IndyCar »

Texas report: Helio's high, barren for Alex.

By Andrew Charman

Three times in a row Helio Castroneves had taken an Indy Racing League pole position this season only to be disappointed in the race. But at the fourth time of asking it all came good for the Penske driver, after a late caution timing his restart perfectly to take the final race of the year at Texas. Brit Dan Wheldon lost second on the finish line to his team-mate and new IRL champion Tony Kanaan, but third was enough to seal a superb second in the championship for the Brit.

Unlike last year's Texas finale, which began with five drivers in contention for the title, this was expected to be a race that everyone enjoyed, the serious business of the 2004 championship title settled two weeks earlier in California in favour of Tony Kanaan. But Andretti-Green team-mate Dan Wheldon had unfinished business, needing to stay ahead of Rahal-Letterman's Buddy Rice to seal second in the series.

Nicely shaking things up, Andretti-Green's usual domination faltered for the finale, Wheldon qualifying eighth and Kanaan 10th while Rice secured fifth spot – until both the Panther cars of Tomas Scheckter and Townsend Bell were sent to the back for falling foul of the series technical regulations, and were joined by Andretti-Green's Dario Franchitti after the Scot crashed his car in practice, fracturing his foot in the process. In pole for the fourth consecutive time would be Penske's Helio Castroneves, with one last chance to take a win in what has been a poor 2004 for the Malboro Penske squad.

Castroneves duly led the first of 200 laps, Vitor Meira's Rahal-Letterman G-Force Honda going high on Sam Hornish Jr for second. But on lap four the first yellow was flying, Ed Carptenter ending his season where he had spent much of it, with his Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara-Chevrolet in the wall. At the green on lap 13 Hornish stayed with Castroneves, Rahal-Letteram team-mates Rice and Meira leading Wheldon and the rest while coming fast from the back was Scheckter, 12th by lap 18.

With 30 laps down Meira had closed up on the leading Penske pair, while Scheckter was now running side-by-side with Wheldon for fourth. The Andretti-Green man's bigger task was eased when on lap 41 when Rice headed for the pits, suffering terminal electrical gremlins on his G Force-Honda. Wheldon and Scheckter now slotted into single file, and quickly closed the gap to the lead trio, Kanaan joining in to create a six-car pack by the time the race reached quarter-distance.

Scheckter kicked off the first set of pit stops on lap 56, his Chevrolet engine again not getting the fuel mileage of its Japanese rivals. Castroneves was in a lap later, and the rest soon followed. By the time the stops had cycled through, Wheldon had the lead but not for long, both Penskes closing onto his tail and Castroneves going high, Hornish slotting in behind to push the Marlboro pair past their Andretti-Green rival. Kanaan held fourth ahead of Adrian Fernandez's self-run G Force-Honda and Meira, who had Scheckter harrying them both. This seemed to spur Fernandez, winner of the last two races, and he moved high around Kanaan to challenge Wheldon. The pair ran side by side for several laps, almost touching several times before Wheldon saw the looming Scheckter and slotted behind Fernandez to try and pull them both back to the lead duo.

Fernandez was too quick, however, quickly opening a gap and closing in on the Penske pair. With 90 laps down he rounded Hornish, but Castroneves fought back and their side-by-side battle allowed everyone else to close back in. It took Fernandez five laps to take the lead, and in the process Hornish passed his team-mate for second.

Scheckter's typically gutsy drive came to an end on lap 106 with yet another slice of cruel luck, his Chevrolet engine detonating and sparking the second caution. Everybody headed for pit road, and Hornish beat Fernandez out, Wheldon and Meira passing Castroneves. The green flew on lap 116 and Fernandez tried to round Hornish as Wheldon tried to go past both on the high side. Hornish held on, Wheldon got briefly squiggly and Meira and Kanaan both went past.

Fernandez now found himself outfoxed by Kanaan, the champion-elect moving into second on lap 123 and Wheldon looking for a way to follow. It took the Brit five laps, and he then quickly closed on his team-mate. Fernandez now slipped back, and by lap 137 Castroneves was by him too and Meira and Scott Sharp's Kelley Racing Dallara-Toyota looking for a way through as the top six all closed up again.



Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Alex Barron and Dario Franchitti ended the season hard with this late crash (Photo: Shawn Payne/IRL).
Castroneves takes the flag to win his first race of 2004 in the series finale (Photo Ron McQueeney/IRL).
Kanaan snatched second on the line by an inch over Wheldon (Photo: Ron McQueeney/IRL)
Tony Kanaan, driver of the #10 Target Chip Ganassi Chevrolet IndyCar V6, races to victory Saturday, August 30, 2014 during the last Verizon IndyCar Series race of the season at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. This is the third consecutive win for Chevrolet at Auto Club Speedway. Chevrolet wins the Manufacturer`s Championship for the third straight season. (Photo by Gregg Ellman/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Team Chevy sweeps the podium as Tony Kanaan (center), driver of the #10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet IndyCar V6, celebrates his victory Saturday, August 30, 2014, during the last Verizon IndyCar Series race of the season at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Teammate Scott Dixon (left), driver of the #9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet V6, finishes second, and Ed Carpenter, driver of the #20 Fuzzy`s Ultra Premium Vodka/Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet V6, finishes third. Chevrolet wins the Manufacturer`s Championship for the third straight season. (Photo by Gregg EllmanLAT for Chevy Racing)
Tony Kanaan, driver of the #10 Target Chip Ganassi Chevrolet IndyCar V6, takes the chequered flag while racing to victory Saturday, August 30, 2014 during the last Verizon IndyCar Series race of the season at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. This is the third consecutive win for Chevrolet at Auto Club Speedway. Chevrolet wins the Manufacturer`s Championship for the third straight season. (Photo by Michael L. Levitt/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Tony Kanaan, driver of the #10 Target Chip Ganassi Chevrolet IndyCar V6, makes a quick pit stop while racing to victory Saturday, August 30, 2014 during the last Verizon IndyCar Series race of the season at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. This is the third consecutive win for Chevrolet at Auto Club Speedway. Chevrolet wins the Manufacturer`s Championship for the third straight season. (Photo by Brian Cleary/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Will Power, driver of the #12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, celebrates winning the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series Championship by posing with the Astor Challenge Cup Saturday, August 30, 2014 after the last race of the season at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Chevrolet clinches its third straight Manufacturer`s Championship. (Photo by Michael L. Levitt/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Will Power, driver of the #12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, celebrates winning the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series Championship by hoisting the Astor Challenge Cup Saturday, August 30, 2014 after the last race of the season at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Chevrolet clinches its third straight Manufacturer`s Championship. (Photo by Michael L. Levitt/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Will Power, driver of the #12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, celebrates winning the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series Championship by kissing the Astor Challenge Cup Saturday, August 30, 2014 after the last race of the season at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Chevrolet clinches its third straight Manufacturer`s Championship. (Photo by Michael L. Levitt/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Will Power, driver of the #12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, celebrates winning the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series Championship with his wife Liz Saturday, August 30, 2014 after the last race of the season at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Chevrolet clinches its third straight Manufacturer`s Championship. (Photo by Phillip Abbott/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Helio Castroneves and Tim Cindric come together after a valiant effort in the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway (Photo by: Richard Dowdy for IndyCar Media)
Tony Kanaan with his MAV TV 500 trophy (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Tony Kanaan and crew celebrate winning the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California on Saturday August 30 2014 (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Tony Kanaan celebrates winning the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California on Saturday August 30 2014 (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Tony Kanaan and wife Lauren celebrate winning the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California on Saturday August 30 2014 (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Tony Kanaan and wife Lauren with the Winners Trophy after winning the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Confetti falls on the podium trio Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan and Ed Carpenter celebrate after the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway (Photo by: Chris Jones 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.