FONTANA, Califprnia – Adrian Fernandez defeated Tony Kanaan in a one-lap shootout to win the Toyota Indy 400 at California Speedway. It was Fernandez’ second consecutive win and his third victory in the last five races.
Fernandez, owner/driver of the No. 5 Quaker State Telmex Tecate Panoz G Force/ Honda/Firestone, made his move on Kanaan in Turn 1 of the final lap and beat the No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone by .0183 seconds.
It was the seventh-closest finish in IRL IndyCar Series history and the closest IndyCar Series finish at California Speedway.
Kanaan, who recorded his 14th-consecutive top-five finish, clinched his first IndyCar Series title with his runner-up finish. Dan Wheldon, Kanaan’s closest title rival and Andretti Green Racing teammate, finished third, followed by two-time defending race winner Sam Hornish Jr. and Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Rice.
Darren Manning, who crashed during MBNA Pole Qualifying on Oct. 2, did not compete in the race. Manning sustained a slight concussion and a severe back contusion. He will be re-evaluated upon his return to Indianapolis.
10 CLOSEST FINISHES IN INDYCAR SERIES HISTORY:
Margin Date Venue Winner Runner-up 1. 0.0024 9/8/02 Chicagoland Sam Hornish Jr. Al Unser Jr. 2. 0.0051 7/4/04 Kansas Buddy Rice Vitor Meira 3. 0.0096 9/15/02 Texas Sam Hornish Jr. Helio Castroneves 4. 0.0099 9/7/03 Chicagoland Sam Hornish Jr. Scott Dixon 5. 0.0111 6/8/02 Texas Jeff Ward Al Unser Jr. 6. 0.0121 7/27/03 Michigan Alex Barron Sam Hornish Jr. 7. 0.0183 10/3/04 California Adrian Fernandez Tony Kanaan 8. 0.0188 10/6/01 Texas Sam Hornish Jr. Scott Sharp 9. 0.0281 3/24/02 California Sam Hornish Jr. Jaques Lazier 10. 0.0581 8/15/04 Kentucky Adrian Fernandez Buddy Rice
TOYOTA INDY 400 POST-RACE QUOTES:
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ (No. 5 Quaker State Telmex Tecate Panoz G Force/Honda/ Firestone): “My team has done a hell of a job. I'm so proud of them. I never thought that (IRL officials) were really going to get the restart in, but they did a fantastic job on restarting. Even on the restart, I got sideways. I put so much power. I wanted to get Tony (Kanaan) so bad, that I got sideways. I knew I had a stronger car. Tony really respected my line, and it was great. It was so close." (About Tony Kanaan clinching the championship): "I take off my hat to him. I've known him since I started in Indy Lights, and he's a really good driver. I knew he was going to win. It was just a matter of time."
JOHN WARD: (Engineer, No. 5 Quaker State Telmex Tecate Panoz G Force/Honda/ Firestone): “We were a little worried that they weren’t going to go back green. We felt like we were in the lead, but I think (the IRL) made the right call because they electronically time things. Luckily, we got the restart. Tony (Kanaan) raced hard. I think they all did. The reason we won that thing is great engine and tires, but the guys back at the shop have been massaging on that car for two weeks. They really made it a beautiful car to engineer, and Adrian (Fernandez), he’s the best driver I’ve ever worked with.”
TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone): “I tried my best. It was a tough race for us. It probably didn’t look that tough because we had a great car. I’m so excited for the team. I did some donuts over (in Turn 2) for (late driver) Greg Moore. He’s still in my heart. My dad who couldn’t be here, but it’s a happy day, not a sad day. I have great teammates and great sponsors, 7-Eleven and Honda. It’s a dream come true. Now I can relax a little bit.” (Can you relax now and enjoy the championship?): “I hope so. I have a mission. I want (teammate) Dan (Wheldon) to finish second. That’s my goal, and I will do anything I can to get him up there. I don’t think he needs any help, but I will do whatever I can.”
DAN WHELDON (No. 26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda/Firestone): “It’s excellent for Andretti Green Racing and Tony Kanaan. He’s one of my best friends, if not my best friend. I’m very happy for him. For the team to have four cars and run them as equally as they do is such a wonderful achievement. That right there is a champion on the track and a champion off the track. I’ve never seen a champion like him before. He’ll represent the title like no one else.” (About his penalty): “I think (IRL Sr. Vice President for Racing Operations) Brian Barnhart made a very bad call. I think when he makes a call like that he should go to the workshop and meet with my engineer and look over the data. I have a lot of respect for the guy, but the decision was very wrong.”
MICHAEL ANDRETTI (Co-owner, Andretti Green Racing): “I’m proud of (Tony Kanaan). I’m proud of the whole team. (Tony) drove like a champion from the first race. He drove like that last year, too. He deserved this one. The whole 7-Eleven team did. It was a team effort. Everybody contributed from all four teams. They all love each other, and they are really great friends.”
SCOTT DIXON (No. 1 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone): “It was a very average race for us today. While it was nice to have the pink No. 1 Target Toyota/Panoz G Force start from the front row, we may have concentrated on qualifying a bit too much and should have put our effort more on the race setup. The car was just really loose on entry into the corners, and I had some trouble on the high line. We’ll just concentrate on Texas and finishing the season on a high note.”
SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "I was happy with the Marlboro Team Penske car today. It was handling really well in traffic. Unfortunately, I just couldn't find any packs to run with for most of the day. Towards the end of the race, we were running with other cars, and I was able to move up a couple of spots. It's just too bad there weren't a few more laps under green. We didn't quite end up where we wanted to be this afternoon, but we were competitive, nontheless. It was a long, tough race out there, and the good news is we brought the Marlboro Team Penske car home in one piece."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): “Everything was going really well at the beginning of the race. It was great to be out front leading, and all was under control. The setup on the Marlboro Team Penske car was really good. The crew did a fantastic job all weekend. Unfortunately, the end wasn’t what we were hoping for. The yellows at the end were really tough for us. I’m not sure what was wrong on the restarts. I think fourth gear might have been too tall, but we’ll have to take a look at it to figure out the problem. There’s one more race to go. Hopefully, we can end the season with a strong finish in Texas.”
BUDDY RICE (No. 15 Rahal Letterman Racing Pioneer/Argent Panoz G Force/Honda/ Firestone): “The car was pretty good today, but I don’t think we had the speed of a couple of the cars out there. The Pioneer/Argent Honda was solid enough that we could hang in there with Tony (Kanaan) and Helio (Castroneves) for most of the day. Then when you have a one or two lap shootout, people come out of nowhere that have been in the back of the pack most of the day. Some guys really make their cars wide, too. Our plan was to race with the leaders and then get the car ready for the last 20 laps, but I don’t think we had the speed that we needed at the end. We just missed a little bit on the setup for today. I think it is cooler today than we thought it would be. The wind wasn’t a factor for us today, but overall, the weather didn’t heat up like we had anticipated, and that hurt us a little. We just didn’t read the weather properly for the setup we had.”
TOWNSEND BELL (No. 2 Menards/Johns Manville Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/ Firestone): “We made up some positions by the finish, but in the middle of the race, we were really slipping. I could hang with the leaders when I was in a big pack, but we just couldn't keep up when we were running alone. Chevy made some big improvements this weekend, and I look forward to what we'll have for Texas." (On last lap pass of Mark Taylor): "He got me on the restart before, and I really wanted to make up that position. We really got beat going into (Turn) 1, then got a really good run on the backstretch. I came off of (Turn) 4 really high and was hoping nobody would put me into the fence, and then we got him at the line. It was a good day for all the Menards/Johns Manville crew, and we look forward to another solid result in Texas."
A.J. FOYT IV (No. 14 Conseco/A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): “I told (Sam) Hornish (Jr.) to go to the inside, and he ran me high down the frontstretch. Then a car got underneath him, and I pushed up into the marbles.”
The next IndyCar Series event is the Chevy 500k at 12:30 p.m. (EDT) on Oct. 17 at Texas Motor Speedway. The race will be broadcast live on ABC and the IMS Radio Network. The next Menards Infiniti Pro Series event is the Texas 100 on Oct. 16 at California Speedway. The race will be broadcast by ESPN2 at 3 p.m. (EDT) on Oct. 17.