FOUNTAIN, Colorado --Dan Wheldon solidified his IRL IndyCar® Series points lead over Sam Hornish Jr. and tied the two-time series champion’s single-season record for victories with a commanding win in the Honda Indy 225 on a glorious day at Pikes Peak International Raceway.
Hornish, a two-time winner on 1-mile ovals this season, finished second for the fourth time in 13 events. Reigning IndyCar Series champion Tony Kanaan was third, while pole sitter Helio Castroneves was fourth. Vitor Meira, the runner-up to Scott Sharp a week earlier at Kentucky Speedway, finished fifth.
Wheldon, who won four of the first five races, recorded his first victory since the 89th Indianapolis 500. In between, he’s finished in the top five in five of the seven events.
Wheldon used a pit stop problem by Andretti Green Racing teammate Dario Franchitti to take the lead for good on Lap 164. Franchitti, who won the race in 2004 and started fourth, had inherited the point when Wheldon made his final pit stop. Franchitti came in on Lap 164 for a routine fuel and tire stop, but the No. 27 ArcaEx car stalled in the pit box. The crew attempted to push-start the car, but that failed. They pulled it back to the pit box and used the starter to get it going. Franchitti finished seventh.
Rookie Danica Patrick, who started fifth, placed eighth.
The only caution flag flew on Lap 80 when the No. 33 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz/Toyota/Firestone driven by Ryan Briscoe made contact with the Turn 4 wall.
“I had just done my pit stop and the car felt really good,” the IndyCar Series rookie said. “I had done a quick lap and then I went through one and two and at the exit there was a strange moment. It felt like the tire pressure came down on me, and in Turn 3 I was in fourth gear and the rear just came out on me. So it felt like it was tire pressure or something like that.”
Teammate Jaques Lazier did not take the green flag after the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz/Toyota/Firestone made contact with the Turn 4 wall in the afternoon practice session Aug. 20. Lazier was cleared to drive by the Indy Racing League medical staff, but team principals decided not to risk damage to the backup car with another race Aug. 28 at Infineon Raceway.
In the IRL Menards Infiniti Pro Series Pikes Peak 100, Jeff Simmons led the final 99 laps to record his second win of the season.
Simmons passed pole sitter Travis Gregg on Lap 2 and pulled out to as much as an eight-second lead in the 100-mile sprint. Nick Bussell, who started ninth, finished second.
Gregg finished third while series points leader Wade Cunningham recorded his series-record 10th consecutive top-five finish with a fifth.
HONDA INDY 225 QUOTES:
DAN WHELDON (No. 26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished first): “It’s very important to me to be in Victory Lane, for everybody involved. The car was good. My three teammates pushed me hard. We all want to be in victory lane as much as one another. It just happened to work out for me. I’ve been tough on the Klein Tools/Jim Beam boys. I’ve been frustrated at some of the results. Certainly today, it was a great team effort by certainly those guys and everybody at Andretti Green Racing. It’s a nice time for a victory to come. Dario was really strong. I think he was my strongest competitor today. I was a little bit better in traffic at some points. It was a shame for him. He’s had some bad luck.”
SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone, finished second): “They got ahead of me when I got caught up to lap traffic. I saw guys were four wide in front of me, and I ended up turning a lap that was six seconds slower than what I was running before. That really killed us, but I didn’t want to get back up in there. I figured on a track that’s mostly two lanes wide, and some people were wanting to go four wide for who knows what positions, that’s asking for trouble.”
TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished third): “Dan did a great job today. He drove like a champion and hats off to him. Now it’s our job to clinch second in the championship for Team 7-Eleven. Our other plan was to clinch the manufacturer's championship for Honda, and we accomplished that. I knew that we didn't have the car to win the race, but we had a good enough car to finish as high as second. I had a good battle with Sam, and we raced hard over the final laps. It was fun racing like that.”
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No.3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone, finished fourth): “Unfortunately, I think we made the wrong choice on our race setup, and the Marlboro Team Penske car had a tremendous push in turns three and four. Those corners were my biggest problem. I could barely touch the throttle going through there. The team made front wing adjustments on both of our pit stops, but it didn’t really help. All considering, I’m pretty happy with a fourth-place finish today.”
VITOR MEIRA (No. 17 Rahal Letterman Menards Johns Manville Panoz/Honda/Firestone, finished fifth): “The top five is pretty good for our Menards/Johns Manville Honda. We have struggled with the Panoz on the short tracks this year, but I think we found some things today that will help us in the future. To score a solid fifth is good for the Rahal Letterman Racing team on the short track. It was a good day overall because Honda clinched the IRL Manufacturers Championship. That is important to us. Plus, one of our team’s primary sponsors is based in Colorado with Johns Manville, and it is nice to run well for them in their backyard. I know that the race conditions changed a lot from the warmup to the race. We got very loose early in the race, and I was just hanging on at the beginning. But later in the fuel stint, the car came around and it was fast. We were able to move through the field. With the thin air here in Colorado, the car doesn’t stick as well with the downforce package. But we did learn some more, and that is a key for us. Again, our pit stops were quick, and I picked a few spots through the crew. Now it is on to Sonoma, and that is going to be a tough race. That place is hard on the body. It is as physical a track in an Indy car as it is anywhere in the world. But I’m happy to get back to road racing next week.”
TOMAS ENGE (No. 2 Rockstar Panther Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, finished sixth): “This was a great result that we’ve all been waiting for this season. We were not completely sure about today because we hadn’t been the fastest in practice or qualification. We kept on it and the car came to me during the race, and we were very strong. At the end, we had to keep saving fuel, and we were still very fast, but I think we would have been able to get into the fifth position. I think a lot of people were saving fuel. We are very happy because this is the best finish for us all year. Still, we know our RockStar Chevy can do much better and we want to do that next week at Infineon.”
DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 27 ArcaEx Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished seventh): “I was waiting for the ArcaEx car to fill with fuel. I had the clutch pedal depressed but the car slowly started to creep forward and the engine stalled. So another mechanical problem took us from a race that I feel we had the car to win. We just cannot continue to have these things happen.”
DANICA PATRICK (No. 16 Rahal Letterman Racing Argent/Pioneer Panoz/Honda/Firestone, finished eighth): “As a team, we were pretty confident coming into the race after the morning warmup. And the car has improved from earlier in the year. We were looking for a good result after we ran strong in the short oval in Milwaukee. We just ran into a little trouble today that cost us. I got caught up in some traffic with slower cars, and it is hard to get around them on the one-mile tracks. With eight or so cars, trying to get by them on a restart, it can be a complete mess. The track definitely changed throughout the race, and we had to make the proper adjustments as the race ran down. We had a lot of oversteer at the beginning and understeer at the end. We were trying to balance the car, and it isn’t easy in the thin air. There were a couple of different points in the race that I felt the car was good. I was able to make up some ground in the middle of the first stint and in the middle of the last stint, too. I’m a little disappointed that I couldn’t make up as many spots due to the one bad restart where I got caught in traffic. I was pleased that the car was improved from earlier in the year on the short ovals, and we also learned some things for the road courses too. We are looking for a consistent car on these kinds of tracks. That is important.”
PATRICK CARPENTIER (No. 83 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Toyota/Firestone, finished 10th): “At the beginning of the race, the car was sliding around like crazy. We made a tire pressure adjustment in the first pit stop, and the car was a lot better. The car was fast after that. The Red Bull Cheever Racing crew did a good job in the pits today. We are still in 10th place in the championship, and if we can finish up there, it would be good.”
PIKES PEAK 100 POST-RACE QUOTES:
JEFF SIMMONS (No. 24 Team ISI Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone, finished first): “It was great, one of the best cars I’ve ever had. Everybody at Kenn Hardley Racing and Team ISI did a great job. Tom Wood, my teammate, had an awesome car at the end. He was closing in on me. I didn’t want to push too hard. I wish we could have given him that car earlier in the weekend, because we could have had the top two. I’m so excited for Kenn Hardley Racing and Team ISI. It’s been a storybook weekend, except for missing the pole position. I was able to get out there, get through traffic pretty well.”
NICK BUSSELL (No. 9 Vision Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone, finished second): “We struggled since we got here. All three of us struggled in the first session. The second session we made some changes, and I wasn’t comfortable with the car. In qualifying, I didn’t want to risk the car. So we qualified ninth, way off the pace. Basically it was a two-lap practice run. We found some things last night that weren’t quite right, like the shocks. We made some changes this morning. We fixed a bad shock and went out this morning and it was 10 times better. For thinking it would be our worst race of the year and now having my best finish, I’m pretty happy with that. I think Jeff (Simmons) toned it down a little bit. He didn’t have to push the car. Besides him, I think we had everybody covered, which was surprising considering I didn’t sleep last night.”
TRAVIS GREGG (No. 7 Lucas Oil Products/Sam Schmidt Mspt Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone, finished third): “At the start of the race, we had a big push. I couldn’t hold it down, and Jeff got around me. Then the car just went away a little bit, got a little loose. We’ll take a third. We finished ahead of Wade (Cunningham), so we picked up some points. A caution probably wouldn’t have helped. I’m happy to be in the top three.”
TOM WOOD (No. 42 Team ISI Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone, finished fourth): “I’m happy with that. I just wish the race was a little longer. I’m not that young anymore, and it takes me a little bit longer to get going. It was good though. I got my lap back from Jeff (Simmons) and we ran good. It was great.”
WADE CUNNINGHAM (No. 33 Motorsport New Zealand Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone, finished fifth): “I got a good run at the start. I thought I could get to second, and then I played it a bit conservative. I didn’t feel like I wanted to go three wide for a whole lap so I fell back to fifth quite comfortably and then I chose to run behind Jeff (Simmons) for 10, 15 or 20 laps or so. Jeff was slightly quicker, and then Jeff was a bit better through traffic than Travis (Gregg) was. And being in third at that point, I just have to do what he does. Once we got behind Tom Wood, we followed him for 20, 30, maybe 40 odd laps and then we developed this huge vibration in the rear-end. I thought a tire was de-laminating or something or maybe it had blistered. I was trying to drive as slow as I could, but race it at the same time. It was a hard trade-off. I think we were a bit quicker at the start of the race, but then we had quite a bit of a gap towards the end. So I had to come home fifth, but there isn’t much I could do about it.”
The 10th season of IndyCar Series competition continues Aug. 21 with the Honda Indy 225 at 3:30 p.m. (EDT) at Pikes Peak International Raceway. The race will be broadcast by ABC and the IMS Radio Network. The race broadcast also will be carried on XM Satellite Radio channel 152 (XM Extreme). The next Menards Infiniti Pro Series race is the Pikes Peak 100 on Aug. 21 at Pikes Peak International Raceway. It will be telecast at 3 p.m. (EDT) on Aug. 25.