INDYCAR SERIES RoadRunner Turbo Indy 300Final
Wheldon wins in Kansas againApr 28, 2008 - 2:30 AM By Bruce Martin PA SportsTicker Contributing Editor
KANSAS CITY, Kansas (Ticker) - Dan Wheldon won an IndyCar race at Kansas Speedway for the second year in a row Sunday, but he hopes the results are much different in the next race on the schedule than what happened last year.
Wheldon had all the momentum entering the Indianapolis 500 following his 2007 victory at Kansas and appeared to be the driver to beat on Memorial Day weekend. But after being favored to win the pole, Wheldon qualified a disappointing sixth. In the race, he was involved in a huge crash on the backstretch and credited with a 22nd place finish.
Wheldon would not win another race after Kansas in 2007 and finished fourth in points.
But after claiming the 14th IndyCar win of his career, he hopes to parlay it into his second Indy 500 win.
"I think the circumstances were definitely different last year," Wheldon said after beating Tony Kanaan by 2.1778 seconds. "I think you could focus on Indianapolis a little bit earlier. Because if you had a bad race, the worst you were going to finish was probably fourth, fifth or sixth because we definitely had competitive cars that were working for us at the beginning of last season."
But with so many cars in the field of the IndyCar Series since unification with the former Champ Car Series, teams have had to change their strategy. The top teams such as Team Penske, Target/Chip Ganassi Racing and Andretti Green Racing are no longer virtually guaranteed the top finishing positions.
"I think this win is good, but the biggest thing you notice about this year is to pick up the wins where you can, but you can't have races out of the top five because the points are just that close," Wheldon said. "I think this will help going into the month of May, but it's going to be just as tight there.
"I was so mad about the Indianapolis performance last year, we have looked at it and have a pretty good idea why we weren't very good there in the race."
Wheldon used a short pit strategy Sunday to become the first two-time IndyCar winner at Kansas Speedway in the Road Runner Turbo Indy 300.
Wheldon's pit stop was just a tick faster than his Target/Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon. That allowed Wheldon to take over the lead while Dixon was shuffled back to seventh place but had 15 cars between him and the race leader.
Dixon drove like a madman, driving from seventh-place on the last restart of the race with 28 laps to go in an attempt to catch the race leader and teammate Wheldon.
"There was no way to challenge the two guys up front with Dan and TK (Kanaan) that broke away," Dixon said after his third-place finish. "So it was pretty frustrating. It was one of those days that we had a good car and you thought you should have won but you came up short.
"It seems somewhat like Japan and it is a bit frustrating two weeks in a row."
Helio Castroneves was fourth followed by Marco Andretti.
Danica Patrick, who became the first female driver to win a race in a major closed-course racing series, finished 19th after dropping out of the race because of a broken drive pin after 156 of the 200 laps.
Earlier in the race, Will Power, last week's winner of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, crashed in the second turn on the 23rd lap for the second yellow flag of the race.
"I think Darren Manning was slowing up and I wasn't sure if Milka Duno was on the outside, so I didn't want to go high to the wall," Power explained. "It just whipped around. I haven't finished on an oval yet so this is not good."
During that pit stop, Marty Roth ran into Tomas Scheckter's crew chief, Simon Morley, as he was changing the right front tire on Scheckter's car. After Morley was hit by the front wing, he continued to change the tire before getting medical assistance.
Morley's only injury was a sore knee.
As Roth rolled his car backward, he ran over the back foot of another crew member, who punched Roth in the helmet. Roth was black-flagged by IndyCar officials for a "stop and hold" penalty, meaning he was held in the pits for 30 seconds.
When the green flag waved, Justin Wilson was in front of Dixon, but ceded the lead one lap later.
Dixon, the race leader at the time, went 50 laps between pit stops before pitting on lap 78. Wheldon also made his stop and the two left pit lane together with Dixon getting the slight advantage.
Scheckter had more problems on lap 98 when he was involved in a crash with Ernesto Viso. The two cars slid across the grass after the crash.
Buddy Rice crashed on lap 153 with right front suspensions failure while the green-flag pit stop cycle had begun. Dixon was in the pits at the time of the caution, but was allowed to continue his stop despite the fact the pits were closed. Rice, upset over the crash, slammed his fist against the car.
"We don't know what happened; we just have to figure it out and go from there," Rice said. "We were getting ready to collect some big points and be within the top 10 today with our finish in the race. We just weren't able to do it."
IndyCar rules allow cars about to run out of fuel to come in for a splash of fuel in order to keep running before the pits are open. Kanaan, Wheldon, Ryan Briscoe, Castroneves and Patrick all pitted for a splash of fuel but had to return to the pits for a full stop once pit lane opened on lap 157.
After an extended yellow flag, the green flag waved on lap 172 with Wheldon in front of Kanaan, Castroneves, Briscoe and Hideki Mutoh.
Dixon was in seventh-place and had a lot of traffic to catch up to the leader.
It was more than he could make up in the closing laps.
"When you have the cars trying to go three wide, and still lifting in the turns, the front guys just sort of break away," Dixon said. "It was just trying to feed through those guys without crashing and then getting to the faster guys trying to pick up some spots.
"We probably needed another caution for it to sort of pack up again in order to have a chance."
Wheldon went on to win and he now has the momentum - heading into the month of May.
"I think it helps your confidence," Wheldon said. "Both Target/Chip Ganassi Racing cars were very strong this weekend. That's great for this race, but it's going to make people work harder to try to catch us for their race at Indianapolis.
"It's nice to see that luck from last year change a little bit."