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Just a Nose
by Esteban Morales

July 3, 2005

     As Tony Kanaan emerged from his scathed car following an accident at Nazareth Speedway in late August of 2003, a record-setting 2004 season was likely the last thing that came to mind. Like most drivers, the young Brazilian was probably kicking himself for a wreck that could have been avoided one way or another. Little did he know that a 6th place finish at Chicagoland Speedway just two weeks later would be the beginning of an incredible streak that would see him finish 25 races without any major glitch. Along the way, Kanaan picked up numerous wins, pole at Indy and last year's Indy Racing League title. Alas, most good things are always finite. The streak came to an end at Richmond International Raceway as Kanaan lost control of his Dallara and collected Vitor Meira in the process. How does he make up for his first shunt in close to two years? He wins the next race of course.

      Few if any wanted to see Tony Kanaan hoisting a trophy in victory lane following the Argent Mortgage Indy 300 at Kansas Speedway. Nothing personal, it's just that Danica Patrick had once again stollen the limelight. This time after adding an IRL pole to her resume with teammates Buddy Rice and Vitor Meira lining up right behind her. Eddie Cheever put it best as he anticipated an interesting race with "20 guys chasing one girl." 21 to be exact but who's counting. Quite a few of those guys were able to catch the girl as Patrick slid to midpack early on in the race while Rice kept his car out front. Meanwhile, fans were treated to a typical Kanaan dash to the front; the Brazilian was up to 3rd by the 5th lap after starting near middle of the grid. Kanaan drove an almost conservative race from then on yet always kept the car at the sharp end of the field knowing he did not have to lead every lap. Tomas Scheckter took command of the race early on and assumed a steady lead up to the quarter-distance mark during which he pitted under green.

      With stops cycling through, Roger Yasukawa backed his car into the turn 3 SAFER Barrier and finally came to rest in turn 4. By then, however, the dynamics of the race had changed quite a bit. Dan Wheldon had rocketed out of the pits with a blazingly fast sub-10 second pit stop that handed him the lead over teammates Kanaan and Dario Franchitti. The green unfurled on lap 63 and the race was back under way. Wheldon attempted to stretch out his lead to little effect as Scheckter emerged just a few laps later and challenged the Briton for some 10 laps. There was no stopping Scheckter as he came right back after falling behind, this time dragging Kanaan up front with him. Wheldon miraculously held on to his lead by a tiny margin through the halfway mark, before and after pitstops as well as a caution for Ryan Briscoe stopping just aft of pitlane. Wheldon restarted the field and led another stint of the event slowing only after a third yellow was thrown for Kosuke Matsuura's smoking Panoz. Most leaders, with the exception of Wheldon, Tomas Enge and Scott Sharp, took the opportunity to pit hoping to avoid a final stop.

     The lap 141 restart saw the pack behind Wheldon furiously scramble to the front with Kanaan ultimately emerging in 2nd. With the checkers looming in sight Scheckter looked for any way to move around Kanaan and dipped below the white line at least twice. Meanwhile, Kanaan kept his cool knowing there was still a splash and go before the finish. With 25 laps to go the leader dove into the pits for a final time, as expected, he and his crew delivered with another flawless stop. The rest of the field cycled through in the closing laps with Kanaan pitting on lap 192. Pit sequences wrapped up with just 4 laps left in the race; Kanaan and Wheldon ran those last few laps inches from one another while Meira sat right behind the Andretti Green Racing duo. All three came to the line side by side with Kanaan aptly taking the win by just a nose.

Results:

1. Tony Kanaan
2. Dan Wheldon
3. Vitor Meira
4. Dario Franchitti
5. Tomas Scheckter
6. Scott Sharp
7. Darren Manning
8. Helio Castroneves
9. Danica Patrick
10. Buddy Rice
11. Tomas Enge
12. Sam Hornish Jr.
13. Alex Barron
14. Patrick Carpentier
15. Bryan Herta
16. A.J. Foyt IV
17. Ed Carpenter
18. Scott Dixon
19. Jimmy Kite
20. Kosuke Matsuura
21. Ryan Briscoe