Camping World Grand Prix
by Esteban Morales
July 8 , 2007
Despite setting a new track record en route to his third consecutive Watkins Glen pole position, Helio Castroneves was unable to stop history from repeating itself during the Camping World Watkins Glen Grand Prix. For the third year since its inception, Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon emerged victorious after Castroneves started from point. With pressure from Dixon and championship leader Dario Franchitti, Castroneves attempted to build a gap over the competition during the early stages of the event. Following the first set of pit stops Castroneves was unable to keep up his pace and made a costly error that sent his car into the track’s outside retaining wall. “I was trying to hold my line and keep it clean out there. I think I just overthought things and ended up spinning. I knew (Scott) Dixon was fast in turn 1, so I was pushing to get up there in front of him and I spun in turn 11,” said Castroneves following the shunt. With Castroneves out of the running Dixon assumed the lead on lap 20 and only gave up his lead during pit stops before recording his third consecutive upstate win.
During Dixon’s second pit stop, which took place under yellow after A.J. Foyt IV spun in turn 8, Vitor Meira and the Panther Racing crew took the opportunity to keep their Delphi Dallara on the circuit and gain valuable track position. Unfortunately, by lap 33 the Panther crew realized their gamble did not pay off as Meira sputtered out of fuel in turns 1 and 2, handing the lead to Dan Wheldon with Danica Patrick and Marco Andretti in tow. Although Meira fell off the lead lap as a result of the miscalculation the diminutive Brazilian valiantly drove through the field attempting to regain a lap. Meira finished the race just one spot ahead of Castroneves but his drive hinted at another possible first victory. With Meira out of the event Buddy Rice ultimately took best of the rest honors with another impressive run that saw him run as high as second in the Dreyer & Reinbold Racing entry.
Though Rice went on to finish sixth and recorded his third consecutive top six finish, his result and Dixon’s victory were overshadowed by a lap 29 turn 6 incident between Sam Hornish Jr. and Tony Kanaan. The incident took place as the former series champs entered turn 6 and made contact dropping Kanaan two spots down from tenth to twelfth. After the cool down lap Kanaan chopped Hornish as the cars entered the pits. Hornish immediately confronted Kanaan and both became embroiled in a heated altercation. Though neither driver made physical contact with the other the situation escalated when Hornish’s father entered the scene and shoved Kanaan. The shove triggered a team brawl between Andretti Green Racing members, including team owner Michael Andretti, and Team Penske. The altercation resulted in several sanctions and penalties including a $25,000 fine for Team Penske and Andretti Green Racing as well as a one race pit lane suspension for Hornish’s father.