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Kanaan takes advantage as Rahal squad slips up

Rice continued to stretch his lead over Hornish, and by lap 140 was 4.5 seconds ahead, while Meira's progress was delayed by several laps trying to pass the Penske-Dallara of Helio Castroneves. Once past into sixth on lap 145 the Rahal-Letterman car quickly attached itself to the second to fifth-place pack, and soon dispatched Townsend Bell, who in turn was enjoying his best run since replacing Mark Taylor at Panther Racing.

Just as it seemed the last pit stops of the night would be under green Bryan Herta's overworked tyres gave up and sent his Andretti-Green Dallara up the track and into the wall. A fast pit stop was vital, and Dan Wheldon's crew reacted best, getting him out ahead of Rice, Hornish and Kanaan, Meira's crew again costing him as he dropped to ninth.

Cleaning up took some time, not helped by AJ Foyt IV's Dallara stopping on the track, and the green flew with just 23 laps left. Rice immediately ducked inside Wheldon, the two touched, Wheldon went sideways in front of Rice and then amazingly both straightened up again. Kanaan snatched the opportunity to nip past Rice, in the process smashing the Rahal car's front wing, and with debris on the circuit the yellow flew again. Rice was forced to pit for a new nose and all of a sudden Rahal-Letterman's day had turned very sour.

They went green with 18 left, Kanaan and Hornish immediately rounding the clearly struggling Wheldon, and seconds later the Brit brought out caution number seven as his right rear tyre distintegrated, Dan keeping the car out of the wall and making pit road. So we were ready for our third shootout, Kanaan ahead of Hornish, Manning and Castroneves, as the green flew with 12 to go. Kanaan led the way, the two Penskes chasing, and Hornish quickly closed in. With five to go the first four were nose-to-tail, Onto the last lap Hornish closed right in but Kanaan blatantly blocked him off, the Penske car's front wing tapping the Andretti-Green machine's rear tyre but Kanaan holding on to win.

“I knew we were strong, and I just needed to hold (Sam Hornish Jr.) up, and that is what I did,” said Kanaan afterwards. “I had to finish in the top three, and they gave me the win, so I'll take it. Everybody was driving aggressive, including myself. I saw some crazy stuff going on, but races like this where it is tough to pass, people race hard.”

If Hornish was angry at the last lap block, he didn't show it, saying; “It was the last lap, and I knew if I didn't make it work that I would have to get way out of the throttle and that someone might get a run on me, so I wanted to save it. I just didn't get the job done.”

Castroneves was third, Manning fourth and Bell an impressive fifth ahead of the disappointed Rice and Taylor, the British rookie just delighted to finish. Rice was philosophical; “Dan Wheldon didn't want me to go to the inside, and he pushed my car onto the apron,” the Rahal man said. “We touched. We should have had a solid finish tonight, but there are some people who think otherwise. I think there should have been racing room and they didn't want to give any.”

For the man taking the real bitter pill, you had to go down to 12th, Vitor Meira struggling home in a car stuck in fourth gear to finish a race he should have won. “Everyone is human, and you make mistakes,” he said. “This Rahal Letterman team is good, and we'll be back at the front of the field again. I'm disappointed of course. Overall, we lost the race tonight, and I am disappointed about that.”

Kanaan was so happy at extending his points lead that he bust a driveshaft doing doughnuts for the crowd. But many of those spectators wondered if that blocking of Hornish should have been punished, and knew the Andretti-Green driver had been lucky. Kanaan has extended his points advantage over team-mate Wheldon to more than 100 points, but few are betting against Rahal-Letterman leading the way when the series heads for its first visit to the Milwaukee Mile in eight days time.





Related Pictures

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Tony Kanaan, 2004 title contender. (Photo, Honda Media)
Vitor Meira has surprised many in 2004 (Photo: Honda Media)
Sam Hornish - Marlboro Team Penske  Dallara-Toyota   [pic credit: IRL/Ron McQueeney]
Indy Racing League. Aug. 31-Sept 2, 2007.
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Indy Racing League. 20-22 July 2007. Mid Ohio Sports Car Course. Lexington, Ohio. Sam Hornish Jr.
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Sam Hornish leads Tony Kanaan and Danica Patrick across the line at Texas Motor Speedway   [pic credit: IRL/Payne]
Indy Racing League. 27 May 2007. Indianapolis 500 Raceday.  Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Speedway, Indiana. Scott Dixon, Wheldon, Hornish, Kanaan, Franchitti.
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