Fernandez Finds Victory Circle in Kentucky, Honda Clinches 2004 IRL Manufacturers' Championship Taking control over the final 50 laps, Adrian Fernandez held off a pack of fellow Honda-powered competitors to claim his first Indy Racing ...
Fernandez Finds Victory Circle in Kentucky, Honda Clinches 2004 IRL Manufacturers' Championship
Taking control over the final 50 laps, Adrian Fernandez held off a pack of fellow Honda-powered competitors to claim his first Indy Racing League IndyCar Series victory Sunday at the Belterra Casino Indy 300. The win also clinched Honda's first IRL Manufacturers' Championship in the company's second year of IndyCar competition.
Starting fourth in his first event at Kentucky Speedway, Fernandez ran in the lead pack until the second round of pit stops, when a jammed wheel gun led to a long pit stop and dropped him to 10th as the 200-lap race reached its mid-point. Working his way up to sixth after the last round of pit stops, the Mexican made a bold move to the front of the field on a Lap 148 restart, passing Buddy Rice for the lead on Lap 152 and he was never again headed despite a frantic final 10 laps when both Rice and Dan Wheldon challenged Fernandez.
It was the tenth consecutive IndyCar victory this season by a Honda-powered driver and the best combined result for the company since the Indianapolis 500, when Honda drivers also finished first through seventh. Fernandez is the fifth Honda driver to post an IRL victory this season.
Indianapolis 500 winner Rice finished second, trailing by less than six hundredths of a second at the checkered, followed by Twin Ring Motegi and Richmond winner Dan Wheldon. Rookie points leader Kosuke Matsuura, making his own late charge to the front, finished fourth for his best result to date and the best ever IndyCar Series finish for a Japanese driver.
Already a three-time winner this year, Tony Kanaan led 126 laps today, but fell slightly off the pace with an undetermined problem in the closing laps. But the Andretti Green Racing driver hung on to finish fifth, and maintains a 50-point lead in the drivers' championship standings over Rice.
Milwaukee race winner Dario Franchitti was another Honda driver to run among the leaders throughout the race, crossing the finish line in sixth, just ahead of Rahal Letterman Racing's Vitor Meira, who made it a clean sweep of the top seven positions for Honda. Bryan Herta survived a refueling problem during his final pit stop to finish ninth, with rookie Mark Taylor 19th for Access Motorsports.