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Homestead 2007: Wheldon's three-peat
25 March 2007
Englishman Dan Wheldon scored his third straight Homestead-Miami Speedway IRL Indycar Series victory in dominant fashion on Saturday night, beating his Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon to the chequered flag by a massive six seconds.
Polesitter Wheldon led 179 of 200 laps around the 1.5-mile Florida oval, overcoming a slow pitstop at the halfway point and a temporary rain shower to pass Dixon 80 laps from home and cruise the rest of the way to the flag.
Although he had no answer for his teammate, especially on older tyres, Dixon had more than enough to cope with defending series champion Sam Hornish Jr, who finished third on what was a banner night for Target Chip Ganassi Racing. Hornish Jr was able to hang with Wheldon in the early stages but soon dropped back and was never able to maintain a consistent challenge to the 2005 IRL Champion and was left to complete the podium in a somewhat lonely third.
In a race slowed by just three caution periods, including one for rain just after the 60-lap mark, the final 92 laps were run under green flag conditions, which allowed Wheldon to lap all bar the top five finishers.
As he did most of last year Tony Kanaan flew the flag for Andretti-Green Racing and finished fifth behind Panther Racing's Vitor Meira with last year's form generally carrying over to the start of the new campaign with Ganassi and Penske ahead of AGR and Panther with the rest of the field playing catch-up. However on Saturday's showing it appears that Ganassi have turned the tables on Penske, leaving Roger and his boys with plenty to think about before the next race in St Petersburg.
Such was Wheldon's pace that the majority of the 20-strong field were turned into also-rans although the pace of the three-car Vision Racing team was one of the highlights. Ed Carpenter finished sixth with Tomas Scheckter eighth while AJ Foyt IV also showed well until he was eliminated in the only multi-car accident of the night just before the half way point.
Scotland's Dario Franchitti finished seventh on a night that saw all four AGR cars struggle with their handling package while Hornish's teammate Helio Castroneves seemed equally all at-sea in ninth place.
Dreyer & Reinbold Racing took tenth and eleventh places with Buddy Rice and Sarah Fisher, who won the battle of the ladies over Danica Patrick despite being five laps off the pace at the finish. Scott Sharp completed the finishers for Rahal-Letterman Racing in 12th spot, but was six laps down to Wheldon at the finish.
Darren Manning's first outing with AJ Foyt ended in a mechanical related retirement just 40 laps from home while Danica Patrick's maiden voyage with AGR ended with a brush with the wall on lap 154. Backmarkers Marty Roth and Alex Barron both failed to finish after suffering with handling woes as did Marco Andretti in the fourth AGR car while Kosuke Matsuura and Jeff Simmons both crashed out with Foyt IV on lap 92.
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