Could Tony Kanaan's domination of the Bombardier 500K at Texas Motor Speedway have been any more convincing? After finishing second to Al Unser Jr. last year, Kanaan knew he needed to move up one spot. The Brazilian ace did so by leading the...
Could Tony Kanaan's domination of the Bombardier 500K at Texas Motor Speedway have been any more convincing? After finishing second to Al Unser Jr. last year, Kanaan knew he needed to move up one spot.
The Brazilian ace did so by leading the most laps - 145 of the 200 total run tonight - and beating back everyone who would challenge his #11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda. Kanaan set the fastest lap of the race on his final tour at 208.848mph.
He gained possession of first place in the points chase over teammate Dan Wheldon with 210 points to 175 as the #26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda driver failed to finish for the first time in ten races.
"The best car won at Indy and I kept praying, 'dear God, please let the best car win today'," Kanaan said later. "That's why my last lap was the fastest of the race; I had to keep my concentration because I knew I had the superior car.
"Once I got to the front, I knew everybody was working to save fuel and no matter what," Kanaan declared, "I knew nobody would catch me. I made sure I stayed out front," despite plenty of pressure from seven other drivers who also led laps.
Teammate and MBNA polesitter Dario Franchitti took second place in his #27 Arca/Ex Dallara/Honda, a long .2578 seconds behind Kanaan, leading 28 laps in the process, most at the start of the 200-lap contest. "This was a great night," the Scot stated. "I was quite comfortable leading early on but I was worried about fuel consumption and shuffled back in the pack.
"I got a bit farther back than I wanted," Franchitti explained, "but the guys gave me a great last pit stop. I didn't have anything for Tony tonight." Franchitti hopes "this result will give us some momentum. We've been pretty quick all season, but we haven't had any results for one reason or another."
Incredibly, Alex Barron came from 22 and last place after failing to set a qualifying time to take third place in the #51 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Chevrolet, 1.2543 seconds behind Kanaan. Barron explained that his gearbox failure in qualifying was quite a fluke, as "it put an eight-inch hole in the box and we've got a great gearbox guy. We had speed all weekend," Barron said. "We had good balance with traffic and I knew I could move up."
Sam Hornish Jr. finished fourth in the #6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota after attempting his usual high line throughout the night, trying to get close to the leaders after making pit stops out of sequence with the leaders. It was his best showing since winning the first race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in February.
"The car was great all night," said the two-time IndyCar Series champion. "We could run anywhere on the track. We were running near the front late in the race when Rice and Manning got into it. I tried to keep from running into the back of Rice and ended up hitting the wall. We bent the right-rear suspension, but the car ran almost as well after the incident," he remarked.
Adrian Fernandez finished fifth with his #5 Quaker State/Telmex Panoz G Force/Honda in the Mexican's first race at Texas Motor Speedway. "It was quite an experience, a tough race and my first time racing side-by-side in my open-wheel racing career," Fernandez noted. "I had an incident at the end after the pit stop that cost us some positions but the car was fine," he said.
Running at the front all night long, Vitor Meira earned sixth place in the #17 Team Centrix Panoz G Force/Honda from Rahal Letterman Racing. "We had a great car tonight and I was able to go to the front and race with the leaders." Greg Ray recovered from his difficult month of May to take seventh with the #13 Renovac Panoz G Force/Honda and the local hero had "a really great car tonight. We really got hung out in traffic a couple of times, but that's part of racing."
Despite several dust-ups, Darren Manning took eighth in the #10 Target Panoz G Force/Toyota to keep fifth place in the points chase. "I had a chance to work my way up several times," the novice related. "I'm just so pleased at the way this team works together," Manning said.
Felipe Giaffone came from 19th on the 22-car grid to take ninth place at the flags with his #24 Purex/Aventis Dallara/Chevy in only the second drive for Dreyer & Reinbold. "We had a little trouble with our restart gear, but we had solid pit stops and just got the job done."
Tora Takagi took tenth in the #12 Pioneer Dallara/Toyota and said his car was "pretty well-balanced tonight. We were able to avoid some of the rough driving that claimed several other drivers," Takagi noted. Al Unser Jr. persevered to finish 11th, two laps down in his second drive of the #20 Patrick Racing Dallara/Chevrolet, while Helio Castroneves was the final driver to see the checkered flags, three laps back in the #3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota.
This was a race of attrition, as accidents and mechanical ailments sidelined half the field. Only 12 cars finished the race, and there was so much bumping and grinding it almost felt like a stock car event.
The action began on lap 26, when Darren Manning and Ed Carpenter had contact in Turn 1. Both continued but Carpenter, who started the race in seventh place also impacted A.J. Foyt IV's evening, causing the second year driver to hit the wall and ending his good run on the 39th lap due to contact with the Turn 4 wall. Foyt slid all the way past the start/finish line before finally coming to a rest in his #14 Conseco Dallara/Toyota.
Carpenter was next out of the contest on lap 47 when he made contact with the same Turn 4 SAFER barrier and stopped his #52 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Chevrolet short of the finish line. Carpenter blamed Foyt for his troubles saying, "Anthony got into the back of me and damaged the right rear of my car. I didn't feel any vibrations, but should have come in and checked things out."
Tomas Scheckter's evening ended after he completed 48 laps in the #4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet. The South African had been doing his normal dance around the Texas Motor Speedway banks, passing high and low but he had an incident with Carpenter and Scott Dixon's #1 Team Target Panoz G Force/Toyota. "Somebody hit my left front and it bent the suspension to where I couldn't drive the car."
Bryan Herta was next to exit the contest on lap 114, when his #7 XM Satellite Radio Dallara/Honda started "having some kind of a skip in the back of the car. I think it was the clutch," Herta said. "We just lost drive but the engine was still running. The wheels just weren't turning," he explained in dismay.
Scott Sharp's day ended after he completed 125 laps when the #8 Delphi Dallara/Toyota suffered engine failure, spewing some smoke out the back. "Something let go in the motor," Sharp said. "I'm not really sure but we were running great. I was able to jump behind [Alex] Barron and get towed along with him."
Mark Taylor's accident on lap 126 could have been impacted by Sharp's misfortune. The rookie, driving the #2 Menards/Johns Manville Dallara/Chevy had been running at the sharp end of the field at the time and he noted, "We were able to keep it on the bottom of the track and we had the Chevy power to keep up with the top five, biding our time. The back end stepped out on me when I was behind Vitor [Meira]. I didn't have enough space on the track and it turned out to be just one of those things."
Rookie Kosuke Matsuura was keeping up with the big boys in his #55 Panasonic/ARTA Panoz G Force/Honda before his day ended with an electrical problem. "I am very disappointed because I think I could have been the winner of this race. I only have five races of experience and I came from 13th [to lead eight laps] into the top position. I am looking forward to winning a race," he declared. Matsuura's outside moves were great fun to watch tonight.
2004 Indianapolis 500 Mile Race winner Buddy Rice failed to finish this Bombardier 500K race after leading seven lap s in his #15 Argent Mortgage/Pioneer Panoz G Force/Honda. He hounded Kanaan and Franchitti much of the night, trying to pass either or both but unable to complete a second straight win.
A broken driveshaft ended Rice's night after 180 laps. "I don't know what happened in Turn 3," he wailed. "I was on the outside of Tony [Kanaan] and I fell back in behind in the turn. The next thing I knew I got hit in the side, but I had to save it. When I came into the pits the driveshaft was broken."
One lap after Rice retired, Dixon's night was over. "After the first bit of contact I may have bent a front toe slightly and that ended up causing some drag. At the end there was contact between me and Adrian Fernandez in the pits and that broke my front suspension. It's unfortunate to have your race end like that," the 2003 champ said.
Dan Wheldon was the final driver to exit this hard-fought contest when the gearbox packed up on his #26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda. He led six laps during the race.
There was plenty of rough driving in the Bombardier 500K tonight and several drivers might be looking at discussions with senior vice president of operations Brian Barnhart over the next week and a half before the SunTrust Indy Challenge at Richmond International Raceway two weeks from tonight.
While the excuses continue to mount there's one truth established with this typical Texas torture: Tony Kanaan and Andretti Green Racing are the class of the 2004 IndyCar Series season. Can anyone stop the four horsemen (horseplay?) who seem to have as much fun as this group does?
As team co-owner Michael Andretti put it: "We have a unique situation where each of our drivers can win anytime out. They are all competitive and they all get along. This is not an act," Andretti insisted. "I never experienced this in my career and it's a lot of fun for me."