IndyCar »

Rice the man in Kansas - but only just.

By Andrew Charman

Buddy Rice did not just conquer the Argent Mortgage Indy 300 at the superfast Kansas Speedway , he dominated it. Or at least Rahal-Letterman Racing did, for while Rice's performance was of top quality, earning him membership of the 2004 double win club alongside Tony Kanaan and Dan Wheldon (except of course that Rice's 'other' win so far this year is the Indy 500), he came within five thousandths of a second of losing it to his hugely impressive team-mate Vitor Meira.

The race got underway with the 1.5-mile speedway seeing its coolest temperatures for some years, which some thought might throw out many teams' tyre tactics. From pole position Buddy Rice's #15 Rahal-Letterman G Force-Honda immediately assumed the lead, but the yellows were already flying as Scott Sharp spun and collected Tora Takagi, putting both in the wall. Takagi's #12 Pioneer Mo Nunn Racing Dallara-Toyota made it back to the pits with damaged suspension, while the nose of Sharp's #8 Kelley Racing version was history, both cars out for the day. “We all stacked up and I turned instead of run into someone,” said a disappointed Sharp.

The green flew on lap 6 and the leaders ran three-wide to turn one, Tony Kanaan's #11 Andretti-Green G Force-Honda moving ahead from second on the grid, Rice slotting into second chased by his team-mate Vitor Meira's #17 car. Meira, who is only driving on a race-to-race basis with the Rahal-Letterman team pending the recovery of injured number one driver Kenny Brack, has been growing more confident with every outing, and today would be another supremely impressive performance, suggesting that if as is increasingly rumoured Brack decides not to return, Bobby Rahal will need little time to decide on a permanent replacement.

By lap 25 the lead trio were being closed on by fourth-placed Tomas Sheckter's Panther Racing Dallara-Chevrolet, while Rice was shaping up to attack Kanaan for the lead. Further back the self-run #5 G Force-Honda of Adrian Fernandez was involved in a frantic dice for eighth spot with this year's top IRL Brit Dan Wheldon's #26 Andretti-Green G Force-Honda, the pair running two-wid e for much of the lap.

Scheckter finally took Meira on lap 31, and a lap later found a way past Rice as well, the clearly inspired South African immediately setting about leader Kanaan. Several laps of two-wide racing ensued, and as Scheckter continued to be frustrated Rice was able to benefit, snatching second back on lap 42.

Green flag pit stops began on lap 52, and proved disastrous for Wheldon whose fuel hose refused to detach and tipped over the pitlane tank. Up at the front the protagionists remained the same, except that it was now the amazing Meira who was all over Kanaan for the lead. He was past by lap 70, just as the leaders started finding their way through the backmarkers, and once ahead simply drove away, building up a five-second advantage by lap 100, half distance.

Second by now was Rice, while behind third-placed Kanaan Scheckter was disputing fourth spot with Fernandez. But it all went wrong for Tomas on lap 108 when his Chevy motor spluttered, a Panther Racing miscue having left it out of fuel. Scheckter made it back to the pits for the vital fluid, but then compounded his problems by killing the engine as he restarted. His reward for such a competitive first half of the race would be a 15th place finish four laps down.

Meanwhile all the leaders had made their second stops, these proving frustrating for Meira who lost out to both Rice and Kanaan. Running close together in fourth, fifth and sixth were Fernandez and Andretti-Green team-mates Bryan Herta and Dario Franchitti, the Scot coming increasingly into the picture as the race wore on. Matters remained stable through what were expected to be the final round of fuel stops, but within five laps of their conclusion the second yellow of the day was out as the #20 Patrick Racing Dallara-Chevrolet of Jeff Simmons ran into Kosuke Matsuura's #55 Fernandez G Force-Honda between turns one and two, both smacking the wall.

The green flew with just 14 laps left, Meira back in second and seemingly with no qualms about going after his team-leader. The final 10 laps served up edge of the seat action as the two fought two-wide for the win, Meira actually leading a couple of laps and team boss Rahal no doubt losing most of his fingernails. In the end Meira lost out where it really counted, the finish line on lap 200, but he did so by a hair's-breadth. The 0.0051 of a second margin was officially the second closest finish in IRL history (the closest was 0.0024 of a sec at Chicagoland in 2002) and the day did produce one record, the 169 laps of green-flag racing the longest in IRL history.

“It's great being able to race each other cleanly,” grinned Rice in victory lane. “It's fun being able to race like that,” whereas Meira summed the duel up eloquently. “The last 10 laps felt like 100,” he said. “I wanted the win pretty bad, but not to the point to do anything stupid.'

Kanaan took third ahead of Franchitti and Herta. Tony was not over-happy with a passing move by Rice where the Andretti-Green driver thought there wasn't enough room, but mindful of the big picture. “It's a long championship and we just have to keep thinking points, points, points,” he said. With good reason – he carries a 28 point advantage over team-mate Wheldon into the next round at Nashville in two weeks' time. Rice is a further 25 back in a battle that is shaping up nicely…


Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Buddy Rice
Vitor Meira, Team Menard. [IMS Photo Ron McQueeney]
Tony Kanaan
Chevrolet sweeps the podium with winner Mike Conway (center), driver of the #20 Fuzzy`s Ultra Premium Vodka / Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet IndyCar V6, celebrating his victory Sunday, July 20, 2014 during the second of two IndyCar Series races through the streets of Exhibition Place, in Toronto, Canada. Tony Kanaan (left), driver of the #10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet celebrates his second-place finish. Will Power, driver of the #12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet celebrates his third-place finish. (Photo by Phillip Abbott/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Mike Conway, Tony Kanaan and Will Power celebrate on the podium after the second round of the Honda Indy Toronto doubleheader on Sunday July 20 2014. (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Mike Conway, Tony Kanaan and Will Power pose for a selfie on the podium after the second round of the Honda Indy Toronto doubleheader on Sunday July 20 2014. (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Tony Kanaan and Will Power pose for a selfie on the podium after the second round of the Honda Indy Toronto doubleheader on Sunday July 20 2014. (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Chevy Racing sweeps the podium with race winner Sebastien Bourdais (center), driver of the #11 Hydroxycut KVC Racing Technology Chevrolet IndyCar V6, celebrating his victory Sunday, July 20, 2014 during the first of two IndyCar Series races in Toronto, Canada. Second-place finisher Helio Castroneves (left), driver of the #3 PPV Automotive Refinish Team Penske Chevrolet, and third-place finisher Tony Kanaan, driver of the #10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, join the celebration. (Photo by Phillip Abbott/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Tony Kanaan, driver of the #10 TNT Energy Drink Ganassi Racing Chevrolet V6, races to a third-place finish Saturday, July 12, 2014 at the Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa. Helio Castroneves, driver of the #3 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet V6, takes over the championship points lead with an eighth-place finish. (Photo by Phillip Abbott/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Scott Dixon, driver of the #9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet IndyCar V6, races teammate Tony Kanaan, driver of the #10 TNT Energy Drink Ganassi Racing Chevrolet V6, Saturday, July 12, 2014 at the Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa. Dixon won the pole and finished in fourth-place. Kanaan led for most of the race and finished third. (Photo by Phillip Abbott/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan lead the pack at the start of the Iowa Corn Indy 300 (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Tony Kanaan leads the field during the Iowa Corn Indy 300 at Iowa Speedway (Photo by: Shawn Gritzmacher for IndyCar Media)
Ryan Briscoe (left), driver of the #8 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet IndyCar V6, talks with teammate Tony Kanaan, driver of the #10 TNT Energy Drink Ganassi Racing Chevrolet V6, during qualifying Friday, July 11, 2014 for Saturday`s race at the Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa. Briscoe qualified fourth, Kanaan second and teammate Scott Dixon, driver of the #9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet IndyCar V6 won the pole. (Photo by Phillip Abbott/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Scott Dixon, driver of the #9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet IndyCar V6 celebrates winning the pole Friday, July 11, 2014 for Saturday`s race at the Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa. Dixon will start in the front row with teammate Tony Kanaan, driver of the #10 TNT Energy Drink Ganassi Racing Chevrolet V6, who qualified second. (Photo by Phillip Abbott/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Scott Dixon, driver of the #9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet IndyCar V6 wins the pole Friday, July 11, 2014 for Saturday`s race at the Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa. Dixon will start in the front row with teammate Tony Kanaan, driver of the #10 TNT Energy Drink Ganassi Racing Chevrolet V6, who qualified second. (Photo by Phillip Abbott/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Tony Kanaan in action at Pocono (Photo by: Bret Kelley for IndyCar Media)
Tony Kanaan, Justin Wilson, Will Power, Scott Dixon (Photo by: Jim Haines for IndyCar Media)
Tony Kanaan (Photo by: Shawn Gritzmacher for IndyCar Media)

Start the conversation - Add your comment

Please login or register before adding your comments.

Although the administrators and moderators of this website will attempt to keep all objectionable comments off these pages, it is impossible for us to review all messages. All messages express the views of the poster, and neither Crash Media Group nor Crash.Net will be held responsible for the content of any message. We do not vouch for or warrant the accuracy, completeness or usefulness of any message, and are not responsible for the contents of any message. If you find a message objectionable, please contact us and inform us of the problem or use the [report] function next to the offending post. Any message that does not conform with the policy of this service can be edited or removed with immediate effect.




© 1999 - 2014 Crash Media Group

The total or partial reproduction of text, photographs or illustrations is not permitted in any form.