AJ Foyt 225
Broken Wing Spoils Helio's Flight
by Esteban Morales
June 3 , 2007
Following Dario Franchitti’s Indy triumph Andretti Green Racing carried its momentum into the ABC Supply/A.J. Foyt 225 where Tony Kanaan scored his second win this season over the Scotsman. Despite an AGR 1-2, teammates Marco Andretti and Danica Patrick did not fare as well. While Andretti ran a quiet race that ended with contact on lap 209, Patrick had the Milwaukee fans on their feet during the first half of the race. After IndyCar legend A.J. Foyt gave the eighteen “girls and boys” the command to start engines, pole winner Helio Castroneves cleanly led the field into the first turn.
Castroneves held off an eager Kanaan for a number of laps while Patrick aggressively carved her way from a penultimate starting position. Castroneves was momentarily slowed by debris on the front stretch and led the field into the pits during the event’s first yellow. Though most of the grid decided to pit, former Indy 500 champ Buddy Rice kept his Dallara on the track and impressed by leading for 37 laps. Meanwhile Patrick gained seven positions by lap 30 and continued to work her way towards the front of the pack.
By lap 62 Rice’s worn tires began to show their age as Castroneves and several of the leaders shuffled him down the order before he entered the pits. Patrick steadily continued to move through the field while Castroneves stretched his lead over Kanaan. On lap 88 Patrick moved around Franchitti for fifth and ambitiously tried to dive underneath fourth place Dan Wheldon. Patrick’s drive through the field came to a halt when she touched wheels with Wheldon seconds later. Patrick skillfully corrected her drifting car and kept it off a retaining wall; Patrick was unable to show her early form after suffering suspension damage and finished eighth. Her near-accident brought out the second yellow of the day prompting the leaders into pit lane. Wheldon was considerably luckier than Patrick and even raced out of the pits with the lead in hand.
With the drop of the green Castroneves quickly disposed of the Briton and retook the lead in turn 3. Castroneves dominated the event until Wheldon retook the lead during yellow pit stops. Wheldon momentarily held onto the lead during the restart and following the race’s fourth yellow for a lone accident involving early leader Buddy Rice on lap 158. With final pit stops out of the way Castroneves tucked in behind Wheldon heading into turn 1 and retook the lead on lap 169. Castroneves quickly ran away from the field and looked poised to take his first Indy Racing League victory on the historic oval. Only two dozen laps remained when Castroneves suffered a rear-wing failure that sent him sliding into the inside retaining wall on the front straight. With Castroneves out of the race Kanaan inherited the lead with Sam Hornish Jr. and Franchitti second and third respectively. In the closing stages of the event Hornish suspiciously suffered a similar rear-wing failure that took the second Team Penske entry out of contention and elevated Franchitti to second. Franchitti’s fourth consecutive podium appearance vaulted him into the championship lead while the Penske crew quietly examined their cars following the drop of the checkers.