Firestone Indy 300 Race Report

7/19/2004 5:06:00 PM

Firestone Indy 300 Race Report
Circuit: Nashville Superspeedway (1.33 mile oval), Lebanon, TN
2003 Winner: Gil de Ferran (Toyota) 137.679 mph average race speed
Weather: Warm, humid, 84 degrees F

Race Results:

Ps. St. Driver Team Engine Chassis Laps Average Speed/Notes
1. 5. Tony Kanaan Andretti Green Racing Honda Dallara 200 134.975 mph average
2. 9. Sam Hornish, Jr. Team Penske Toyota Dallara 200 -0.375 seconds
3. 11. Helio Castroneves Team Penske Toyota Dallara 200 -0.484 seconds
4. 6. Darren Manning Target/Chip Ganassi Toyota Panoz G-Force 200 -0.643 seconds
5. 12. Townsend Bell Panther Racing Chevrolet Dallara 200 -1.257 seconds
6. 1. Buddy Rice Rahal Letterman Racing Honda Panoz G-Force 200 -1.437 seconds
7. 18. Mark Taylor Access Motorsports Honda Panoz G-Force 200 -4.459 seconds
8. 8. Scott Dixon Target/Chip Ganassi Toyota Panoz G-Force 200 -4.646 seconds
9. 14. Kosuke Matsuura Super Aguri Fernandez Honda Panoz G-Force 200 -6.716 seconds
10. 13. Adrian Fernandez Fernandez Racing Honda Panoz G-Force 200 -7.618 seconds
11. 20. Tora Takagi Mo Nunn Racing Toyota Dallara 200 -8.928 seconds
12. 2. Vitor Meira Rahal Letterman Racing Honda Panoz G-Force 200 -16.940 seconds
13. 4. Dan Wheldon Andretti Green Racing Honda Dallara 199 Running
18. 3. Bryan Herta Andretti Green Racing Honda Dallara 161 Not Running - crash
20. 7. Dario Franchitti Andretti Green Racing Honda Dallara 135 Not Running - gearbox

Kanaan Hits the Right Notes in Music City

Tony Kanaan was in the right place at the right time Saturday night at Nashville Superspeedway, successfully avoiding contact just in front of his Andretti Green Racing machine, and then holding off a strong challenge from Sam Hornish Jr. in the closing laps to score his third IndyCar Series win of the season.

Starting fifth, Kanaan ran in the lead group throughout the first three-quarters of the 200-lap contest. When teammate Dan Wheldon and Buddy Rice made hard contact while battling for the lead on a Lap 178 restart, Kanaan just scraped through the incident, briefly brushing against Rice but continuing without significant damage. Kanaan went on to lead the final 18 laps, but first had to hold off the attacks from Hornish. Going into the final two corners, Hornish attempted to pass both high and low, but Kanaan resisted the challenge to bring Honda its seventh consecutive IndyCar race win in eight events this year.

For much of the race, however, Rahal Letterman Racing teammates Rice and Vitor Meira were the cars to beat. Meira led a race-high total of 113 laps, but encountered problems on his third pit stop when he was waved out while the fuel vent hose was still attached. The resulting delay dropped the Brazilian all the way to 15th place, but Meira quickly charged back through the field. He was running sixth on Lap 185 when transmission problems dramatically slowed his pace for a 12th-place finish.

Indy 500 winner Rice took over at the front on Lap 114 and maintained his advantage until the final round of pit stops on Lap 166. Wheldon then emerged in front, until Rice made his bid to regain the lead and the pair collided. Both continued, but only after pit stops for repairs. Rice stayed on the lead lap to finish sixth, while Wheldon was forced to make one final stop for a tire change and fell back to 13th.

After starting the year with Panther Racing, Mark Taylor made his debut with Access Motorsports in Nashville, and was the top rookie finisher in seventh, a best-ever result both for himself and the Access team, which was only formed in 2003. Teammates Kosuke Matsuura and Adrian Fernandez also posted strong runs, finishing ninth and tenth, respectively. Bryan Herta was eliminated in a one-car crash on Lap 161 while Dario Franchitti dropped out early with transmission failure.

Drivers' Championship (after 8 of 16 races)

1. Tony Kanaan 325 points (3 wins) 9. Dario Franchitti 173
2. Dan Wheldon 264 (2 wins) 10. Vitor Meira 170
3. Buddy Rice 253 (2 wins) 11. Alex Barron 162
4. Helio Castroneves 242 12. Adrian Fernandez 154
5. Sam Hornish Jr. 200 (1 win) 13. Tora Takagi 151
6. Scott Dixon 188 14. Kosuke Matsuura 145
7. Darren Manning 187 .
8. Bryan Herta 177 19. Mark Taylor 105

Manufacturers' Championship: Rookie of the Year:
1. Honda 77 (7 wins) 1. Kosuke Matsuura 145
2. Toyota 57 (1 win) 2. Ed Carpenter 106
3. Chevrolet 42 3. Mark Taylor 105

Tony Kanaan (#11 7-Eleven Andretti Green Racing Honda) Started 5th, finished 1st, continues to lead the points standings, his third race win of 2004 and seventh consecutive Honda win in eight events: "We struggled a little bit in the beginning, but eventually had a pretty good car. But we probably weren't the fastest car out there tonight. Both Vitor [Meira] and Buddy were impressive, and my teammate Dan [Wheldon], too. Then we got a couple of lucky breaks that handed me the win, so I'll take it! Everyone was driving aggressively, including myself. There was some crazy stuff going on, but at races like this where it is tough to pass, people race hard."

Buddy Rice (#15 Argent/Pioneer Rahal Letterman Racing Honda) Started 1st, finished 6th, led 53 laps: "We raced side-by-side at Kansas for many laps with no problems. Obviously, he [Dan Wheldon] didn't want me to go to the inside and we touched. I think there should have been racing room and he didn't want to give me any. That's the way it goes. I think Vitor [Meira] and I had the strongest cars, but the best cars don't always win. It's a disappointment because this car has been good here and in Texas and we lost valuable points with unfortunate incidents."

Vitor Meira (#17 Centrix Financial Rahal Letterman Racing Honda) Started 2nd, finished 12th, led 113 laps: "We had a misunderstanding in the pits [when he was waved out while the fuel vent hose was still attached to the car]. But everyone here knew the Centrix Honda was the car to beat. Buddy [Rice] and I ran away from the rest of the pack. But things don't always go your way. Again Honda won and that is very good. We just thought we could do it for them. I got stuck in fourth gear on the last 20 laps and couldn't hold off the field. I was running in fourth on the restart and they all drove around me."

Mark Taylor (#13 University Loft Access Motorsports Honda) Started 18th, finished 7th, best IndyCar race result for the series rookie, best result for Access Motorsports: "It was great to finish in my first drive for the team. That was our primary goal here in Nashville. To finish in the top 10 is an added bonus. It's my best finish since moving up to IndyCars. The car was excellent, it was great to have Honda power for the first time, we had quick pit stops and avoided trouble. I couldn't have asked for more tonight."

Dan Wheldon (#26 Jim Beam/Klein Tools Andretti Green Racing Honda) Started 4th, finished 13th, led 16 laps: "It's just a disappointing result. The team did a great job in the pits and the strategy was good. I just got together with [Buddy] Rice and I'm disappointed from that standpoint. You know if you hit the wall that you're going to lose some serious [championship] points, so you just try and keep it off there. Maybe it was more luck than judgment that enabled us to finish tonight."