Kanaan Wins; Franchitti Leads By 3 Points Heading To Finale

DETROIT ? If the Lap 87 running order would have remained through the finish of the inaugural Detroit Indy Grand Prix presented by Firestone, Tony Kanaan’s victory would have kept him in the IndyCar Series championship hunt until the green flag of the season finale Sept. 9.

But “if” became the operative word when the anything can happen axiom sprung to the forefront late on the demanding 2.070-mile, 14-turn Belle Isle circuit.

Oh, Kanaan claimed his fifth victory of the season. But it took a bizarre twist of events and carbon fiber with two laps remaining to give the No. 11 Team 7-Eleven driver renewed life in his drive for a second series title.

Andretti Green Racing teammate Dario Franchitti takes a three-point lead over Scott Dixon into the 200-lap race on the 1.5-mile, high-banked Chicagoland Speedway oval. Kanaan is 39 points to the rear. It’s the second consecutive season that the points lead has changed hands with two races remaining and again with one race remaining.

“Crazy race behind me, so I think it was a good thing to stay in the front,” said Kanaan, who inherited the lead when first and second pitted under caution on Lap 69. “I’m very pleased for the 7-Eleven team after all the criticism I got last weekend. I even heard the people that criticized me, ‘What you do always comes back to you.’ So I guess I didn’t do a bad thing. You do good things, good things happen to you.”

Entering T13 of Lap 88, the No. 15 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing car driven by Buddy Rice slowed when it ran out of ethanol. Dixon’s car made slight contact with Rice’s and spun at the exit of the turn, blocking the racing surface. Franchitti’s car, less than a second behind, then made light contact with Dixon’s No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car. But with an assist from the Delphi Safety Team, Franchitti was able to continue and finish sixth.

Dixon finished two spots behind, which would have produced a dead heat heading to Joliet, Ill. Franchitti’s advantage comes from picking up the three bonus points for leading the most laps (27).

“I wasn’t trying to pass Buddy,” said Dixon, who entered the fifth road/street course race of the season with a four-point lead over Franchitti. “I was in a good position and would not have risked it. He ran out of fuel. I sideswiped Buddy but tried to keep going. I was just trying to stay ahead of Franchitti for valuable points. I would never have done anything intentional to jeopardize our race.”

Rice, who led seven laps, was seeking a season-high finish. The team was working on a fuel calculation based on the premise of a timed race (2-hour, 10-minute window). The No. 15 car’s last pit stop was on Lap 57.

“Obviously, it was a crash fest and I just hate to get involved in the points championship because of where I’m at,” Rice said. “Those two were battling it out, and to take them out with a lap to go or get involved in an accident because I ran out of fuel is just disappointing for everybody involved.

“I think we finally got a car that was fast and we were able to run the times of the leaders. Things were starting to come together. It’s just disappointing to be squeezed that tight on fuel. I had no place to go really. It’s very difficult to get out of the way. I just wanted a solid strong finish for Dreyer & Reinbold and our new sponsor Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Las Vegas. It was extremely exciting. It’s where we want to be at.”

Until the Delphi Safety Team restarted Franchitti’s car, it was a sitting Canadian Club tub.

“We were sitting there staring at each other,” Franchitti said of his closest pursuer. “I would like to say Tony Kanaan drove a hell of a race today yet again. He did a good job.”

Franchitti said the same about teammate Danica Patrick, who advanced nine positions in the No. 7 Team Motorola car to finish a career-best second. Dan Wheldon moved up 13 positions to finish third in the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car (his highest finish since Richmond in June). Darren Manning, driving the No. 14 ABC Supply Co. car for A.J. Foyt Racing, posted a season-high fourth place. Kosuke Matsuura in the No. 55 Panasonic Panther Racing finished fifth.

“I think we deserve this on some of these road courses,” Manning said. “I think this was a little something back from St. Petersburg (where he was running in the top five before sticking the nose of the car in a tire barrier late in the race).”

Pole sitter Helio Castroneves, who led 26 laps, was involved in a crash with the No. 2 Vision Racing car driven by Tomas Scheckter on Lap 68 and finished 14th.

The cars of Sam Hornish Jr., Sarah Fisher and Vitor Meira retired on Lap 31 when they were involved in a Turn 1 incident on a restart (stalled car of Ed Carpenter in Turn 8). The cars of Patrick and Manning, also involved, were able to continue. Hornish’s No. 6 Team Penske car rejoined the race on Lap 45.

Ryan Hunter-Reay, who started fifth, was the first to exit on Lap 24 with a clutch issue in the No. 17 Team Ethanol car for Rahal Letterman Racing. A gearbox issue in the No. 26 NYSE car cost Marco Andretti, who retired three laps later.

“(We’ve experienced this) a couple times this weekend already, which is very disappointing for the NYSE boys,” Andretti said. “Unfortunately, again it’s just one those years. The car was alright but I was struggling and the cables started to go right away. I was fighting it all day. It was not fun.”

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