job there, and whichever one finishes in front will be Rookie of the Year, and that's how it should be. I'm looking forward to it."

Bryan Herta (#27 Archipelago/Motorola Andretti Green Racing Honda) Started 14th, finished 22nd (not running -- contact):

"Alex Barron came past me on the high side and I gave him plenty of room, but then he came down and hit my right front [wheel] with his left rear. That damaged my suspension and I had to pit for repairs. We went back out again, but the car still wasn't handling right and since we already were running seven laps down [to the leaders] it just made sense to call it a day. It's really disappointing for us, because during the early laps the car felt great, I thought we might have a pretty good chance of winning today."

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Greg Ray , Helio Castroneves , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Bryan Herta , Alex Barron , Dan Wheldon , Roger Yasukawa , Jim Beam
Teams Panther Racing