IRL: Michigan: AGR, Wheldon race report

BROOKLYN, Mich. (Aug. 1, 2004) - Klein Tools/Jim Beam driver Dan Wheldon did what championship contending drivers do Sunday at Michigan International Speedway. On a day when he didn't have the fastest car on track, he made the most of his outing...

BROOKLYN, Mich. (Aug. 1, 2004) - Klein Tools/Jim Beam driver Dan Wheldon did what championship contending drivers do Sunday at Michigan International Speedway. On a day when he didn't have the fastest car on track, he made the most of his outing and scored a third-place finish in the Michigan Indy 400.

Wheldon, who has driven the #26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda/Firestone into the top three six times this season, started eighth and quickly worked his way into the top five. He battled among the leaders past the halfway point of the race while working to perfect the handling of his machine.

But, on lap 126 while pitting during a caution-flag period with the rest of the field on a crowded pit lane, the complexion of Wheldon's race nearly changed when his right front tire changer, Mike Horvath, was knocked down by another car after it was hit from behind. Horvath was shaken up, but finished the race before having his lower left leg evaluated at the infield care center. Horvath was released, but will have his leg re-evaluated later this week.

Wheldon managed to keep the incident from being a distraction as he returned to pursue his third Indy Racing League® IndyCar® Series victory of the year. He stayed among the top five until after a restart on lap 162 when he dropped to eighth. Wheldon refused to be denied and continued to claw his way toward the front. He ran seventh with 14 laps to go, fifth with 12 to go and fourth with 10 laps remaining. Then, Wheldon made one more move in the final five laps to secure the third finishing position and his sixth top-five finish of the season.

Buddy Rice outran Wheldon's teammate, Tony Kanaan, to the finish to score his third victory of the season. Wheldon held off Sam Hornish Jr. and Vitor Meira, who rounded out the top five.

Wheldon will head into the final six events of the season with a hold on third place in the IndyCar Series standings. He trails leader Kanaan by 89 points and Rice by 32.

After taking a weekend off, the IndyCar Series returns to action Aug. 15 at Kentucky Speedway with Round 11 of the 2004 championship.

Dan Wheldon, #26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda/Firestone:

"It was an exciting race, but that's what the IndyCar Series produces. I was just trying to stay out of trouble. I thought there were a lot of people getting pretty aggressive out there. Buddy Rice's team just got the better of us today. But, this Klein Tools/Jim Beam crew did an excellent job today. Even in the midst of getting knocked down by other cars, they still managed to keep me in a good position all day long."

Eddie Jones, Race Engineer, #26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda/Firestone:

"We didn't have the quickest car out there, but - as usual -- Dan made the most out of what he had. He was really strong at the end. But, that's Dan, and that's why we're still in the championship hunt."

-AGR-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Tony Kanaan , Dan Wheldon , Buddy Rice , Jim Beam , Sam Hornish Jr. , Vitor Meira