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Pushing to the End
by Esteban Morales

August 21, 2005

     Comfortably leading an openwheel championship in the closing stages of a season that has already seen four trips to victory lane typically means cruise control for the remaining rounds. Simply ask the IRL’s defending champion Tony Kanaan; Kanaan’s more impressive performances came in the first half of last season and complimented a steady tail end. Andretti Green Racing teammate, Dan Wheldon, however, has an altogether different take on strategy. Like a driver on point pushing full tilt on the last circuit simply out of honor and pride, Wheldon too is fighting to the very end looking to dominate this year’s title hunt by claiming a fifth victory at the Honda Indy 225.

     Before another crushing AGR win, Marlboro Team Penske looked poised to take full advantage of the Pikes Peak International Raceway. The Penske duo has been strong on the short ovals all year long; it was no surprise to find Helio Castroneves on pole with teammate Sam Hornish Jr. alongside. The Penske cars dominated the first stint with Castroneves leading the opening laps and Hornish taking over after encountering lapped traffic. Castroneves soon lost touch with Hornish, however, and gave up 2nd to Tony Kanaan. Kanaan though, was too far back to seriously threaten the leader who had lapped about half the field just before green flag pit stops.

     Tomas Scheckter led the way to the pits beginning on lap 74 while Hornish maintained a ten-second lead. Just as the majority of the field finished pitting, Ryan Briscoe nearly swapped ends and made contact with the turn 4 wall. The race began to shift into AGR’s hands as Dario Franchitti led under yellow before making a pit stop and falling in just behind Hornish. Being sandwiched between the Penske cars did not intimidate the Scotsman, Franchitti worked on Hornish a few laps after the restart and took the lead through turns 1 and 2 on lap 96. Franchitti led through the halfway point while teammates Dan Wheldon and Kanaan briskly moved to the front of the pack. The leader’s fortunes changed drastically during his final pit stop on lap 164. Franchitti’s stop went cleanly up until he stalled and handed the win to Wheldon.

     Wheldon led leaving Kanaan and Hornish to battle for scraps in the closing stages of the event. The Briton collected his first victory since tasting milk this May and extended his championship lead to 97 points over Hornish.

Results:

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