Wheldon Wins a Somber Homestead Miami Race In a day marred by tragedy, Dan Wheldon won the season-opening Indy Racing League IndyCar Series event Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway. It was the second consecutive victory at Homestead for the...
Wheldon Wins a Somber Homestead Miami Race
In a day marred by tragedy, Dan Wheldon won the season-opening Indy Racing League IndyCar Series event Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway. It was the second consecutive victory at Homestead for the defending series champion, and came in a photo finish after a 20-lap, frequently side-by-side, battle with Helio Castroneves.
But the thrilling finish was overshadowed by a two-car crash in the race-morning warmup session that claimed the life of Rahal Letterman Racing driver Paul Dana and injured Vision Racing's Ed Carpenter. The incident began when Carpenter spun exiting Turn 2 of the 1.5-mile oval, Dana's car then made heavy impact with the left rear wheel and transmission of Carpenter's machine.
Both drivers were airlifted to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, where Dana was pronounced dead shortly before noon, EST. Carpenter is listed in stable condition with a concussion, and is being held overnight for observation. Following the accident, Rahal Letterman also withdrew the cars of Dana's teammates, Buddy Rice and Danica Patrick.
Today's race began as scheduled at 3:45 p.m. EST, and the first three quarters of the 200-lap run was a race of strategy and track position. But all bets were off after the final round of pit stops as the first five cars were all in contention for the victory following a late-race caution for Bryan Herta's crash in Turn 1 on Lap 170. When the green waved for the final time on Lap 178, Wheldon and Castroneves began their duel, slowly edging out a half-second lead over the trailing trio of Scott Dixon, Dario Franchitti and Sam Hornish Jr.
Like the fight for the win, the third-place battle also involved nose-to-tail and frequent side-by-side action throughout the final 20 laps. Team Penske's Hornish came up from the back of the line to slip past Franchitti in the closing moments, with Dixon rounding out the top five as the last car on the lead lap.
Fernandez Racing teammates Kosuke Matsuura and Scott Sharp were sixth and seventh, respectively, with Felipe Giaffone making a strong showing in his debut race for A.J. Foyt Racing to take the checkers in eighth.
Next week the IndyCar Series travels cross-state for the only temporary street circuit on the schedule, the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 2
Dan Wheldon (#10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) Started 8th, finished 1st: "It was a very difficult day. All of us drivers are a fairly close-knit group. Right now, I think all our thoughts and prayers are with Paul Dana and the entire Rahal Letterman Racing team. I have to thank everyone at Target Chip Ganassi Racing and Honda, I had a fantastic car today. Racing with Helio [Castoneves] at the end was very hard but fair. There were times when you couldn't slide a piece of paper between us! But it was a clean race, and a great way for us to start our championship defense."
Helio Castroneves (#3 Marlboro Team Pensek Honda) Started 2nd, finished 2nd: "I can't believe that finish. I gave it my best and thought at the start of the last lap that I could hold Dan [Wheldon] off. I was going to stay on the inside line and make him take the long way around, and I didn't think that would work for him, but he pulled it off. We really pushed each other hard in the final laps, but he did a great job and congratulations to him."
Sam Hornish Jr. (#6 Marlboro Team Penske Honda) Started 1st, finished 3rd, scored three bonus points for most laps led: "We got caught in the pits when the last yellow flag came out [for Bryan Herta's crash on Lap 169]. That put us at the tail end of the lead lap cars and even though we led a lot of laps today, we didn't have enough right at the end to run down Helio [Castroneves] and Dan [Wheldon]."
Robert Clarke, President, Honda Performance Development, on the death of driver Paul Dana: "On behalf of everyone at Honda, our thoughts and prayers go out to Paul's family and many friends. Paul had a passion for the sport and an engaging personality that made him a friend to everyone in the racing community. His talent and dedication in pursuit of his lifelong dream to be an IndyCar driver were an inspiration to us all. He will be missed."