Kansas Lottery Indy 300
Flawless Kansas Afternoon
by Esteban Morales
April 29 , 2007
Following a win at the Indy Japan 300, Tony Kanaan looked poised to earnestly challenge for the 2007 Indy Racing League championship. The jubilation continued with pole for the Kansas Lottery Indy 300 but ended on lap 48 of the race when Kanaan and teammate Danica Patrick collided during their first set of scheduled pit stops. Although Kanaan lost the lead early in the race to eventual winner Dan Wheldon, Kanaan continued to run competitively in second place prior to the stop. Patrick was fortunate to lose only one lap during the melee. A fuming Kanaan, however, fell eight laps behind the leaders due to suspension damage.
With Kanaan effectively out of contention Wheldon emerged in the lead over teammate Scott Dixon and Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves after scheduled pit stops. Wheldon continued to set a torrential pace but was slowed on lap 57 due to debris on the track. Sam Hornish Jr., who uncharacteristically fell one lap behind the leaders, took the opportunity to enter the pits and make serious adjustments to his ill-handling Dallara. With the green flag unfurled Wheldon led Dixon, Dario Franchitti, Tomas Scheckter and Castroneves back to the line and immediately built a commanding lead over five competitors left on the lead lap. Though there was little action at the front with the Target Chip Ganassi Racing cars running in formation, Tomas Scheckter continued to impress in the Vision Racing entry and broke into third by lap 70.
Unfortunately for the competition, Wheldon even had luck on his side during the afternoon. A tire on the leader’s car lost pressure just before Ed Carpenter smacked turns 3 and 4. The yellow allowed Wheldon to keep his car on the lead lap and ahead of the leaders who drove into the pits for scheduled stops. As the track went green on lap 108 Scheckter had a golden opportunity after emerging in second behind Wheldon but stumbled during the restart. Dixon moved up to second behind his teammate and the two quickly edged away from the field. By lap 130 Hornish had worked his way back up to sixth after falling outside of the top ten but was unable to challenge for the lead, as he was still one lap behind the leaders.
At the front Wheldon continued to lead over Dixon who conservatively ducked behind his teammate in order to save fuel. Like Kanaan at Motegi, Dixon was looking to gain an advantage over Wheldon by running longer on one load of fuel. Unfortunately for Dixon, he nearly ran out of fuel and was forced to enter the pits just before exiting turn 4 on lap 157. Dixon temporarily emerged with about a two-second lead over Wheldon. Race stewards promptly discovered how Dixon obtained the gap over Wheldon and ordered him to enter pit lane for a drive-through penalty. Though Franchitti and Castroneves were promoted to second and third, respectively, both drivers were mired well behind Wheldon. The Briton kept a steady eleven-second lead over Franchitti and only slowed with two laps left in the event when Scott Sharp’s Patron-liveried Dallara backed into the SAFER Barrier. With the victory in hand Wheldon coolly coasted across the finish line to record his second win this season. Team owner Chip Ganassi succinctly summed up the afternoon: “That’s what happens when you have a flawless day.”