IRL: Homestead: Honda race report

Wheldon Wins Season Opener in Miami Dan Wheldon got the 2005 Indy Racing League season off to the best possible start for himself, Honda and his Andretti Green Racing team by dominating the second half of the Miami Indy 300, leading 158 of...

Wheldon Wins Season Opener in Miami

Dan Wheldon got the 2005 Indy Racing League season off to the best possible start for himself, Honda and his Andretti Green Racing team by dominating the second half of the Miami Indy 300, leading 158 of the 200 laps on Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Pulling away on a late-race [Lap 175] restart, Wheldon eased out a 3.6-second margin of victory ahead of a three-abreast photo finish for second place involving teammate Tony Kanaan, fellow Honda driver Vitor Meira and Sam Hornish Jr.

Starting 10th, Wheldon moved up to the lead group by staying on track when most other competitors pitted during an early caution period on Lap 12. Once among the leaders, Wheldon quickly asserted his dominance, moving into the lead for the first time on Lap 20. After that, the 2004 championship runner-up would never run lower than sixth, and claimed the lead for good on Lap 151.

But behind Wheldon, it was a typical IRL IndyCar battle, with plenty of close racing highlighted by a four-way sprint to the finish for runner-up honors involving Kanaan, Meira, Hornish and Helio Castroneves. The four battled hard throughout the final 30 laps of the contest with first Hornish, then Kanaan appearing headed for second place. Coming out of Turn Four on the 200th and final lap, Hornish pulled to the outside to beat Kanaan to the line by just one-hundredth of a second, with Meira in the far outside 'lane' and fourth, another hundredth of a second back.

Seven cars were eliminated in a chain-reaction collision on a Lap 159 restart, including the front-running Honda-powered entries of Kosuke Matsuura, Scott Sharp, Bryan Herta, Danica Patrick and Roger Yasukawa. Former series champion Scott Dixon and early race leader Tomas Scheckter also were collected in the crash. No serious injuries were reported, although Patrick was transported to an area hospital as a precautionary measure with a suspected mild concussion.

Dan Wheldon (#26 Jim Beam/Klein Tools Andretti Green Racing Racing Honda) Started 11th, finished 1st, fourth career IndyCar victory: "Obviously, it's a fantastic way to start the season. I think we should rename this race 'The Honda Indy 300', because Honda obviously was very strong today. Around this place, if you have a fast car that handles well -- even in traffic -- you can get to the front whenever you want to. The power I had from Honda was exceptional, and I had a very good car in terms of balance and setup. I honestly believe this going to be 'the' most competitive championship in the world {among drivers, teams, engine manufacturers}. I think we're going to give you guys [fans and media] a great show throughout the season."

Tony Kanaan (#11 7-Eleven Andretti Green Racing Honda) Started 14th, finished 3rd, defending series champion: "I think we did great today. Last year we had our worst result all year [eighth] here. If this is our worst result in 2005, I'll take it with a big smile on my face! Over the last five laps, I gave it my best shot to finish second to Dan [Wheldon]. My car was good down low, but both Sam [Hornish] and Helio [Castroneves] were strong running up high. Coming out of the last corner, I was ahead of Helio but I could see Sam coming up on my right and I guess he just beat me to the finish. It was a great finish."

Vitor Meira (#17 Menard's Rahal Letterman Racing Honda) Started 2nd, finished 4th: Well, the main thing is that the team gave their best, and I certainly tried my hardest as well. It's a good result to start the year, and if we keep working like this then my first win will come sooner, rather than later. I went very high to the outside on the last lap and thought I had a chance at them [Kanaan and Hornish], but then got sideways exiting the corner and had to catch the car. That was the difference for us today."

Roger Yasukawa (#24 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Honda) Started 10th, finished 17th (not running -- contact): "I'm not sure what happened -- all I saw was flying parts going by. I had to go to the high side [to try and clear the accident in front of him], but there was no where to go. But man, we had a great race car. Running in the top five in my first race with this team is a fantastic feeling."

Buddy Rice (#15 Pioneer/Argent Mortgage Rahal Letterman Racing Honda) Started 4th, finished 19th (not running -- mechanical): " Things were going well for us, the car was getting stronger as the race went on and I really thought we could gain on the leaders in the second half. Then I saw some smoke coming out and our day was over. It's a shame because we were waiting to try to make a big run to the front at the finish. Now we'll have to get back to the shop and get ready for Phoenix. That is a home race for me so I'd like to get there and show well."


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Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Scott Sharp , Helio Castroneves , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Bryan Herta , Dan Wheldon , Roger Yasukawa , Buddy Rice , Jim Beam , Sam Hornish Jr. , Danica Patrick , Vitor Meira
Teams Dreyer & Reinbold Racing