INDYCAR SERIES Detroit Indy Grand PrixFinal
Kanaan wins controversial Detroit Indy Grand PrixSep 3, 2007 - 12:25 AM By Bruce Martin PA SportsTicker Contributing Editor
DETROIT (Ticker) - A redemptive Tony Kanaan won Sunday's Detroit Indy Grand Prix after the two leaders in the IndyCar points race took each other out on a crash in the final lap.
When second-place Buddy Rice ran out of fuel, he couldn't get out of the way of Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti, the two drivers running first and second in the IndyCar points race. Rice's car ended up in a tire barrier as Dixon went by on what was the final lap of the timed race which ended one lap short of the scheduled 90-lap distance.
Dixon then lost control of his car and spun. Franchitti almost cleared Dixon before Dixon's car drifted back in front of Franchitti's, blocking his path on the race course.
Amazingly, Franchitti was still able to get his car coasting enough to limp across the start/finish line in sixth place. Dixon was credited with an eighth-place finish and lost the points lead.
The controversial finish overshadowed Danica Patrick's second place finish, the best of her career.
Franchitti regains the points lead and takes a slim three-point edge into the season-finale at Chicagoland Speedway next Sunday.
"We came here to take the championship lead away from Dixon and that's what we did as a team," said Franchitti's teammate, race-winner Kanaan. "Now, let's move on to Chicago."
Afterwards, Franchitti's team owners, Michael Andretti and Kevin Savoree, charged Dixon's team owner, Chip Ganassi with a slew of expletives being used trying to say Dixon blocked the track intentionally. An eye-witness even claims that Savoree was trying to get Ganassi to take a swing at him.
It is the latest aspect of an IndyCar Soap Opera that is coming to its final act next week.
"I can't really say it was unsportsmanlike, I had no control of the car, it spun out," Dixon explained. "It's just unfortunate what happened. I don't know what Buddy was doing, maybe he was out of fuel. I tried to get on the inside, and it looked like he sped up again, so I tried to brake, and he came down a little bit. My rear hit him and then I spun.
"How was it intentional? I was better off, I would have made five points on the guy if I kept going."
Ganassi defended his driver after he was confronted by the Andretti Green Racing team owners.
"'Why would he do that?' is right," Ganassi said. "I don't understand why he would possibly do that. He had two guys in front of him that were running out of gas, OK ... that's typical of a comment from that team."
Franchitti wasn't happy about the incident, but didn't think it was done on purpose.
"Some people think it was intentional," Franchitti said. "I've raced him enough that I don't think he would have done it intentional."
Kanaan edged Patrick in a race that finished under caution and confusion. Ironically, for a driver who gets so much attention, the best finish of her career took a back seat on this day.
"I'm happy that there are other storylines that are taking the lead," Patrick said. "I'm just going to have to do that much better to be the lead story. We weren't running up front all day today but we have our best result."
It was Kanaan's 12th career win and fifth of the season. Dan Wheldon was third, followed by Darren Manning and Kosuke Matsuura.
Kanaan is 39 points out of the lead in third place, and still eligible for the title after he led the final 20 laps of the race and won $131,000.
The Brazilian took a shot at former four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Rick Mears, who remains an official with Team Penske and criticized him last week for the "team tactics" that were used by Kanaan at Infineon Raceway.
"I'm back," said Kanaan in victory lane. "That's for all the guys who bad-mouthed me last week. I'm going to dedicate this victory to Rick Mears."
Later in the post-race press conference, Kanaan explained why he singled out the IndyCar racing hero with a back-handed verbal jab in victory lane.
"After all the criticism that I was involved in last weekend, I always say to all the people that criticize me that all you do comes back to you, so I guess I didn't do a bad thing, Kanaan said. "I have a lot of respect for Rick Mears. As he said he lost a lot of respect for me, but I did not lose respect for him. I think he's the greatest of all time. I always look for him and talk to him."
Franchitti got three extra bonus points for leading the most laps in the race, twice for 27 laps. Pole winner Helio Castroneves led the first 26 laps of the race. That was just before a big crash entering the first turn that involved Castroneves and Tomas Scheckter, piling both cars into the tire barrier on lap 67.
Neither driver was injured, but Castroneves was furious that he couldn't get his car back into the race as he sat in his car, shaking his head.
Scheckter blamed Castroneves for running into him, and the two were involved in a confrontation outside the media center.
"It's disappointing because my car was faster than his and it's disappointing why he didn't let me by," Castroneves said. "I asked why he let one guy by and not me by, and he said that other guy was putting on pressure. It's a racing incident and I'm disappointed for what happened."
In the revival of the Detroit Grand Prix at Belle Isle for the first time since Castroneves won in 2001 when it was part of the CART schedule, it was a smashing success for track promoter Roger Penske and the city of Detroit.
But it was a wild street race that included six cautions for 19 laps, five lead changes among five drivers and hard feelings heading into the last race of the season on the 1-1/2-mile oval at Chicagoland Speedway.
Kanaan and Rice were attempting to stretch their fuel mileage to the end and it paid off for Kanaan, but didn't for Rice who finished seventh. Dixon appeared to be in control of his points lead on the final lap before the weird turn of events that dropped him from second to eighth.
But it also gave many pause to reflect on Kanaan's move last weekend at Infineon Raceway, when he decided not to pass Franchitti's wounded race car for third place and served as his wing man by protecting him from Hornish and other drivers passing Franchitti and dropping him even further in the points.
If Kanaan had not done that, his championship race would be even closer entering the final race.
"I do not regret what I did last week," Kanaan said. 'I made my decision last weekend at one point in the race. Deep inside of me, that's what I wanted to do. Was I very unselfish? I think so. Five years from now when we all retire, people won't remember anything, but my friendship with my teammate (Franchitti) is one that I will have forever.
"The decision I made last weekend was the right one. But now I've told him at Chicago, I'm going for it."