WHELDON LEADS AGR SWEEP IN ST. PETERSBURG ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., Sunday, April 3, 2005 -- Dan Wheldon capped a banner day for Andretti Green Racing as he won the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the first non-oval event in IRL IndyCar Series...
WHELDON LEADS AGR SWEEP IN ST. PETERSBURG
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., Sunday, April 3, 2005 -- Dan Wheldon capped a banner day for Andretti Green Racing as he won the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the first non-oval event in IRL IndyCar Series history.
Wheldon took the lead on Lap 91 after rookie Ryan Briscoe and Tony Kanaan made contact as they battled for the lead in Turn 10 of the 1.8-mile temporary street course. The contact ended the day for Briscoe, who led a race-high 43 laps.
Wheldon then held off Kanaan for his fifth career IndyCar Series victory and the second of the season. Dario Franchitti and Bryan Herta finished third and fourth, respectively, to complete Andretti Green Racing's sweep of the top-four positions.
Wheldon took the IndyCar Series point lead with the win and leads Kanaan by 24 heading into the Indy Japan 300 on April 30 at Twin Ring Motegi.
HONDA GRAND PRIX OF ST. PETERSBURG POST-RACE QUOTES:
DAN WHELDON (No. 26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "It's fantastic for Andretti Green Racing to get a 1-2-3-4. It was difficult as it is anytime you have TK (Tony Kanaan) breathing down your neck, so I've got to pat myself on the back for that. The Klein Tools/Jim Beam car was great. I was a little concerned about my brakes, but they seemed to hold up, and they need to when you have that green thing behind you. When you see 7-Eleven in the mirror, you know he's going to try anything he can. Fortunately, I kept him at bay. (About contact between Kanaan and Briscoe): "I think Briscoe was a little silly to turn in on TK. He definitely surprised everyone with how late he can break and I'm proud to win this race because any time you can beat him is exceptional. Dario and Bryan were really fast too, so I'm really proud of everyone."
TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "We had a great car. We've got a great team. I'm very happy for the team. Dan is a very lucky guy, but to win, you've got to be lucky. I need to thank my team. The guys never let me down. The whole 7-11 team did a great job."
DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 27 ArcaEx Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "We had a great car. We had a fuel tank problem in the pits, and we couldn't get a full load of fuel, so we had to keep making more stops than everybody else. 1-2-3-4 result for Honda and Andretti Green Racing is a great result."
BRYAN HERTA (No. 7 XM Satellite Radio Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "It was a great result for the team. For me, it was kind of great. I don't know what happened on the last set of tires. The car slowed down a second. I don't know why."
VITOR MEIRA (No. 17 Rahal Letterman Racing Menards Johns Manville Panoz/Honda/Firestone): "It was good. I think we got out of sync right on the first pit stop, but everybody was out of sync I guess. Even with a lot of downforce, I could really follow everyone on the straights and out brake them going into Turn 1. That's what really saved me on the restarts. Honda, not only on ovals but also on road courses, has proved that they are the engine to have, and I think they still will for the rest of the championship. The chassis was great. On cold tires, we were real quick. All the positions we made were on cold tires, out braking everybody. I have to learn more to push a bit more in the beginning of the race on the road courses, but we're going to get there."
RYAN BRISCOE (No. 33 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz/Toyota/Firestone): "We had a truly amazing race where the Target Team did absolutely everything right. We struggled all weekend long and ended up 10th on the grid, but from there, the Target Toyota was perfect. We had the perfect strategy, the Target crew had perfect pit stops, we led laps and were up front fighting for the win and that was awesome. For it to end this way is very disappointing. In the drivers' meeting, we were told by Brian Barnhart that if you make a move to pass, you have to do it before the apex. Coming off Turn 9 and going into the kink, I honestly made sure to brake late, but I took a look and Kanaan wasn't there. I was very surprised by the move because that was a risky passing zone, and he simply threw his car into the turn, and you can see the result. I was the leader, and we were fighting for the win, and I was up for the challenge, and I held my line, so I guess we'll call this a racing incident."
ALEX BARRON (No. 51 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "Driving the track was really a lot of fun but we didn't have the speed to run with the leaders. Before Motegi we are going to have to go back and evaluate what we are missing that is holding us back." (On the incident): "We had run under a lot of yellows so the tires were cold and had picked up a lot of rubber and ruble off of the streets. When I tried to rub some of that off I made contact with the wall and had to make an unscheduled pit stop to get a new front wing with less than 10 laps to go."
BUDDY RICE (No. 15 Argent Mortgage/Pioneer Panoz/Honda/Firestone): "It was great showing for us today with all of our problems in qualifying and then in the race. Having to start at the back wasn't good on a track like this, but it was a pretty good comeback for us with Vitor fifth and me in seventh. We were competitive, and we got out of (fuel) sequence, but then we got back in the proper sequence. We were right with Dario on the pit stops, and I had to come back in for another stop. I thought I had a right rear tire going down, so I came back in and that hurt us. We dropped back to 15th after running fourth, but we got some points, and we can go to the races that are right in our 'wheelhouse.' We know what to expect for Motegi and Indy, and we can win at those places. I think we'll be right in where the Panoz Honda combination works the best. There was a lot of bumping and shoving going on today."
PATRICK CARPENTIER (No. 83 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "It was a good race. I feel like I saved too much of the car. I didn't expect the brakes and the tires to last as long they did. The car was really good at the end. (On last restart) Buddy Rice was trying to pass me but he wasn't even beside me. He came in too hot. He hit me in the side pod and spun me around. I slid through turn five backwards. I was able to to spin it around and keep going but I lost a lot of time and some positions. The car was good at the end once I got some heat in the tires. We made a lot of progress this weekend. We ran with the leaders consistently which was the first time this year that we have done that. It was a good show."
SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "Our plan was to be patient, conservative, and make it to the end. We had a good start, and all was going well in the first couple of stints. We took a gamble and tried an aggressive fuel strategy that didn't quite work, but it was still looking like we were going to have a top-ten finish. On lap 86, I was getting ready to pass the #55 car (Matsuura). I realized I didn't have enough to make the move so I went to brake and get in line to make the turn (4) when I got hit from behind by the #2 car (Enge). His nose went through my rear suspension and the two cars were hooked together. I tried to turn but the tire was flat and there was nothing I could do. Unfortunately, it was one of those days. It's really too bad because I was having a lot of fun out there, and the Marlboro Team Penske guys did a great job on the pit stops and gave me a really good car. Now, I have a good idea of what I need to work on for the next road course, and I think we'll have some success on the rest of these circuits this year."
DANICA PATRICK (No. 16 Argent Mortgage/Pioneer Panoz/Honda/Firestone): "It was a little frustrating but exciting today. It was a little bit like Homestead. We were fast enough to run with the front bunch, but mistakes happen. I think I made a mistake with the gearbox, and we had to pit and change fifth gear and sixth gear. It just sheered off the teeth in the gearbox. The crew did a great job getting the gearbox back together and getting me out. We were able to run a lot of laps then, and the car was pretty fast later in the race. These races are similar to my experience in the (Formula) Atlantic cars, but the races are longer, and there is more strategy. I made some mistakes on the pit stops, but I think I'm getting used to them now. It feels more comfortable coming and stopping and leaving the pits hard on the throttle. We had a pit speed limiter problem today, but I didn't want to make some mistakes on the laps after the pit stops. I wanted to be smooth and learn with the Indy cars. I think I need to be a bit cautious in my rookie year."
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz/Toyota/Firestone): "The Target team did a great job preparing what should have been a top-three car today, but we took a gamble that didn't quite pay off. We stayed on the Firestone tires that we started with until the last stop, and they really held up, but we had a lot of understeer especially on cold tires, and that really killed our last stint. I was fighting with (Darren) Manning, and he was struggling with grip at that point as well, when (Kosuke) Matsuura got into the mix, and we made contact and that dropped me way back. It's a little disappointing because I feel like we had a much better finish in us, but it was a hard fought battle."
The next IndyCar Series race is the Indy Japan 300 on April 30 at Twin Ring Motegi. The race will be telecast by ESPN at Noon (EDT) and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network at 11:30 p.m. on April 29. The race also will be available on XM Satellite Radio channel 152 "XM Extreme." ESPN2's coverage of the Menards Infiniti Pro Series Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will be telecast at 3 p.m. (EDT) on April 8. The next Menards Infiniti Pro Series race is the Futaba Freedom 100 on May 27 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race will be telecast at 2 p.m. (EDT) on May 27.