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Wheldon makes history in St Petersburg

4 April 2005

Englishman Dan Wheldon became the first driver to win an IRL IndyCar Series race on a track other than an oval as he led an Andretti-Green Racing top four sweep on the sunny streets of St Petersburg in Florida.

Wheldon capitalised on a late race clash between surprise leader Ryan Briscoe and defending series champion Tony Kanaan to move from third to first and claim his second win of the season.

The Londoner overcame several concerted passing attempts from Kanaan over the final nine tours of the 1.8-mile St Petersburg track on a historic day for the series, and its champion team Andretti-Green, taking the chequered flag one and a half seconds ahead of his teammate.

Like Kanaan, Dario Franchitti also made several forceful passing moves during the course of the 100-lap race to take the final podium position ahead of pole sitter and lap one leader Bryan Herta.

The first non-AGR car home was Rahal-Letterman Racing's Vitor Meira in fifth place, the Brazilian born driver escaping a collection of accidents, which, in total claimed eight of the 21 starters.

Scott Dixon survived a last corner assault from Kosuke Matsuura to take sixth position ahead of Buddy Rice and Patrick Carpentier, who was the last driver on the lead lap.

Carpentier and ninth place finisher Darren Manning were the only two drivers with prior experience of the part airport, part waterfront circuit but while Carpentier had a quiet day, Manning briefly led until contact with Kanaan in turn eight dropped him down the order.

Danica Patrick enjoyed a brief stint in second place during the opening 30 laps thanks to a different pit strategy to that of most of the leaders before a gearbox problem cost her five laps. After repairs she returned to finish 12th, gaining valuable experience and finishing as the top rookie driver.

Briscoe was finally classified 14th after a side-by-side moment with Kanaan shortly after the final restart of the day on lap 91 ended with the Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz-Toyota nose first in the tyre barrier.

Also failing to make it to the end was the points leader going into the race Sam Hornish Jr, his Penske teammate Helio Castroneves and both Panther Racing entries.

Hornish Jr and Panther's Tomas Enge retired in unison 15 laps from the end after a passing attempt by Enge failed while Scheckter hit the tyres on his own while chasing a top six finish on lap 77.

Castroneves, running in third place during the early stages, was the first to retire, colliding with the slower machine of AJ Foyt IV on lap 14.






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