IRL: Phoenix: Honda race report

Kanaan Dominates Phoenix Field, Takes Championship Lead Tony Kanaan put his stamp of authority over the Copper World Indy 200 field Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway, moving to the front on the first lap and going on to lead 191 of the ...

Kanaan Dominates Phoenix Field, Takes Championship Lead

Tony Kanaan put his stamp of authority over the Copper World Indy 200 field Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway, moving to the front on the first lap and going on to lead 191 of the 200-lap contest to score his first Indy Racing League IndyCar Series win of 2004.

Kanaan's victory, a repeat of his 2003 win here, moves him to the top of the early-season points standings, with a six-point (77-71) lead over Helio Castroneves and one more point over his third-place Andretti Green Racing teammate, Dan Wheldon.

Wheldon, the 2003 Rookie of the Year, started from the pole but yielded the lead to Kanaan as the pair entered the third turn on the opening lap. Wheldon ran in the top six throughout the day, moving up to third when a late-race collision eliminated both Dario Franchitti and Tomas Scheckter. The latter pair were battling hard for third place on Lap 180 when Robbie Buhl crashed in Turn 4. Franchitti made contact with the back of Scheckter's car and both machines then piled into Buhl's stationary car. No one was injured, but all three were out of the contest.

Bryan Herta ran in the lead group throughout the day, finishing seventh in his XM Radio/Andretti Green Honda, while Buddy Rice persevered despite handling problems to finish ninth for Team Rahal.

Adrian Fernandez became the latest owner/driver in IndyCar racing this weekend, but his debut was a short one as transmission failure ended his race on the opening lap. However, rookie teammate Kosuke Matsuura had his best finish of the young season, starting 10th, surviving a brief mid-race brush against the Turn 4 wall and finishing 11th after a long battle with fellow Honda driver Greg Ray.

The IRL IndyCar Series now takes a four-week break before resuming April T17 at Honda's "home" circuit, win Ring Motegi in Japan.

Tony Kanaan (#11 7-Eleven Andretti Green Racing Honda) Started 2nd, finished 1st, 1st win of 2004, 2nd consecutive win at PIR, 2nd career IRL victory: "It was a great team effort, we had the best car out there today and Honda did a great job in making the improvements we asked for after the test here last month. After warm-up this morning I felt that we had the car to do the job. It was still a tough race, it was very hot and all the cars would start to slide around after about 50 laps. I'm extremely happy with the victory. It gives us great momentum going to the next race in Motegi [Japan]."

Dan Wheldon (#26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Andretti Green Racing Honda) Started 1st, finished 3rd: "We started strong, but my main problem was that the car would go 'loose' [oversteer] near the end of each run. I adjusted everything I had inside the cockpit, but that just made it worse. I finally moved everything back to how it was at the start of the race and just dealt with it. I was sorry to see Dario [Franchitti] go out, but two third places is a great start to the season for us."

Bryan Herta (#7 XM Satellite Radio Andretti Green Racing Honda) Started 9th, finished 7th: "Given the way the weekend started for us, a seventh-place finish is great. We missed out on a lot of track time Friday with some mechanical issues, and I had to rely on a lot of help from my teammates and they really came through for me. We might have pulled out a top-five finish, but I lost two positions during my last pit stop. I'm not sure why; we'll have to take a look at the [video] take and see where we had a problem."

Buddy Rice (#15 Pioneer/Argent Team Rahal Honda) Started 12th, finished 9th: "That wasn't the day we had planned. I got a decent start, and we picked off a couple of guys in the first 10 laps. But the car just wanted to push [understeer] towards the wall. I ran with Bryan [Herta] for a long time and I thought I was quicker. But by Lap 20, it was all I could do to hang on and turn the car. After the first pit stop, I probably drove the car too hard and burned off the tires too quickly. After that we went back to our original setup and the car wasn't as bad as the second run. But it never did turn into the corners like we wanted."

Greg Ray (#13 Access Motorsports Honda) Started 11th, finished 10th: "We went too long on our gearing for the race, and that hurt us in terms of making much progress during the race. We knew the pace in the race would be slower than in practice, but we didn't think it would be as slow as it turned out. I spent most of the race in third gear as a result, fourth was a bit too long and I never used fifth or sixth at all. We still managed our first top-10 finish of the year, and we'll take that with us to Motegi."

Adrian Fernandez (#5 Quaker State/Telmex/Tecate Fernandez Racing Honda) Started 13th, finished 20th (not running - mechanical): "Obviously, we are not happy but that's racing. I made a mistake on the downshift prior to the start of the race. The throw [distance the shifter moves] is a lot longer than what I am used to, so when I went down the gears I actually didn't go down as far as I should have and that broke the gearbox. But we learned a lot of things to prepare better for Motegi. The guys did an amazing job and it was just unfortunate that we couldn't finish the race to at least get the miles."


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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Greg Ray , Robbie Buhl , Helio Castroneves , Adrian Fernandez , Dario Franchitti , Tony Kanaan , Bryan Herta , Dan Wheldon , Buddy Rice , Kosuke Matsuura , Jim Beam