Statement Made: IndyCar’s Stars in the Miami Mix
Scott Dixon won at Kansas for the second consecutive year ahead of teammate Dario Franchitti and South Florida resident Tony Kanaan (photo courtesy: Jonathan Ferrey, Getty Images Sport)
Scott Dixon, Dario Franchitti, Helio Castroneves, Tony Kanaan: Five IndyCar Championships, five Indy 500 victories amongst them.
Indeed, this fearsome foursome makes for a “who’s who” of IndyCar racing. And Saturday at Kansas, they claimed the Top 4 finishing spots in Race 5 of 17 en route to IndyCar Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Oct. 1-2). A sign of things to come? To be there for the crowning of the 2010 IndyCar Champion, stay tuned to THEChampionshipTrack.com or call toll free (866) 409-RACE.
Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s Dixon took the lead on Lap 33 and never gave it up. Teammate Franchitti—the defending IndyCar Champion, crowned at Homestead-Miami Speedway last October—tallied a second-place finish at Kansas, the first oval track on the 2010 IndyCar schedule. And Miami’s Kanaan earned the third spot on the podium, trailed by fellow-South Floridian Castroneves.
Six laps remained after the final caution Saturday, and Castroneves was sitting comfortably in second place with a chance to build momentum heading into the Indianapolis 500 later this month. Indeed, a runner-up finish at Kansas last year led to his third Indy 500 victory.
“We let second place slip away,” Castroneves said. “You can’t blink. You blink like I did, and two positions are gone. Still, a Top 5 finish is a positive result.”
Seeking to become the fourth driver in history to win a fourth Indy 500 and an IndyCar Series Championship at his “home town” track of Homestead-Miami Speedway, Castroneves will need to overcome cars he couldn’t overtake Saturday: the Ganassi boys of Dixon and Franchitti, and Andretti Autosport’s Kanaan and Ryan Hunter-Reay, who finished fifth.
“The Ganassi cars kind of worry me a little bit,” said Castroneves. “They were so strong, so fast. Like, ‘Whoa, wait a minute; what’s going on?’ And Andretti ran great.”
Danica Patrick—who will race at Homestead-Miami Speedway during both IndyCar Championship Weekend (Oct. 2) and NASCAR’s Ford Championship Weekend (Nov. 20)—finished 11th with an ill-handling car..
Said Patrick: "Today was really disappointing because I think the GoDaddy car was actually pretty strong. I really wanted to enjoy a great run today, but it just didn't happen for us."
With a fifth-place finish, road-course specialist—and South Florida native—Ryan Hunter-Reay remains in the Top 5 in the IZOD IndyCar Series Championship standings, which will culminate with the Championship finale on Homestead-Miami’s 1.5-mile oval Oct. 2. For tickets to the 2010 IndyCar Championship, stay tuned to THEChampionshipTrack.com or call toll free (866) 409-RACE.
Hunter-Reay’s strong results in the early going of the season have made for an interesting subplot, as his sponsorship deal with IZOD is due to run out after the June 5 race at Texas.
“IZOD has been thoroughly behind me for two-and-a-half years now,” said Hunter-Reay. “They’ve certainly done a lot for me, but they can only do what they can do. We’ll see where it goes.”
The looming financial development certainly hasn’t affected Hunter-Reay on race day, but he says it does consume his thoughts the remainder of the week. He won at Long Beach last month and hasn’t finished worse than 12th all season. He’d of course love to be in the mix for the IndyCar title on his “home track” of Homestead-Miami Oct. 2.
Said Hunter-Reay: “It’s hard not to think about it at night before you go to bed because this is our livelihood and our job. But when you get to the racetrack, you’re all about winning, and that’s the only thing that matters. You don’t really think about it, but once you get back to the hotel room and start unwinding, it’s definitely right there staring you in the face. As a team, we’re just showing up every week and doing a good job, hoping the rest falls into place.”
Hunter-Reay, Patrick, Castroneves, Dixon, Franchitti, Kanaan and the rest of the IndyCar field will resume the pursuit for fall glory in Miami on Sunday, May 30, in Race 6 at Indianapolis (12 p.m. EST on ABC, IMS Radio Network, XM Ch. 145 and Sirius Ch. 211). Both the IZOD IndyCar and Firestone Indy Lights Series Championships will culminate at Homestead-Miami Speedway during the NextEra Energy IndyCar Championships (Oct. 1-2). For ticket information, stay tuned to THEChampionshipTrack.com or call toll free (866) 409-RACE.
Open It Up: South Florida’s Indy Drivers
"We definitely didn't have the fastest car out there so we tried to maximize the result."
--South Florida resident Tony Kanaan after finishing on the podium at Kanasas
South Florida’s Helio Castroneves finished fourth, while Key Biscayne’s Tony Kanaan finished just ahead of him for the last podium spot. Penske’s Castroneves and the Andretti Autosport pilot are the only IZOD IndyCar Series driver to finish in the Top 10 in every race this season.
Said Kanaan: "I have to thank the whole 7-Eleven crew for the great stops. It was a great race. We did what we could. We definitely didn't have the fastest car out there, so we tried to maximize the result….It's a good way to lead into Indianapolis [for the 500 on May 30].”
Miami’s Raphael Matos continued to display his maturity by nursing a struggling car and windy conditions to a 16th place finish at Kansas Speedway. Starting 13th, he climbed as high as 10th on Lap 4 but saw the early improvement slip away as he struggled with the back end of the car.
“We thought we would have a car that could be competitive in the race, but it was just one of those days,” Matos said. “The car had a certain behavior in the beginning of the race, and even though I was able to adjust some things in the cockpit, it never was right. I had many close calls, many moments, but I was focused on bringing the car home. That was very important because we haven’t finished here before, and we had to have two perfect cars heading to Indy.”
South Florida’s E.J. Viso made a sensational charge from 16th to fifth before making contact in Turn 1 while passing a lapped car of Miami-neighbor Matos. Viso's machine was not repairable, and he exited the race on Lap 72.
Said Viso: "We were running very fast today. The car was very good to drive. I could go almost anywhere on the track. We went from 16th to fifth. I made a mistake for speeding in the pit lane and had a drive-through penalty, but I came back and was able to get by other cars again.
“Unfortunately, I tried to get around Matos in Turn 1 and got into the loose stuff near the wall. The car slid up into the barrier, [and] the contact broke the front suspension. I feel very badly for the team and sponsors because our No. 8 PDVSA KV Racing Technology car was extremely fast today. Overall, I think we have shown that our team has good oval setups, and we are anxious to get to Indianapolis now."
South Florida’s Mario Moraes, coming off a sixth place result at Long Beach, drove to a seventh place finish at Kansas to move within three points of the Top 10 in the IZOD IndyCar Series standings.
“Now, we have to work harder to get ready for the Indy 500,” said Moraes. “We also had some problems with our pit stops today. Overall, I thought we could have had a better placing, so there are some things we can work on for Indy."
How South Florida drivers fared: