Honda Indy 225
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The Beginning of the End
by Esteban Morales

     With thunderstorms looming in the distance and the championship yet to be decided, Johnny Rutherford paced the field to the Honda Indy 225 at Pikes Peak International Raceway almost half an hour ahead of schedule. Due to qualifying having been rained out, the starting grid for the event was set according to the pace set during practice. This left points leader Tony Kanaan at the front of the field picking up his fourth pole of the year while his number one title contender, Buddy Rice, was mired back in eleventh for the start of the event.

     With the green flag out and Kanaan in front, Rice anxiously attempted to carve his way into the lead only to lose control of his Panoz G-Force while exiting the second turn of the first lap. The costly accident brought out the first caution of the day at the mile long oval and effectively ended Rice’s day. Kanaan led Andretti Green Racing teammates, Dan Wheldon and Dario Franchitti back to the green on lap 9. Franchitti moved ahead of Wheldon on the restart and used the same momentum to propel him around Kanaan for the lead on lap 30 as the two worked traffic. Behind Franchitti, Sam Hornish Jr. was busy making progress and reached second by lap 58 then took the lead from the Scotsman just two laps later. His Marlboro Team Penske teammate, Helio Castroneves, soon charged from nowhere and joined him at the front while Franchitti slid to third. Hornish only momentarily gave up his lead when he pitted under green but soon regained it once the grid cycled through its stops. Franchitti endured a notable stop in which he almost took a fuel hose with him but rejoined the competition in fourth losing just one position. After picking up the lead, Hornish led over Castroneves, Tomas Scheckter, Franchitti and Adrian Fernandez through the halfway point without a glitch.

     Lap 122 saw the second yellow flag of the day, this one for debris. Hornish led the pack back into pit lane and picked up the lead soon after. With the green in sight the leaders gassed it and moved into turn 1 in a very tight pack; Franchitti took this opportunity to retake the lead on the outside through turn 4 on lap 132. Franchitti coolly maintained his lead while Hornish eventually backed his Toyota powered Dallara into turn 4 leading to another caution on lap 159. Franchitti headed back into the pits with the field in tow and kept his lead through a routine stop while Fernandez jumped a few positions into second. A despondent Tomas Scheckter returned to the pits one lap later with a broken halfshaft to record the seventh DNF of a dire season at Panther Racing.

     Franchitti went on to lead Fernandez, Castroneves, Kanaan and Wheldon to the lap 169 restart. Fernandez tucked in behind the leader and kept the pressure on for over a dozen laps to little if any effect. Franchitti built a considerable lead and never looked back recording his second IndyCar Indy Racing League victory and the seventh for Andretti Green Racing this season. Tony Kanaan rounded out the top five and gained a valuable eighteen points at Buddy Rice’s expense in what may have been the turning point in Rice’s title bid. Following the race Kanaan unsurprisingly told the media, “When I saw Buddy out, I said I need to finish this race…and capitalize….”

Results:

1. Dario Franchitti
2. Adrian Fernandez
3. Dan Wheldon
4. Darren Manning
5. Tony Kanaan
6. Helio Castroneves
7. Vitor Meira
8. Jaques Lazier
9. Bryan Herta
10. Alex Barron
11. Ed Carpenter
12. Townsend Bell
13. Kosuke Matsuura
14. Mark Taylor
15. Scott Sharp
16. Felipe Giaffone
17. Tomas Scheckter
18. Sam Hornish Jr.
19. Tora Takagi
20. Scott Dixon
21. A.J. Foyt IV
22. Buddy Rice