Iowa Corn Indy 250
Wheldon Relieved to Donate a Victory
by Esteban Morales
June 22, 2008
Despite being ransacked by Mother Nature, Iowans had plenty to smile about when Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s Dan Wheldon took the checkered flags at the Iowa Corn Indy 250. The packed track saw Wheldon end a string of bad luck and take his first win of 2008. His victory on Sunday was particularly important because of a pre-race vow to donate his winnings to disaster relief organizations. Although TCGR has been the crème de la crème this season, the red and white bull’s-eyed cars looked downright mediocre among Andretti Green Racing and Team Penske for much of the event.
It was clear that the Ganassi crew was going to have to win on more than sheer speed from the drop of the green. Wheldon’s teammate Scott Dixon had the good fortune of starting on pole after qualifying was rained out and the grid was lined up according to championship points. After leading the field into the first turn, Dixon lost the lead to Penske’s Helio Castroneves. Dixon continued to fall backwards and settled in fifth behind Wheldon, while Tony Kanaan charged past Castroneves for the lead on the small oval. Kanaan held onto the lead as the cars were slowed after Ed Carpenter suffered a suspension failure that sent him into the second turn’s retaining wall. Following pit stops and a restart, Castroneves reminded Kanaan that he was hungry for his first win of the season and retook the lead on the outside of the backstretch. On lap 62 Wheldon also began to show signs of speed by passing Marco Andretti for third but was unable to challenge Castroneves or Kanaan.
Further back in the pack John Andretti and A.J. Foyt IV were both having outstanding runs. Foyt IV capitalized and turned his run into a fifth position finish by the end of the day while Andretti was only able to finish eleventh after a bad pit stop. At the front Castroneves lost the lead during yellow flag pit stops after rookie Jaime Camara slowed in Turn 1. Castroneves fell to fourth while Wheldon capitalized and ran second. One lap after the restart however, Wheldon ran high in the second turn and dropped down to ninth. Wheldon was lucky to keep his Dallara unscathed after a bit of wheel banging with John Andretti. The Britton kept his cool and patiently worked his way back up to sixth before a lap 157 yellow for Mario Moraes’ spin while diving into the pits. Following pit stops Kanaan emerged with the lead but did not hold it for long as Castroneves took the lead in Turn 1 soon after the restart. Meanwhile, Wheldon hovered in sixth behind his teammate.
When the yellow flew for a fourth time on lap 188 Wheldon crucially kept his car out of the pits along with rookie Hideki Mutoh and Danica Patrick. Wheldon held onto the lead through two more yellows and collected his first win while Mutoh clung to second and recorded his best IndyCar finish. Dixon crossed the line in fourth and holds a commanding 48-point lead over Castroneves, his closest rival.