Wheldon heads AGR sweep

In the final race to be held at the Andretti family's home track at Nazareth, Andretti Green Racing scored a fairytale one-two-three finish led by England's Dan Wheldon. Team-mates Tony Kanaan and Dario Franchitti chased him home

Wheldon heads AGR sweep

It was the team's eighth victory in 13 IRL IndyCar Series races this season, but the first podium sweep for the four-car team.

"To have three cars on the podium in this Indy Racing League today is an exceptional achievement," said Wheldon. "A lot of other guys deserve credit. My guys got me out of the pits very quickly on the final pit stop, and that's what won me the race. Once I was out in front, the car was very, very good."

Andretti, who retired from racing after last year's Indianapolis 500, was nostalgic yet subdued after Sunday's victory. In 1987, Andretti won the first race at Nazareth after Roger Penske resurrected the track, which was first built in 1966 adjacent to a dirt track that had been in use since before World War II. The track is being closed to all but leased events by its owner, International Speedway Corporation after Sunday's race. Mario Andretti and his brother Aldo got their racing start at Nazareth when it was a slightly larger dirt track in the 1960s.

"This is where my dad started," said Michael. "This is where a legend started with him. It's sad that it's over. Nazareth has always been known for a great racetrack. That's sad. Unfortunately, that's life. That's the way things go."

Wheldon's AGR Honda-powered Dallara beat team-mate Tony Kanaan's to the line by 3.5553 seconds. Dario Franchitti held off Buddy Rice (Rahal G Force-Honda) for third. After taking the lead with 79 laps remaining, Wheldon was not threatened. He received a break with two fuel-saving caution periods - one for debris on the 166th lap and another for a crash involving Scott Sharp and Townsend Bell on the 183rd lap.

As Wheldon began to pull away and Kanaan concerned himself with giving the leader a cushion against any possible challengers, Andretti became concerned with losing the 1-2-3 sweep.

"I was nervous about third place," Andretti said. "I felt comfortable where Dan was, and I just loved the way Dario protected Tony. It was a perfect team win."

Wheldon and his crew outfoxed Kanaan by short-fueling on a pit stop with 79 laps left in the 225-lap race. Wheldon nipped Kanaan by about a foot at the line as they exited the pits, and he never relinquished the lead. As Rice attempted to get close enough to Franchitti to pass him, he complained on the radio that he was being blocked. When told of the comments, Franchitti smiled.

"You should hear my radio," Franchitti said. "Did anybody see me block? Around here, in order to pass somebody, you have to be a lot quicker. We saw that all day. At no point was he alongside me."

Wheldon took the lead due to a scary situation in the Marlboro Team Penske pits. Sam Hornish Jr, who pitted with the lead on the 146th lap, pulled away before the car's fuel hose was detached. The hose ripped, dumping methanol on crewman Chris Seaman. It ignited briefly, but fellow crew members, including team owner Roger Penske, dumped buckets of water on Seaman to douse the flames.

"I went too soon," admitted Hornish. "These are the kind of races we should be winning. The guys gave me a good car and a good pit stop, and I just messed up. I started to go too soon. I didn't have the signal to go. I don't know what I was thinking. I just wasn't."

Following Wheldon, Kanaan, Franchitti and Rice to the line were Helio Castroneves, who led 100 laps before being passed by Hornish; Darren Manning; Adrian Fernandez; Bryan Herta, the fourth AGR driver; Scott Dixon; and Vitor Meira.

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