Wheldon Claims Title, Patrick Rookie Honors at Watkins Glen Andretti Green Racing's Dan Wheldon only needed to start Sunday's Watkins Glen Indy Grand Prix to lock up the IndyCar Series drivers' championship, but the Honda-powered driver did...
Wheldon Claims Title, Patrick Rookie Honors at Watkins Glen
Andretti Green Racing's Dan Wheldon only needed to start Sunday's Watkins Glen Indy Grand Prix to lock up the IndyCar Series drivers' championship, but the Honda-powered driver did all that and more, finishing fifth at the historic upstate New York road course to succeed his teammate, Tony Kanaan, as IndyCar champion for 2005. It's the second consecutive year Honda has claimed the "Triple Crown" of major Indy Racing League titles: the drivers' championship, manufacturers' title, and Rookie of the Year, secured today by Rahal Letterman Racing's Danica Patrick.
Kanaan and Dario Franchitti each briefly challenged for the lead, but Scott Dixon proved to have the dominant car throughout the final half of the 60-lap Watkins Glen event, passing Franchitti for the final time on Lap 45 and Kanaan one lap later to post his first victory of the season. Kanaan's second-place finish, however, solidifies his hold on second in the championship over Sam Hornish Jr. with one event remaining in the season.
Patrick fell off the lead lap pace after an extended pit stop on Lap 28 to reset the ignition and telemetry aboard her Rahal Letterman machine, but a 16th place finish was more than enough for her to clinch series Rookie of the Year honors. She also was Rookie of the Year at the Indianapolis 500, following in the footsteps of Super Aguri Fernandez driver Kosuke Matsuura, who won both awards last year.
Taking advantage of a Lap 56 restart that resulted in a lot of position shuffling, Matsuura finished sixth to equal his best previous result this season, set at the Infineon Raceway road course in California. Delphi Fernandez Racing's Scott Sharp, however, was one of those who lost ground in the final laps as the Kentucky Speedway race winner finished ninth, just behind Andretti Green Racing's Bryan Herta. Roger Yasukawa rounded out the Honda-powered finishers with a 15th-place result for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing.
Dan Wheldon (#26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Andretti Green Racing Honda) Started 9th, finished 5th, clinched his first IndyCar Series drivers' championship: "I've got a lot of people to thank, starting with my three teammates [Dario Franchitti, Bryan Herta and Tony Kanaan], then extending on to the entire Andretti Green organization, all my friends and family. And obviously, my association with Honda means a great deal to me. They really took a bit of a chance with me two years ago, and I'm really proud that we've been able to deliver some great results for them in these few short years. I hope to be with Honda for a long time to come. It's been a fantastic season. Unbelievable. Winning Indianapolis will forever be one of the highlights of my life, and adding to that a record six race victories and the series championship is just icing on the cake. And there's still one race left to run -- and try to win -- before we're finished this year."
Tony Kanaan (#11 7-Eleven Andretti Green Racing Honda) Started 5th, finished 2nd: "I was racing for second place today. It was a good day, I had a very good start [moving up three positions on the first lap], but Scott [Dixon] just drove a hell of a race. I knew he had a strong car after he passed me a couple of times on the race track. I tried to beat him on the [pit] stops, but even if I had been able to do that I think he still would have ended up winning today. I tried to give him a hard time so that he would make a mistake, but he raced me clean as he always does and he deserves this win."
Danica Patrick (#16 Argent Mortgage/Pioneer Rahal Letterman Racing Honda) Started 16th, finished 16th, clinched IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year honors: "Where do I begin? We weren't super-strong this weekend, but I thought we were holding our own early in the race. But then, right after our second pit stop, the entire Rahal Letterman team just had a 'bad lap.' Buddy [Rice] crashed [exiting pit lane], Vitor [Meira] had some sort of electrical problem [leading to a pair of long pit stops], and as I went to adjust the brake bias, I guess I hit the ignition switch right next to it as well. By the time that all got sorted out I was a lap off the pace. But it has been a very memorable rookie season, and I'm proud of the effort from our entire team. I'm looking forward to going to Fontana in three weeks and ending our rookie campaign on a strong note."
Kosuke Matsuura (#55 Panasonic/Super Aguri Fernandez Racing Honda) Started 16th, finished 6th, equaling his best previous finish this year, at Infineon Raceway road course: "It was a great race for us with our second sixth-place finish on a road course. This time was different because in the last [road course] race, I was just holding my position. This time I was able to overtake many cars, especially during the last three laps after the final caution. When I passed [Sam] Hornish, it was a great [move] because he was absolutely quicker than me and yet I was able to pass him. On the last lap, two cars crashed in front of me and I was able to finish in the top six. This race was very good for us and I am looking forward to the [season finale] Fontana race."