IRL: Nazareth: Honda race report

Wheldon Leads Another Honda Sweep at Nazareth For the fourth consecutive race this season, Honda drivers completed a sweep of the top finishing positions at Sunday's Firestone Indy 225 at Nazareth Speedway. Andretti Green Racing's Dan...

Wheldon Leads Another Honda Sweep at Nazareth

For the fourth consecutive race this season, Honda drivers completed a sweep of the top finishing positions at Sunday's Firestone Indy 225 at Nazareth Speedway. Andretti Green Racing's Dan Wheldon led the way, with teammates Tony Kanaan and Dario Franchitti making it a 1-2-3 IndyCar Series finish for Nazareth native and team owner Michael Andretti.

Yet another Honda driver, Rahal Letterman Racing's Buddy Rice, crossed the line in fourth place to follow up on Honda sweeps of Michigan International Speedway, Kentucky Speedway and Pikes Peak International Raceway in the last five weeks. The victory was Honda's 12th IndyCar win in a row, dating back to Kanaan's triumph at Phoenix in late March.

Starting eighth, Wheldon worked his way up to fifth place during the first 50 laps of the 225-lap contest, then gained one more position during the first round of pit stops on Lap 63. Another quick pit stop on Lap 146, when his team elected to save time by not giving him a full load of fuel, moved Wheldon into a lead he would maintain to the finish.

Owner/driver Adrian Fernandez ran as high as fourth in the middle stages of the race, but lost several positions on a Lap 170 restart. He finished seventh, just ahead of Bryan Herta in the fourth Andretti Green Racing entry. Vitor Meira rounded out the top 10 finishers in the second Rahal Letterman Honda.

The tight and tricky Nazareth oval is traditionally hard on rookie drivers, and today was no exception as neither of Honda's first-year drivers were able to complete the race. Mark Taylor crashed his Access Motorsports entry out of the contest after contact with Townsend Bell on Lap 58, while rookie points leader Kosuke Matsuura dropped out after 115 laps with brake problems on his Super Aguri Fernandez Racing machine.

After eight races in the last ten weeks, the Indy Racing League now takes a week off before beginning the final three-race "stretch run" with the Delphi Indy 300 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 12.

Dan Wheldon (#26 Jim Beam/Klein Tools Andretti Green Racing Honda) Started 8th, finished 1st, third victory this year, moves to second in points standings, 12th consecutive Honda win: "Obviously, this [podium sweep] is a fantastic team achievement. A lot of people have said that the Andretti Green team has been dominant on the one-mile ovals this season, and it may look that way on paper. But in reality, that hasn't necessarily been the case. I thought the Penske cars were very strong today, and the Rahal Letterman cars, too. But take no credit away from my guys ... to have three cars [from the same team] on the podium is an exceptional achievement. Their pit work was outstanding. They got me out fast on the last stop and that's what won me the race. My car was excellent running by itself, and at the end of the race, the car was absolutely exceptional."

Tony Kanaan (#11 7-Eleven Andretti Green Racing Honda) Started 3rd, finished 2nd, continues to lead the drivers' championship: "When we got to the last pit stop I knew his crew was going to 'short fill' Dan [Wheldon] and, sure enough, that's what they did. Our cars were very equal today, we had nearly identical setups, so I needed traffic to create an opportunity for me to pass him for the win. But with the late yellow [flags], I never got that chance. But Dan drove a great race and had an excellent car today. One-two-three is a great result for the team and for [team owner] Michael [Andretti]."

Dario Franchitti (#27 Arca/Ex Andretti Green Racing Honda) Started 4th, finished 3rd: "It was a typical Nazareth race -- exciting at some points and frustrating at other times. Traffic played a big role as always here. I think one time I went from fifth, back down to seventh as I got balked, and then back up to fourth all in the same lap. It was warm out there today. I think that led to a lot of guys going 'loose' [losing rear tire adhesion] and created passing situations. In the closing laps Buddy [Rice] was quick coming out of Turn Two, but I was faster into Turn Three so he never could get a run at me."

Buddy Rice (#15 Pioneer/Argent Mortgage Rahal Letterman Racing Honda) Started 10th, finished 4th: "I was driving pretty hard today. I was shifting a lot, as many as three gears down sometimes in Turn Three. I think I used up the brakes too. I was trying to get some runs on the guys in front and I was working the car all over the track. I burned the tires off in the first stint because I was trying to get by guys in some places I shouldn't have. But after the first pit stop, the car was good. I was trying to fake some guys out on the restarts and it worked a couple of times. We had a solid day. We scored some points. We're going into three races that we can definitely win. So, I'm looking forward to those races."

Adrian Fernandez (#5 Telmex/Quaker State Fernandez Racing Honda) Started 6th, finished 7th: "Another good weekend but, unfortunately, we lost our fourth-place due to a misunderstanding. It was nobody's fault. I was trying to anticipate the restart and passed a few guys before the green. But then I heard 'no green' and got confused thinking the start wasn't going to happen. I backed off and was in the wrong gear and suddenly I see the green. We lost three positions and that was it. My car was as good as any car on the track. I passed two guys at the beginning of the race and went from sixth to fourth. This was just a mistake of not understanding what was happening, but we learned from this one."


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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Mark Taylor , Michael Andretti , Adrian Fernandez , Dario Franchitti , Tony Kanaan , Bryan Herta , Townsend Bell , Dan Wheldon , Buddy Rice , Kosuke Matsuura , Jim Beam , Vitor Meira