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.

shares
comments
St Pete to join 2005 schedule
Previous article

St Pete to join 2005 schedule

Next article

St Petersburg confirmed

St Petersburg confirmed
Load comments
Ranking the top 10 IndyCar drivers of 2021 Plus

Ranking the top 10 IndyCar drivers of 2021

In an enthralling 2021 IndyCar campaign, the series bounced back from its COVID-19 truncated year prior and Alex Palou defeated both the established order and his fellow young guns to clinch a maiden title. It capped a remarkable season with plenty of standout performers

IndyCar
Nov 21, 2021
How F1's other IndyCar exile finally unlocked his potential Plus

How F1's other IndyCar exile finally unlocked his potential

Romain Grosjean's swashbuckling rookie year in IndyCar captured the imagination of many in 2021. But another ex-Formula 1 driver whose potential was masked by five years of toil in, at best, middling machinery also enjoyed a breakout year in 2021 - winning twice and finishing sixth in points. Here's how Marcus Ericsson finally delivered on his promise

IndyCar
Nov 16, 2021
How Ganassi's relentless new champion outfoxed IndyCar's best Plus

How Ganassi's relentless new champion outfoxed IndyCar's best

IndyCar sophomore Alex Palou stunned by overcoming team-mate Scott Dixon and the rest of a white-hot field in 2021. He was consistently fast and crucially showed a level head, rebounding well from setbacks to put himself in a near unassailable position entering the final round

IndyCar
Nov 4, 2021
Have Harvey and RLL formed IndyCar’s next winning match-up? Plus

Have Harvey and RLL formed IndyCar’s next winning match-up?

Despite appearing to have an IndyCar job for life with Meyer Shank Racing, Jack Harvey’s departure and move to Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing sparked plenty of debate. However, Harvey's and RLL's combined strengths could prove to be a winning combination - if they get the balance right

IndyCar
Oct 17, 2021
Remembering Dan Wheldon and his last and most amazing IndyCar win Plus

Remembering Dan Wheldon and his last and most amazing IndyCar win

Saturday 16 October marks the 10th anniversary of Dan Wheldon’s death. David Malsher-Lopez pays tribute, then asks Wheldon’s race engineer from 2011, Todd Malloy, to recall that magical second victory at the Indianapolis 500

IndyCar
Oct 16, 2021
Why Kyle Kirkwood is America's new IndyCar ace-in-waiting Plus

Why Kyle Kirkwood is America's new IndyCar ace-in-waiting

Kyle Kirkwood, the record-setting junior formula driver, sealed the Indy Lights championship last weekend. But despite an absurdly strong junior career and scholarship money, his next move is far from clear

IndyCar
Oct 6, 2021
Why IndyCar title glory is just the start for Ganassi's new star Plus

Why IndyCar title glory is just the start for Ganassi's new star

Newly-crowned IndyCar champion Alex Palou has been lauded as a complete driver and veteran-like in only his second season. The 24-year-old is still in the early days of his career, but the parallels are there for all to see with his six-time champion Chip Ganassi Racing team-mate who has been CGR's team leader since 2014

IndyCar
Sep 28, 2021
Why Grosjean's oval commitment shows he's serious about IndyCar Plus

Why Grosjean's oval commitment shows he's serious about IndyCar

One of motorsport’s worst-kept secrets is now out in the open, and Romain Grosjean has been confirmed as an Andretti Autosport IndyCar driver in 2022. It marks a remarkable turnaround after the abrupt end to his Formula 1 career, and is a firm indication of his commitment to challenge for the IndyCar Series title  

IndyCar
Sep 24, 2021