INDYCAR SERIES Kentucky Indy 300Final
Kanaan wins fourth of season at Meijer Indy 300Aug 12, 2007 - 2:58 AM By Bruce Martin PA SportsTicker Contributing Editor
SPARTA, Kentucky (Ticker) Tony Kanaan won for the second straight week to score a series-leading fourth IndyCar win of the season in Saturday night's Meijer Indy 300, but Dario Franchitti ran into the back of Kosuke Matsuura after the checkered flag and his car went airborne for the second week in a row.
Franchitti was once again uninjured from his frightening flight but an earlier mistake may prove costly in the battle for the IndyCar Series title.
Franchitti, who had dropped to eighth place after losing ground on the track, tried to enter pit road for his final stop with 20 laps to go, but he drove off pit lane attempting to avoid running into Patrick. Franchitti's car took out the pylon on pit lane that marks where drivers have to slow down, breaking the front wing on Franchitti's ride.
His crew was able to quickly replace the broken part and send him back onto the race track, but he had dropped to the last car on the lead lap.
"That was completely my fault, there's no excuse," a stunned Franchitti said afterwards. "I screwed up twice in the race. I screwed up once coming out of the pits and then after the checkered, Kosuke lifted and I didn't realize it was checkered. I got the 'Hey, it's a checkered' just as I was hitting him.
"I'm pretty disgusted with myself right now for that. For my mistakes today and again it could have been a big one. I'm glad I'm OK."
The race winner had to take a shot at his teammate for his second-straight flight in an IndyCar race.
"Obviously having Dario flying again, it wasn't really good," Kanaan said. "I thought we were going to fly out of here because he's a helicopter pilot, but not that way. I'm flag he's OK."
To make matters worse, AGR teammate Danica Patrick spun out leaving pit road to bring out the third caution period of the race. After Patrick's car restarted, she lost control under caution, slammed into the second-turn wall and nearly hit the safety vehicle on the track inspecting the race course under yellow.
"On pit exit, I was leaving with hot tires, we didn't change them and I was not even flat out," Patrick said. "I was lifting and usually on pit out, even on cold tires, we should pretty much be flat. It just went, it just spun, then after we got going there was such a flat spot and blister on the right rear that the tire blew."
Franchitti finished eighth before crashing after the race concluded. With Scott Dixon finishing second, he is now just eight points behind Franchitti in the battle for the series championship with just three races to go. Race-winner Kanaan is 52 points out of first place.
"The big picture is we have to stay in front of Dario, but TK is finishing ahead of us and is closing the gap," Dixon said. "We need to keep that from happening. It's going to be tough. The two guys we are fighting at the moment are going to be very tough to beat.
"We definitely don't need (Kanaan) winning any more so we've definitely got to try to put that to a stop."
A.J. Foyt IV scored a career-best third-place finish as all three Vision Racing drivers finished in the top 10. Marco Andretti finished fourth and Vision's Tomas Scheckter fifth. The third Vision driver, Ed Carpenter, was seventh.
"The team is really coming together," Foyt said afterwards. "This is our first year to work together with my engineer and he is just starting to learn what I like and what I don't like. They have given me a decent car all year long but today's car I could do whatever I wanted to with it."
Kanaan's victory was the 11th of his IndyCar career. He led six times for 131 laps in the 200-lap race but more importantly, he believes he has a legitimate shot at the title with three races remaining.
"At Indianapolis nobody was talking about Dario and Dixon and they finished 1-2," Kanaan said. "Everybody is now talking about Dario and Dixon and nobody is talking about me so I like that.
"From now on, they are being chased by me."
Dixon was the biggest beneficiary of Franchitti's mistakes as he is now within striking distance of taking the points lead when racing resumes at Infineon Raceway in two weeks.
"We've got to go out there and try to win races," Dixon said. "If we can't win, we've got to try and finish second and so on. That's the biggest way we can try and gain points."
Two of the top contenders in the race were knocked out on lap 36. That's when defending race winner and series champion Sam Hornish Jr. tried to pass Franchitti for second place. Hornish's car lost grip coming off the second turn, spun around and hit the wall. Dan Wheldon tried to avoid Hornish's car and drove off course, hitting the infield retaining wall.
"Dario picked the outside line going around," Hornish said. "I tried to get to the other side, just came out and took the air off the car. Unfortunately as soon as you get to the other side, it puts a whole bunch of downforce on the front and the back end came around.
"There was nothing we could really do about that at that time."
It was the second time in less than one week that both Hornish and Wheldon were involved in a crash. Both were part of last Sunday's seven-car crash at Michigan International Speedway, which is most remembered for Wheldon turning into Franchitti, sending his car airborne and upside-down.
"I think Sam got loose in Dario's dirty air and spun," Wheldon said. "I was just trying to sneak around the outside, which I couldn't quite get underneath him. He just clipped me, barely. It's just a shame for everybody on the team. But Scott is still in the race and hopefully he can try to gain some points on Dario, which would be great for the team."
The pits were open on the 39th lap and Franchitti was the first off pit road to take the lead. When the green flag waved to restart the race on lap 45, Kanaan was tucked on his rear tail and they followed each other until green-flag pit stops started on lap 90. Franchitti pitted as the race leader on lap 92. Kanaan, Dixon and Danica Patrick pitted on lap 93 and when the pit stop sequence cycled through Kanaan was in the lead ahead of Dixon.
That began a long stretch of green-flag racing before the goofy events that dictated the finish of the race.
After Patrick's crash brought out the final yellow flag, the race restarted with 11 laps to go and Foyt in the lead. One lap later, Kanaan passed Foyt and drove away to the win as Dixon and Foyt began battling for second place.
"I said you guys can fight, I'm pulling away," Kanaan said. "I went down and I took off and was able to pull away. It was a nice picture in my mirror when I saw them getting smaller and smaller and smaller."
And that's exactly what is happening to Franchitti's once-large lead in the IndyCar points. And with three races to go, Kanaan is ready for his piece of the action.
"I still want my team to win the championship and I will do whatever it takes to get Andretti Green Racing a championship," Kanaan said. "If somebody makes a calendar, Dario should have been June, Scott should be July and I should be August."
Kanaan's victory was worth $141,400.
Despite the three caution periods, the average speed was 180.558 miles per hour, which doesn't even crack the top-six in fastest IndyCar races of all-time.
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- Meijer Indy 300 Preview Aug 11