Honda Smoking Its IndyCar Rivals

As the IRL reached the halfway point in its 2004 season there were two distinct voices: Honda's battle cry and the wailing of its competition.

8/23/2004 8:14:15 PM

After losing the season opener, Honda-powered drivers and teams reeled off nine consecutive wins, eight pole positions, six 1-2 finishes and led an astounding 1,703 out of 2,055 laps.

"I'm obviously very happy with how things are going and I'm very proud of the people at Honda Performance Development," said Robert Clarke, vice president and general manager of HPD.

"Everyone has put a lot of work into this program and our results bear that out."

Tony Kanaan, Buddy Rice and Dan Wheldon held the top three spots in the drivers' championship following the Michigan race on Aug. 1 and appear to be main combatants for the '04 title.

Kanaan and Rice have both won three times so far this year, while Wheldon owns a pair of wins and Dario Franchitti made the other trip to Victory Lane.

"What can I say? Honda is just so impressive," said Kanaan, who has two seconds, a third, a fourth and a fifth in addition to his trio of triumphs in the 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda for Andretti Green Racing.

"Honda has done a great job but they're making it tough on me because the guys that are second and third in the championship both have the same engine. So it's making my life a lot harder.

"But, you know, I'm always proud of those guys. They were a big part of my decision when I came to this series."

Rice backed up his Indy 500 win with victories at Kansas City and Michigan to pull within 57 points of Kanaan heading for Kentucky in mid-August.

"We've got the perfect package with Honda and G-Force and I haven't felt this kind of confidence since I won the Formula Atlantic championship," said Rice, who drives for Rahal Letterman Racing along with Vitor Meira.

"We've had a couple of unfortunate incidents that cost us two more wins but we're just going to keep trying to win races and see what happens."

Wheldon went right to the top of Honda's popularity list by winning at Motegi, Japan and then took first at Richmond, Va.

"This is the toughest, most competitive series in the world right now and thankfully, I've got the best engine and the best team," said Wheldon.

Franchitti scored his initial IRL win at Milwaukee in July and Meira has led 150 laps but been deprived of Victory Lane by some bad breaks.

After chasing the Honda at Michigan in his Chevy, Tomas Scheckter seemed to echo the sentiments of the IRL paddock.

"There's no substitute for power and right now Honda is untouchable," he said. "They've done their homework and you have to give them credit."

And more room at HPD for all those first-place trophies.