Kanaan wins wild Richmond race
|By Matt Beer and Jeff Olson||Sunday, June 29th 2008, 02:14 GMT|
Tony Kanaan finally took his first victory of the 2008 IRL IndyCar Series season by winning from pole on an extremely destructive evening at Richmond.
The race saw a total of nine cautions, mostly compacted into the event's disjointed first half, with only 10 cars completing the distance without damage.
Kanaan, who started from the pole, led 166 of the 300 laps - a distance 50 laps longer than the usual 250-lap race at RIR.
"There was a lot of action, definitely a lot of yellows," Kanaan said. "We benefited from being in the front, for sure.
"This was a typical Richmond race, very difficult and very long. At one point I looked and it was lap 245 and I wondered if it was five laps from the end. It was a tough race."
Penske's Helio Castroneves recovered from his poor qualifying to take second, as series leader Scott Dixon completed the podium ahead of his Ganassi teammate Dan Wheldon, whose car faltered - apparently out of fuel - at the final corner, costing him third.
But while Andretti Green Racing could celebrate Kanaan's win, they missed out on a potential one-two when Marco Andretti lost ground by pitting under green having led much of the race, leaving the young American ninth at the flag.
The opening laps set the tone for the chaos that followed, with the yellow emerging immediately for Ryan Hunter-Reay's harmless spin at the tail of the field. No sooner had the race resumed on lap six than the pace car was out again after Will Power lost control while being passed by Helio Castroneves and slammed into the wall.
The field managed nine laps of green between this incident and a tangle between John Andretti and AJ Foyt IV on lap 24. While Andretti continued unscathed, Foyt hit the wall and threw debris into the path of his Vision Racing teammate Ed Carpenter, who required a long stop for suspension repairs.
A prolonged green stint then followed at last, with Kanaan leading Marco Andretti, Graham Rahal and Dixon in a close lead battle. They all pitted during the lap 68 caution for debris, allowing Conquest's Jaime Camara and AGR's Danica Patrick to move to the front of the field, having both stopped out of sequence under earlier yellows.
Kanaan rejoined third, with Castroneves up to fourth from 18th on the grid thanks to a superb early charge and a very rapid stop.
Another plethora of yellows then followed, as at the restart Buddy Rice spun his Dreyer & Reinbold car into the wall and out of a strong seventh place, and then Ryan Briscoe tangled with both Darren Manning and Bruno Junqueira in the middle of the pack. The next attempt at a restart was equally unsuccessful, with John Andretti having his second collision of the evening - this time eliminating both himself and Vitor Meira.
Patrick chose to pit under this yellow, while Marco Andretti had jumped Castroneves at the previous restart and then passed both Kanaan and Camara in quick succession once racing resumed in earnest, hitting the front on lap 116 and quickly pulling away.
Andretti then decided not to stop when the pace car emerged yet again on lap 131 after Rahal crashed out of seventh place, whereas most of the rest of the field pitted under either this caution or the one that followed soon after when Hunter-Reay and Mario Moraes tangled just after the restart.
That kept Andretti at the front of the field, but left him out of sequence compared to the chasing Kanaan, Castroneves and Camara. The American continued to edge away from the pack and hoped to stretch his fuel load to the next yellow, only for the race to finally run uninterrupted for a lengthy period. Andretti ultimately had to stop under green on lap 204, losing a lap in the process.
His hopes depended on the rest of the leaders also having to pit under green, but 14 laps later Camara crashed out of his superb third place, allowing everyone else to stop under the resultant yellow - although Andretti at least managed to get back on the lead lap when waved around by the pace car.
The race then ran trouble-free for the final 71-lap run to the flag, with Kanaan calmly inching away from Castroneves to win by a comfortable five seconds, despite the Penske driver's best efforts.
"I was driving the wheels off it," Castroneves said. "I was trying everything I could to make up spots. The only chance I got was mostly on restarts. I wanted to win so bad."
The win was critical to Kanaan's championship hopes, moving him 18 points closer to Dixon, the series leader.
"We're coming," Kanaan said. "Scott's been doing what he should be doing, scoring points, but we're going to be right there chasing him."
Dixon now holds a 43-point lead over Castroneves and a 52-point lead over Wheldon, after nine of the 17 races this season, having finished on the podium in all but one of those nine races.
"Tony had a good run tonight, but we still had a good run," Dixon said. "I just messed up on my first pit stop and we dropped back to about eight or ninth. It was good to come away with third."
Behind the Ganassi duo, KV Racing's Oriol Servia had a strong race to fifth ahead of Patrick, Justin Wilson (Newman/Haas/Lanigan) and Townsend Bell (Dreyer & Reinbold), as Andretti found it hard to make progress in the final stint, falling a lap down again and having to settle for ninth.
Pos Driver Team Time 1. Tony Kanaan Andretti Green 2h04:05.5111 2. Helio Castroneves Penske + 4.7691 3. Scott Dixon Ganassi + 6.6504 4. Dan Wheldon Ganassi + 7.7270 5. Oriol Servia KV + 10.7701 6. Danica Patrick Andretti Green + 10.9198 7. Justin Wilson Newman/Haas/Lanigan + 16.3094 8. Townsend Bell Dreyer & Reinbold + 17.5175 9. Marco Andretti Andretti Green + 1 lap 10. EJ Viso HVM + 1 lap 11. Ed Carpenter Vision + 62 laps 12. Darren Manning Foyt + 65 laps 13. Hideki Mutoh Andretti Green + 80 laps 14. Jaime Camara Conquest + 83 laps 15. Ryan Briscoe Penske + 142 laps 16. Ryan Hunter-Reay Rahal Letterman + 157 laps 17. Mario Moraes Dale Coyne + 157 laps 18. Graham Rahal Newman/Haas/Lanigan + 169 laps 19. Marty Roth Roth + 183 laps 20. Vitor Meira Panther + 209 laps 21. John Andretti Roth + 209 laps 22. Buddy Rice Dreyer & Reinbold + 220 laps 23. Bruno Junqueira Dale Coyne + 222 laps 24. AJ Foyt IV Vision + 271 laps 25. Will Power KV + 292 laps 26. Enrique Bernoldi Conquest + 294 laps