IRL: Phoenix: Honda Racing race report

Kanaan scores Honda's first IRL victory. The pole qualifier at both IRL IndyCar Series races run this year, Tony Kanaan and his Andretti Green Racing team came home victorious today, holding off a strong challenge from fellow Brazilian Helio ...

Kanaan scores Honda's first IRL victory.

The pole qualifier at both IRL IndyCar Series races run this year, Tony Kanaan and his Andretti Green Racing team came home victorious today, holding off a strong challenge from fellow Brazilian Helio Castroneves in the closing laps to post Honda's first IRL race win at Phoenix International Raceway.

The victory came in just the second IndyCar race for American Honda, and one week shy of the 10th anniversary of the founding of Honda Performance Development, the dedicated racing subsidiary of American Honda Motor Co., Inc. Previously Honda and HPD posted 65 race wins and four manufacturers' championships in CART Champ Car competition through 2002.

Although Homestead race winner Scott Dixon jumped into the early lead, Kanaan was never far behind. Later, superior race strategy from his Andretti Green team saw the Brazilian make his final pit stop on lap 110, while most of the rest of the field made their final stop on lap 121.

That moved Kanaan into the front and set up the battle with two-time Indy 500 winner Castroneves. The pair, whose on-track rivalry extends back to karting competition as teenagers, fought hard to the finish, interrupted only by a hard Turn One crash involving their respective teammates, Michael Andretti and Gil de Ferran, without apparent serious injury to either.

Team Rahal's Kenny Brack was the next Honda finisher at the checkered flag, coming across the line fifth despite handling problems throughout the race. Rookie Roger Yasukawa had a very impressive run in the early going, leading five laps before crashing out on lap 99 while battling with Al Unser Jr. He also apparently escaped serious injury in the single-car crash.

Honda Fast Facts
* Today's win moves Honda into a first place tie with Toyota in the chase for the IRL Manufacturers' Championship.
* The win also moves Kanaan into the early season drivers' championship points lead.

Tony Kanaan (#11 7-Eleven/Andretti Green Racing Honda) started 1st, finished 1st, first IRL IndyCar win: "Well, first of all, it was a matter of teamwork. Since Day One, they've been great to me. They've been trying to give my confidence back that I lost a little bit last year. We got caught in Homestead, we went off in the race a little bit. We put our heads together after that and said: 'OK, what we need to do to win now? We have a good car, we have competitive drivers.' We worked on our race setup really well, myself, Michael [Andretti] and Dario [Franchitti], and came up with very good setups. If you look at one point, we're all in the top six. It was unfortunate that they both dropped out of the race. But I need to thank everybody in the team, especially Mike, he's been supporting me since he had this idea to buy this team. I'm very grateful for the opportunity. I'm going to keep giving 102 percent all the time to put his team at the top level. I think a guy like him, my guys, the way they act, the way we get along well, they deserve the best, and that is a win. So every time I jump in my car, I'm going to try to put that 11 car in the front."

Michael Andretti (#7 7-Eleven/Andretti Green Racing Honda) started 5th, finished 13th (not running - contact), first win as an IRL team owner: "I've got to say, it was like I won the race. Tony saved the day for me, obviously, with what happened [his crash on lap 186]. It was a tough day for us, but I'm so happy for the whole Team 7-Eleven. You know, as Tony said, we're working as a team. Dario, Tony, myself, and the engineers, it's just the most pleasurable experience that I've ever had in my career. I'm glad I've experienced this before I retire. It's been a lot of fun. That's when you get the results, and that's what's happening right now."

Dario Franchitti (#27 Motorola/Andretti Green Racing Honda) started 9th, finished 16th (not running - mechanical): "First of all I'm really happy for Tony, but obviously I'm disappointed we had a mechanical failure. I really felt we had a chance to be at the front at the finish. It was an eventful race. On the fifth restart I was going around Helio [Castroneves] when I got a bit wide in turn three. Because of that some other guys got down inside of me going into Turn 1 and I lost like four or five positions in the blink of an eye. All day my crew gave me great service, we made up positions on every pit stop. If they can keep that up I know we can make things happen on the track as well. It's a shame, I think we would have been in the top three."

Kenny Brack (#15 Pioneer/Miller Lite/Team Rahal Honda) started 6th, finished 5th: "It was a tough, long day for us today. We just seemed to have too much push [understeer] in the car. The crew guys did a good job today. We brought the car home in the top five. Not bad, but we need to improve the car. We weren't competitive as we wanted to be. It was tough to get a rhythm with the car since there were so many yellows. Yes, it is frustrating on these one-mile ovals. We just have to improve on our setups to race at the front of the field."

-honda-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Michael Andretti , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Kenny Brack , Roger Yasukawa