IRL: Kanaan holds off Wheldon for Motegi win

A mad ten-lap dash at the conclusion of the race gave Tony Kanaan the victory in the Indy Japan 300 despite a strong charge from second-place Chip Ganassi Racing driver Dan Wheldon. Playing fuel-mileage and pit-stop strategy to a "T" brought ...

A mad ten-lap dash at the conclusion of the race gave Tony Kanaan the victory in the Indy Japan 300 despite a strong charge from second-place Chip Ganassi Racing driver Dan Wheldon.

Playing fuel-mileage and pit-stop strategy to a "T" brought the Brazilian his first win of the season and the first for Andretti Green Racing since Marco Andretti's road course win at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California last August.

The margin of victory was less than one-half second very at 0.4828 seconds.

In the post race press conference, Kanaan indicated he was in control of the race. "You don't need to win by five seconds, you just have to win," he said with a smile.

"He short fueled his car" to get ahead of me, said Kanaan. At the end "I put pressure on him (Wheldon) to make him use more fuel and make him wear his tires."

Wheldon was leading when he made a splash and go fuel stop with 14 laps to go. That put Kanaan in the lead.

During the final 10 laps, Sam Hornish and Scott Dixon, who also had to pit, were credited with leading at least one lap. When Dixon dove into the pits on lap 195, it was Kanaan who remained at the point.

At the drop of the green, polesitter Helio Castroneves and Dan Wheldon set a torrid pace with Kanaan in tow. "All three cars at the front were fast," Kanaan said. "We couldn't pass each other." By lap 15, Kanaan decided to keep the leaders in sight and conserve fuel.

Dario Franchitti used a different fuel conservation strategy and finished third. The field completed green flag pits stops just prior to the final caution period when Marco Andretti hit the wall on lap 135. Franchitti, who had reported to the pits under green on lap 130, returned to the pits under caution for fuel only on lap 146. His final tank of fuel took him to the checkered flag 54 laps later.

"As sometimes can happen here at Motegi, it came down for us to a fuel-mileage race," said Franchitti. "My car was the equal of Tony's car and Dan's. It was a good gamble because the result would have been third, unless the gamble paid off."

Scott Dixon fourth and Penske Racing's Sam Hornish was one lap down in fifth.

Also a lap behind were Scott Sharp, 2006 Indy Japan 300 winner Helio Castroneves and Rahal Letterman Racing's Jeff Simmons who finished eighth. Vision's Tomas Scheckter and Dreyer & Reinbold's Buddy Rice rounded out the top ten.

Danica Patrick was two laps down in eleventh place at the checkered flag while the other lady racer Sarah Fisher was 14th with 197 of the 200 laps turned by the leaders.

The race was not one lap old when Kosuke Matsuura of Super Aguri Panther Racing lost control of his car and smacked the Turn two wall of oval track. Matsuura, a native of Aichi, Japan was attempting to become the first Japanese IndyCar driver to win on home soil.

The Kansas Indy 300 at 4PM on April 29th is the next round in the 17 race IndyCar series.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Sarah Fisher , Scott Sharp , Helio Castroneves , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Dan Wheldon , Buddy Rice , Marco Andretti , Kosuke Matsuura , Jeff Simmons , Chip Ganassi , Danica Patrick , Sam Hornis
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing , Team Penske