Rice Leads Honda Sweep in Kansas Rahal Letterman Racing teammates Buddy Rice and Vitor Meira took their battle for the Argent Kansas Indy 300 down to the wire in a 14-lap "shootout" at Kansas Speedway, with Indy 500 winner Rice edging Meira by...
Rice Leads Honda Sweep in Kansas
Rahal Letterman Racing teammates Buddy Rice and Vitor Meira took their battle for the Argent Kansas Indy 300 down to the wire in a 14-lap "shootout" at Kansas Speedway, with Indy 500 winner Rice edging Meira by just five-thousandths of a second in the second-closest finish in Indy Racing League IndyCar Series history. Series points leader Tony Kanaan was third, just two-tenths further back at the flag.
The victory is the second of the season for Rice, and the sixth for Honda. The 1-6 finish for Honda drivers also is the best combined result for the manufacturer since the Indianapolis 500, where Honda drivers finished first through seventh.
Rice, Meira and Kanaan combined to lead all but five laps of the 200-lap event. At one point, Meira opened up a six-second advantage over his pursuers, but then fell back to third when he stalled during his second pit stop on Lap 107. Rice later opened up a 2.5-second lead over Kanaan and Meira, but that was negated when the second of two caution flags waved on Lap 175, setting up a 14-lap dash to the finish among the three contenders.
Just behind the lead trio, Honda drivers Dario Franchitti, Bryan Herta and Adrian Fernandez had their own battle for fourth place in the closing laps. Franchitti prevailed, capping a strong drive through the field after starting 21st and last due to an engine change made by his team after qualifying.
Dan Wheldon recovered from drama during his first pit stop, when his fuel hose failed to detach and Wheldon toppled his own pit lane fuel tank as he attempted to rejoin the race. His Andretti Green crew quickly repaired the tank and Wheldon resumed to finish ninth and maintain second place in the points standings. Rookie points leader Kosuke Matsuura appeared headed to another strong finish, but fell back in the field late in the race after running out of fuel just before his final scheduled stop, and then becoming involved in a crash with fellow rookie Jeff Simmons that resulted in the final caution.
Rice's victory moves him into third in the drivers' championship, behind Kanaan and Wheldon, as the 2004 IndyCar Series nears its mid-point in the 16-race championship. After back-to-back events at Richmond, Virginia and Kansas City, the IRL series now takes a one-week break before resuming at Nashville Superspeedway on July 18.
Buddy Rice (#15 Argent/Pioneer Rahal Letterman Racing Honda) Started 1st, finished 1st, second victory of 2004, sixth Honda IndyCar win this year: "This was a great finish for our sponsor, Argent Mortgage, since they sponsored the race this weekend and had a lot of people out here cheering us on. I can't say enough good things about Honda power today, it was there for me when I needed it at the end. Racing with Vitor [Meira] at the end, it all came down to timing, and we were right where we needed to be. It was great racing with Vitor, and it was great for us to run 1-2 for Rahal Letterman Racing."
Vitor Meira (#17 Centrix Financial Rahal Letterman Racing Honda) Started 3rd, finished 2nd, second consecutive runner-up finish "The last 10 laps seemed like 100 to me! When you're racing your teammate for the win, one mistake for either of us would have cost us the whole race. I respect Buddy [Rice] a lot and he respects me. In the end, it's a 1-2 finish for the team, and that's what really counts. We couldn't be in better shape heading into [the next race at] Nashville."
Tony Kanaan (#11 7-Eleven Andretti Green Racing Honda) Started 2nd, finished 3rd, continues to lead drivers' championship standings: "Buddy [Rice] and Vitor [Meira] did a great job. They had a couple of fast cars today and kept control of the pace during the last 10 laps. I kept trying to stick my nose in there, but it didn't work out. It was a great finish for Honda today, the top six positions. We didn't have the car to win today, and on those days you have to maximize your [championship] points, and that's exactly what we did."
Dario Franchitti (#27 Arca/Ex Andretti Green Racing Honda) Started 21st, finished 4th: "We just did it bit-by-bit today. The car was very good at some points, at other times it would get a bit light in traffic. But the guys did a really good job in setting up the car and in the pits. This was a great run for the entire team. My biggest problem all day was lapped traffic, but I just drove as hard as I could and I'm really pleased with the result."
Adrian Fernandez (#5 Quaker State/Telmex/Tecate Fernandez Racing Honda) Started 10th, finished 6th: "We had a good race right from the beginning. We didn't have a car for [Buddy] Rice or [Vitor] Meira or Tony [Kanaan]. But I thought I could fight with Dario [Franchitti] and Bryan Herta. We had a good race and good pit stops. I had a problem on one of my pit stops when I overshot and came in too close, so we lost a few positions there. Overall, the car was decent. It wasn't a car for a win, but we should have come home fourth. Unfortunately, on the [last] restart, I got too loose. Either I had too many marbles on the tires or something because I was very loose. It really put me out of contention. I'm happy with sixth place. Honda gave us a tremendous engine and that shows in the results. I want to say thanks to them for their efforts; they have been working hard. We have consistency, now we need a little break to get to the front."