KANSAS CITY, Kan. (July 6, 2003) -- Bryan Herta won the Kansas Indy 300 at the Kansas Speedway, crossing the finish line with little more than fumes in the fuel tank after stretching his final stint to 61 laps. After taking the checkered flag,...
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (July 6, 2003) -- Bryan Herta won the Kansas Indy 300 at the Kansas Speedway, crossing the finish line with little more than fumes in the fuel tank after stretching his final stint to 61 laps.
After taking the checkered flag, Herta coasted around the 1.5-mile speedway, stopping at the finish line to prepare for a victory donut. He hit the throttle, revving the engine to spin the tires but his Honda power plant immediately coughed and died from fuel starvation.
Herta joined Andretti Green Racing as a back up driver at the Indianapolis 500 for Robby Gordon, who would drive at the Indy 500 as well as the NASCAR race later that evening. Herta, who scored two victories at Laguna Seca in CART, drove for Andretti Green at Texas and Richmond with a best finish of fifth at Texas.
For the first three-quarters of the 200-lap race, Herta fought an intense battle for each position as he raced side by side with the likes of Sam Hornish, Helio Castroneves and his teammate Tony Kanaan.
Waiting until the last possible lap to pit, Herta and Kanaan both reported for service on lap 139. Upon returning to the track, Herta's team manager Kyle Moyer determined that the No. 27 Andretti Green entry could make it to the finish without another stop. But it would be close and Herta would have to conserve fuel.
Moyer instructed Herta to conserve fuel by going easy on the throttle. He was also told to draft other cars, reaping the aerodynamic benefits of riding in the wake of another car.
Since they made their pit stops together, Herta initially stayed behind Kanaan.
While riding behind Kanaan, Moyer told Herta that he still needed to save more fuel.
Herta let Kanaan pull away while he went looking for another drafting partner. Tucking in behind Robbie Buhl, Herta was able to stretch his final stint to 61 laps and his first Indy Racing victory in three starts.
Herta drove around the track in fourth place behind Robbie Buhl as waited for the cars ahead of him to stop one last time for fuel.
"I have to find Robbie Buhl and give him a bottle champagne. He let me ride his coattails to the finish," said Herta.
The Team Penske duo of Helio Castroneves and Gil de Ferran finished second and third respectively after making the team's 999th and 1000th start in open wheel racing.
De Ferran managed to lead the most laps, 93 of 200, after pitting out of sequence. Forced to report to the pits for fuel on lap 184, de Ferran relinquished the lead to current points leader Tony Kanaan.
"The car was good in traffic," de Ferran said. "Not only was it good in traffic, it was fast. Fast enough to win the race. Even though we didn't win the race, even though we didn't finish second, I'm extremely happy about finishing third. This is really encouraging for us going forward to Kentucky, to Nashville and back to Texas."
Kanaan's lead was short-lived as he too stopped for fuel with six laps remaining. A short splash and go pit stop put Kanaan back on track on the lead lap where he finished fourth.
After Kanaan ducked into the pits, Herta enjoyed a 12.8 lead over Castroneves, who continued to charge. Advised of his margin over second place, Herta continued to gradually slow, crossing the finish line 7.32564 seconds ahead of Castroneves.
"I have to give all the credit to Kyle Moyer and the Andretti Green team," said Herta. "Their fuel strategy and the fuel economy of the Honda engine are responsible for this victory."
Kenny Brack rounded out the top five, finishing one lap down. "Obviously, we didn't have a good car at the start. I had understeer in turn one and oversteer in another. I don't know if it was the wind, but the car wasn't good. For a long time we were the last car on the lead lap.
Scott Dixon retained second place in the championship after finishing sixth. Kanaan leads the championship by 31 points.