Defending IndyCar Series Champion Tony Kanaan showed that the 2005 title chase isn't over just yet after fending off Dan Wheldon to claim victory in Sunday's Argent Mortgage Indy 300 at the Kansas Speedway.
Still searching for his first win of the season and coming off his first DNF since August 2003, Kanaan made swift work of his fourth row starting position to manoeuvre his way towards the front early on in the 200-lap blast around the flat-out 1.5-mile Kansas tri-oval.
Even though it would be Kanaan's Andretti-Green teammate Wheldon who would do most of the leading during a remarkably clean race, Kanaan had the reserves to keep his English born teammate half a nose behind him on the final tour, holding his line as the leaders charged off the final turn and keeping Wheldon at bay by less than half a car length.
Although the Brazilian driver only reduced his Championship deficit to Wheldon to an unofficial margin of 76 points with eight of 17 races completed, Sunday's win was valuable in the sense that Kanaan proved that it isn't just the Wheldon entry that has they keys to victory lane in 2005.
For his part Wheldon still showed winning form in abundance, leading a Kansas record 111 laps from 13th on the grid, holding off a typically tenacious Tomas Scheckter for much of the middle portion of the race. Even though the win deserted him in the end, Wheldon proved that his performance in Richmond was an anomaly and that he will still be one of the drivers to beat at every one of the remaining stops on the IRL tour.
Rahal-Letterman Racing's Vitor Meira qualified third and suddenly sprung into contention for the win late in the race. After losing to Buddy Rice by inches at Kansas in 2004 Meira crossed the line by a not too dissimilar margin this time, albeit in third place as a last corner dive to the bottom of the track resulted in a spectacular three-wide finish.
With only three of the 22 starters failing to finish and the final 60 laps running without a caution flag, positions throughout the top 15 changed almost lap after lap with a number of late race splash and dash fuel stops contributing to the late drama. Even though the 18 lead lap cars were strung out around the track when the chequered flag fell, Dario Franchitti still ensured that the top four finishers would be covered by less than half a second as he flashed across the line in a strong fourth place.
Scheckter continued his strong mid-season run for Panther Racing with fifth position ahead of veteran Scott Sharp and the leading Toyota runner Darren Manning. Richmond winner Helio Castroneves finished eighth with MBNA Polewinner Danica Patrick ninth after a day in which she ran strongly on the track but almost spun on pit road. Buddy Rice rounded out the top ten with Tomas Enge eleventh after his strongest IRL outing to date and Sam Hornish Jr 12th.
As the IRL season moves into its second half only Kanaan now remains within 100 points of Wheldon with everyone else seemingly scrapping over third place in the end of year standings.