IRL: Phoenix: Honda race report

Kanaan Climbs to Third -- Twice! - at Phoenix Starting on the last row of the 22-car grid after mechanical problems in practice Friday, defending Indy Racing League IndyCar Series Champion Tony Kanaan charged through the field twice Saturday...

Kanaan Climbs to Third -- Twice! - at Phoenix

Starting on the last row of the 22-car grid after mechanical problems in practice Friday, defending Indy Racing League IndyCar Series Champion Tony Kanaan charged through the field twice Saturday at Phoenix International Raceway to finish third in the XM Satellite Radio Indy 200. The Andretti Green Racing driver posted his second consecutive third-place finish in as many events this season, and his 17th consecutive top-five result dating to 2004.

Passing more than a dozen cars in the opening laps, Kanaan had climbed all the way to third place by the first round of pit stops on Lap 78. But a malfunction with the refueling nozzle in his pits kept him from taking on fuel, and he had to make a second stop two laps later, dropping the Brazilian back in the field. But Kanaan refused to give up, and returned to the lead pack for the final 40 laps.

Kanaan's final move up to third came at the expense of teammate Dario Franchitti, who led 52 laps and dominated much of the last stages of the race. But a late-race yellow, just after the final round of pit stops, left Franchitti in second place behind Sam Hornish Jr. with just three laps remaining. Franchitti attempted a last lap pass of Hornish, but brushed the first-turn wall and limped home with suspension damage to finish fourth.

Delphi Fernandez Racing's Scott Sharp made his 100th IndyCar start a memorable one, finishing fifth after a long battle with Kanaan. Dan Wheldon had a strong early run, leading a total of 72 laps, but faded in the closing laps and finished sixth, one lap down to the leaders and just ahead of pole qualifier Bryan Herta in the fourth Andretti Green entry. Second-year driver Kosuke Matsuura had his best "short oval" race to date, running as high as fourth and finishing 10th for Super Aguri Fernandez Racing.

Vitor Meira led the three-car Rahal Letterman Racing entry with an 11th-place run, with teammate Danica Patrick the top rookie finisher in 15th. Defending Indy 500 winner Buddy Rice was the first retirement when he spun and made contact with the wall on the 14th lap, but was not injured in the crash.

Tony Kanaan (#11 7-Eleven Andretti Green Racing Honda) Started 21st, finished 3rd, 17th consecutive top-five finish: "I'm tired. I had to come through the field, twice, and that's a lot of work on a one-mile oval. I have to thank my team and my teammates for all their hard work. We had mechanical problem yesterday and ran only a handful of laps, but my guys kept their chins up despite the difficulty. And Dario [Franchitti], Dan [Wheldon] and Bryan [Herta] helped me a lot with the [chassis] setup. We got to the front the first time, but then had a problem with the fuel nozzle on our first pit stop and I had to come in again for fuel. So I'm back to 21st [position] again! It took longer to get through the field the second time! With all that, I'm happy with third, and our 17th consecutive top-five finish. That's a great result."

Dario Franchitti (#27 Arca/Ex Andretti Green Racing Honda) Started 5th, finished 4th, led 52 laps: "I had a great car today, definitely the best car out there, but it wasn't meant to be. We led a lot of laps today, but some other factors put us in the position of having to try to pass Sam [Hornish] after that final restart [on lap 198]. Sam didn't do anything wrong, he held the inside line. It was the last lap and I had to take a shot. I tried the outside, but understeered on the 'marbles' [small tire debris on the track late in the race] and slid up into the wall. The guys at Dallara [Automobiles] build a strong car. That was a hard hit but I was able to bring it around to the finish.

Scott Sharp (#8 Delphi Fernandez Racing Honda) Started 9th, finished 5th in his 100th IndyCar event: "I'm real pleased with my hundredth race. The car was strong all day, and there were times when we were really fast. But then I got stuck in traffic a couple of times and lost a bit of ground. It didn't quite come together enough for us to challenge for the win, but it was a good top five, and we'll build from here."

Vitor Meira (#17 Menard's Rahal Letterman Racing Honda) Started 12th, finished 11th: "The car was doing the same as Buddy's [Rice]. It was pretty loose. We made some changes after the warm up session this morning, but it didn't help. The car was not bad when I ran by myself, but in traffic it was a handful and I would lose momentum. It wasn't the car we had hoped for on the one-mile oval. But we are in the top six or seven in points and I'm ahead of where I was last year. Last year here I was standing the paddock trying to find a ride! So I'm not complaining. This is a good team and we can bounce back to race up front. I'm anxious to race on a road course again. It has been a few years since I have done it."

Roger Yasukawa (#24 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Honda) Started 13th, finished 18th: "The car was a real handful all day, but we brought it home to the finish and earned some [championship] points. We have to figure out where we had problems this weekend, but I'm confident we will. And I'm looking forward to going road racing again at St. Petersburg."


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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Scott Sharp , Dario Franchitti , Tony Kanaan , Bryan Herta , Roger Yasukawa , Buddy Rice , Kosuke Matsuura , Sam Hornish Jr. , Danica Patrick , Vitor Meira
Teams Dreyer & Reinbold Racing