Andretti Green Does It "Right" at St. Pete Dan Wheldon, Tony Kanaan, Dario Franchitti and Bryan Herta -- the quartet of racers that make up Honda-powered Andretti Green Racing -- made all the right moves Sunday afternoon at the Honda Grand...
Andretti Green Does It "Right" at St. Pete
Dan Wheldon, Tony Kanaan, Dario Franchitti and Bryan Herta -- the quartet of racers that make up Honda-powered Andretti Green Racing -- made all the right moves Sunday afternoon at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, prevailing in a hard-fought, frequently physical effort for a 1-2-3-4 sweep of the Indy Racing League's first-ever street race.
The victory was the second of the season for Wheldon, and moves him to the top of the IndyCar Series standings after three races. Wheldon, running in third place after 92 or 100 laps, was the beneficiary of hard, "full contact" racing between Kanaan and Ryan Briscoe for the lead in the closing laps. The pair banged wheels twice as they raced through the fast left-hand Turn 11, with series rookie Briscoe sliding into the tire barrier at the exit of the corner, while Kanaan slowed off-line. Wheldon swept through into the lead as Kanaan regained momentum to finish second.
Yet for much of the contest the man to beat was another AGR driver, Dario Franchitti, who set fastest race lap as well. But problems with his refueling rig led to an extra, fourth pit stop, leaving Franchitti languishing in 12th place with less than 20 laps remaining. A very strong charge in the closing laps netted him third, right behind Kanaan at the checkered.
Pole qualifier Herta had a strong first half of the race, but battled oversteer in the latter stages, finishing fourth just ahead of Rahal Letterman Racing's Vitor Meira. Meira was another Honda driver to move up significantly in the final laps, as was teammate Buddy Rice, seventh at the finish.
Roger Yasukawa persevered after stalling early in the race and falling off the lead lap to finish 11th for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, while rookie contender Danica Patrick was forced to make a long pit stop for transmission repairs, also falling off the lead lap but recovering to finish 12th. Super Aguri Fernandez Racing's Kosuke Matsuura appeared headed for a finish of sixth or better, but was forced to retire in the closing laps with transmission failure. His teammate, Scott Sharp, was forced out on Lap xx after contact with Franchitti in Turn One.
Dan Wheldon (#26 Jim Beam/Klein Tools Andretti Green Racing Honda) Started 9th, finished 1st, second win of 2005, second Honda win: "I'm proud to win this race, because any time you can beat TK [Tony Kanaan], it's exceptional. I felt this whole week, leading into the race, that the team was working very hard and we had to do well. I completely messed up qualifying, so I knew I had to do much better in the race. When Tony had his incident with Briscoe, I was able to capitalize on it and then stay in front. To have me and my other three teammates, who I am very close to, finish 1-2-3-4, I think it was such a special moment. As Bryan [Herta] said while we standing on the podium, 'We must remember this, as it may never happen again."
Tony Kanaan (#11 7-Eleven Andretti Green Racing Honda) Started 3rd, finished 2nd, 18th consecutive top-five finish: "The race was very exciting, people trying to put me in the wall every time I tried to pass them. Obviously they got what they deserved. You want to play hard, we'll play hard. If you're man enough to hold it, you hold it; if you're not, come and talk to me. I was amazed at how strong the car was, it reminded me of when we used to race with Paul Tracy."
Dario Franchitti (#27 Arca/Ex Andretti Green Racing Honda) Started 4th, finished 3rd, set fastest race lap: "From the start we had a pretty good car, but we had a problem with the refueling system. It happened once and we thought we had it fixed, but it happened again. Obviously that ruined any chance we had to win. I'm disappointed because of that, but a 1-2-3-4 for Honda and Andretti Green Racing was pretty cool. The track was a lot of fun and a good challenge; we proved we could pass and the fans definitely got a great show."
Vitor Meira (#17 Menard's Rahal Letterman Racing Honda) Started 12th, finished 5th: "It was good. We got out of 'synch' at the first round of pit stops, half the field chose one strategy, and half went another way. But the guys did a great job with the car and Honda once again was the engine to have. We kept working and working, and the car was really strong on cold tires, I made up most of my positions on the restarts. The car was really good then and that's what saved me."
Kosuke Matsuura (#55 Super Aguri Fernandez Racing Honda) Started 7th, finished 13th (not running -- transmission failure): "I am very disappointed. It was our first time on a road course, and this race was very important for us. Especially with my background in road racing, I was so excited to be looking to finish in the top five. But my gearbox was broken with five laps to go. It is very disappointing because I was running well. The last stint, I was running in fifth and sixth without the left front wing. We learned a lot of things this weekend and also qualified well. Everyone on the team did a great job. I just need to focus now on the next race at Motegi."