IRL: Nashville: AGR, Wheldon race report

LEBANON, Tenn. (July 17, 2004) - Klein Tools/Jim Beam driver Dan Wheldon looked like he was going to do it again Saturday night at Nashville Superspeedway, just like he did at Richmond three weeks ago. Fueled by a strong car and smart pit ...

LEBANON, Tenn. (July 17, 2004) - Klein Tools/Jim Beam driver Dan Wheldon looked like he was going to do it again Saturday night at Nashville Superspeedway, just like he did at Richmond three weeks ago.

Fueled by a strong car and smart pit strategy, Wheldon found himself out front at the Firestone Indy 200 after pitting for fuel only with just over 30 laps to go. Hoping to capitalize on his best track position of the night, Wheldon was looking to drive away as he did at Richmond on June 26 and score his third win of the season. However, plenty of drama was still to unfold for the popular 26-year old Englishman.

When the race returned to green after a lengthy caution for teammate Bryan Herta's lap 161 accident, Wheldon, who seldom ran outside the top three during the 200-lap event, immediately found himself running wheel to wheel with Buddy Rice. Wheldon was on the outside after Rice shot below him entering Turn 1 and the two cars made hard contact multiple times as they navigated that end of the race track. Amazingly, neither driver lost control and Wheldon kept his advantage.

However, a debris caution resulted from the contact and during the ensuing yellow-flag laps, Wheldon's #26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda/Firestone apparently ran over something which punctured his right rear tire. Wheldon was forced to the pit lane twice for new Firestones in the laps that followed and dropped from contention. Although running at the finish, Wheldon lost a lap during the incident and ended the night with a 13th place finish.

Despite the disappointment, Wheldon remains second in the Indy Racing League IndyCar® Series standings, although he now trails teammate Tony Kanaan by 61 points. Kanaan won his third race of the year in the Team 7-Eleven machine by outrunning Team Penske teammates Sam Hornish and Helio Castroneves, who finished second and third, respectively.

The IndyCar Series now moves to The Milwaukee Mile for Round 9 of the 2004 schedule. The Milwaukee race is set for next Sunday at 3:30 p.m. (Eastern) and airs live on ABC.

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


"It's just a disappointing result. The Klein Tools/Jim Beam boys did a great job in the pits and the strategy was good. I just got together with (Buddy) Rice and I'm disappointed from that standpoint. But, the guys did a good tonight - a very good job."

(ARE YOU SURPRISED YOU DIDN'T WRECK DURING THE CONTACT WITH BUDDY?)
"You know if you hit the wall that you're going to lose some serious points, so you just try and keep it off there. Maybe it was more luck than judgment."

Tony Cotman, Team Manager, #26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda/Firestone:


"We elected not to take tires to put ourselves in a position to win. I feel like we made the right decision. But, we obviously ran over a piece of debris while we were circulating around yellow and at the end of the day that was the difference between winning and losing. We just have to pick up the pieces and move on."

-agr-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Bryan Herta , Dan Wheldon , Buddy Rice , Jim Beam , Sam Hornis
Teams Team Penske