WHELDON EDGES CASTRONEVES FOR WIN AT HOMESTEAD HOMESTEAD, Fla., Sunday, March 26, 2006 -- Target Chip Ganassi's Dan Wheldon recorded his 10th career IndyCarÂ® Series victory Sunday at the Toyota Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. However, ...
WHELDON EDGES CASTRONEVES FOR WIN AT HOMESTEAD
HOMESTEAD, Fla., Sunday, March 26, 2006 -- Target Chip Ganassi's Dan Wheldon recorded his 10th career IndyCar® Series victory Sunday at the Toyota Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. However, Wheldon was less than jubilant when his No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Honda-powered Dallara made its way to victory lane. Earlier in the day during the final practice, rookie driver Paul Dana of Rahal Letterman Racing was fatally injured in a two-car accident with Ed Carpenter.
Dana and Carpenter crashed just three minutes into the final session, and Dana was pronounced dead just before noon. Both drivers were airlifted to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami. Carpenter will remain at Jackson Memorial tonight, and is listed in stable condition. Dana was 30 years old, and is survived by his wife Tonya.
"Well, it was a win obviously under very difficult circumstances," Wheldon said. "I think certainly my thoughts and prayers and everybody here, their thoughts are with the Dana family and everybody at Rahal Letterman Racing. It's very difficult to race under circumstances like this. I think everybody in the community and the fans that came out to Homestead-Miami Speedway today should be commended for the effect that they have on the drivers to pull through under very difficult circumstances."
Wheldon led just eight of the 200 laps and nipped Helio Castroneves by 0.0199 of a second at the checkered. It was the ninth-closest finish in IndyCar Series history. Castroneves' Marlboro Team Penske teammate Sam Hornish Jr. finished third.
Wheldon and Castroneves raced wheel-to-wheel for the final 12 laps, with Hornish, Andretti Green Racing's Dario Franchitti and Wheldon's teammate, Scott Dixon, immediately behind.
"In 2004, Hornish took the inside lane and he won. This year, I said, 'No way I'm going to give up the inside lane,' and Dan did a hell of a job," Castroneves said. "Obviously today, you have to remember a big loss, which is a pity. All my thoughts are with Paul Dana's family."
Only 16 cars started the race. Carpenter and Dana obviously were eliminated in the morning session, and Rahal Letterman Racing teammates Buddy Rice and Danica Patrick withdrew their cars following the fatal injuries to Dana.
TOYOTA INDY 300 POST-RACE QUOTES:
DAN WHELDON (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, winner Toyota Indy 300): "This was a very sad day. I think, hopefully, we put on a good race, which I think we did. The IndyCar Series never fails to do that. It is certainly a very entertaining series and certainly one of the most competitive series in the world. Just a very, very sad day." (About last few laps): "That's the thing about the IndyCar Series. I think everybody respects one another an immense amount. You could see that we could run very close. I have to give Helio (Castroneves) credit. Whenever you run side-by-side with Helio, he gives you just enough room. I hope I do the same for him. "
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished second): "My fans over there are really trying. 2004 Sam won on the inside lane and he won. This year, I said, 'No way I'm going to give up the inside lane,' and Dan did a hell of a job. Obviously today, you have to remember a big loss, which is a pity. All my thoughts are with Paul Dana's family." (About racing side-by-side with Dan Wheldon): "There was not even a hair between my tires and his tires. We were really close to each other. He was really smart. He did a great job. I did all I could. It wasn't meant to be. Hopefully, we'll get some wins like that."
SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished third): "Just basically went out there and tried to do everything we could right up there all the way through. We pitted at the wrong time and ended up a lap down because of it. The crew did a great job in the pits today, and we led laps. We just didn't have enough at the end, and didn't have enough time basically. We needed for it to be a 400-mile race today. (About changing to a Honda engine): "I'm really excited about it. They've done a great job so far. We've got a long way to go this season, but I think we're going to get there. We're going to be in victory circle a lot of times this year."
DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 27 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished fourth): "At the end, I just had nowhere to go. I had some runs on Dan (Wheldon) but I couldn't go anywhere. It's frustrating when it gets like that. We were lucky with the cautions today and the Klein Tools/Jim Beam boys in the pits were really on it. That kept us in the hunt all day. The car was balanced all day, just not fast enough to win." (About Paul Dana): "I'm still in shock about the whole thing. I didn't know Paul (Dana) very well, but I've been through this before. I just feel for his family. It's such a tragedy."
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished fifth): "The cars were great today. A big thanks goes out to the guys on the team. They've worked really hard. It's been a couple tough years, but I think that's made us stronger. As you've seen, two of the teams that finished ahead of us also have struggled with power are back at the top and fighting for the lead. It's great for Dan (Wheldon) to get a victory. We're just happy to know that each race weekend we go to now, we're going to be competing for a podium or a win." (About Paul Dana): "It's always very hard when a tragedy like this happens. Our thoughts go out to Paul's family and Rahal Letterman Racing. Its been a rough day, and we never want to see anything like that."
FELIPE GIAFFONE (No. 14 ABC Supply Co./A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Honda/ Firestone, finished eighth): "It feels good to be in a competitive car again. We were unlucky with the yellows twice, so we lost a couple of laps, but overall, I'm real impressed with A.J. (Foyt) because we didn't run a race setup until today. I thought with no warmup, it was going to be a long day, but the car was good. It was a good start for the ABC Supply team. I think we're going to have a good season. (About Paul Dana): "It was hard not to think about what happened with Paul Dana, and I did think about him during the race. I do believe when your time is up, that is it. God has a plan for everyone, and there's nothing you can do about it. God bless his family during this terrible time."
TOM ANDERSON (Managing director, Delphi Fernandez Racing and Super Aguri Fernandez Racing): "On behalf of all of us at Super Aguri Fernandez Racing and Delphi Fernandez Racing, we would like to extend our deepest sympathy to the family and friends of Paul Dana and to everyone at Rahal Letterman Racing. They are in our thoughts and prayers."
DAVE LETTERMAN (Co-owner, Rahal Letterman Racing): "Paul Dana's passing is a terrible tragedy, and I want to express my condolences and sympathies to his family and friend. I did not know Paul personally, but we were all proud to have him on our team and are deeply saddened by his tragic passing at such a young age."
The 2006 IRL IndyCar Series with the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg at 3:30 p.m. (EST) on April 2 on the streets of St. Petersburg. The race will be broadcast live on ESPN and the IMS Radio Network. The IMS Radio Network broadcast is also carried on XM Satellite Radio and www.indycar.com. The fifth season of Indy Pro Series competition opens with the Indy Pro Series Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on April 1 and 2 streets of St. Petersburg. ESPN2's telecast of the Miami 100 is scheduled for 1 p.m. on March 31.