Herta & Honda Dominate at Michigan Starting from the pole, Andretti Green Racing's Bryan Herta dominated Sunday's Firestone Indy 400 at Michigan International Speedway, leading 159 of the 200 laps to post his first victory of the 2005 Indy ...
Herta & Honda Dominate at Michigan
Starting from the pole, Andretti Green Racing's Bryan Herta dominated Sunday's Firestone Indy 400 at Michigan International Speedway, leading 159 of the 200 laps to post his first victory of the 2005 Indy Racing League season, and his second career IndyCar Series win. The win is the seventh of the year for both Honda and the Andretti Green team, increasing Honda's lead to 16 points in the IRL Manufacturers' Championship and giving all four Andretti Green drivers at least one victory this season.
The first half of today's 400-mile contest was run at a near-record pace, with Herta averaging just over 211 mph, leading by as much as 7.5 seconds and no cautions to slow the field through the first three rounds of pit stops. The drama increased, however, over the final 60 laps as a trio of cautions bunched the field, the last yellow flying for a four-car crash as Townsend Bell spun on Lap 181, collecting the cars of Jaques Lazier and Honda-powered Roger Yasukawa. Kosuke Matsuura, running 10th at the time, also found the wall while attempting to avoid Bell's spinning machine.
On the Lap 192 restart, Herta was able to maintain a slight advantage over teammates Tony Kanaan and Dan Wheldon even as the trio ran three wide into the first turn. In the final laps, Wheldon persevered in a multi-car battle for second, with Tomas Scheckter edging Kanaan on the final lap for third. Also on the final lap, Delphi Fernandez Racing's Scott Sharp passed fellow Honda driver Dario Franchitti for seventh to complete the Honda finishers.
Rahal Letterman Racing's Buddy Rice and Vitor Meira both ran in the lead pack during the opening stages of the race, but Meira was delayed by a long pit stop for electrical repairs, while Rice dropped out of the contest on Lap 126 with driveshaft failure. Rookie points leader Danica Patrick also retired on Lap 163 with mechanical problems.
Bryan Herta (#7 XM Satellite Radio Andretti Green Racing Honda) Started 1st, finished 1st, his first win of 2005 and second career win, moves from ninth to fifth in the championship standings, Honda's seventh IndyCar victory of 2005: "It's a great day obviously, the team gave me a dominant car, a better car than I've ever had on a super speedway. The car was just magic all weekend. The only problem I had was on the restarts, because leading on restarts is not where you want to be. On the last restart, I knew if I lost the lead it would be very difficult to regain it before the finish, so I concentrated on holding the low line, and fortunately my teammates 'had my back' for me, and that helped a lot in the final laps. They weren't blocking for me or holding positions, but I knew -- when we ran three-wide through the first turn -- that I could trust them."
Dan Wheldon (#26 Jim Beam/Klein Tools Andretti Green Racing Honda) Started 11th, finished 2nd, increased his championship points lead: "This was Bryan's [Herta] day. He deserved the victory today. His car was fantastic and his Honda engine was particularly strong. For my side, I don't think I had the outright speed of some of the other cars out there today, but I was fortunate to be able to work the draft and manipulate traffic a bit to my advantage in the final laps."
Vitor Meira (#17 Menards Rahal Letterman Racing Honda) Started 9th, finished 14th after a long mid-race pit stop to replace the electronic control unit (ECU): "I think we had a top-five car today and I was just taking it easy in the first part of the race. I was working with Buddy [Rice, teammate] and we had planned to improve our cars as the race went on. Right before the first pit stop the engine started to cut out, but I thought we may have been out of fuel. But then again the engine started to misfire and I had to pull the car back into the pits. The team replaced the ECU and I went back out. The car ran well after that but we were eight laps down. This is the way the luck is going for the team right now. We need a break to regroup for the rest of the year. I know these cars are fast and the crews are very good. Right now we just can't seem to get things together for a strong race."
Scott Sharp (#8 Delphi Fernandez Racing Honda) Started 5th, finished 7th: "It was a pretty good day for the whole team. Like a lot of cars out there, we had to work a bit early in the race to make it work in traffic. But we kept changing the car, making it better with every stop, and by the end of the race it was working really well. The best we really had the car was at the end of the day. We ran most of our best string of laps then and I was able to get Dario [Franchitti] on the last lap. We leave with good points, and now we just have to go on to Kentucky."
Roger Yasukawa (#24 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Honda) Started 18th, finished 18th (not running-contact): "I saw [Townsend] Bell spinning and got on the brakes. I went high to try to get around Jaques [Lazier], but I had nowhere to go and hit both the wall and Jaques pretty hard. It's unfortunate for the team because we were looking good and working on a top-10 finish."