Sam Hornish Jr swept back to the head of the 2006 IRL IndyCar Series points table with victory in Sunday's Meijer Indy 300 at the Kentucky Speedway but only after Dan Wheldon let another win slip through his grasp.
On a day where Marlboro Team Penske and Target Chip Ganassi Racing exerted total dominance over the rest of the IRL field Wheldon appeared to have things going all his own way as he led the closely packed top four into the final round of late race green flag pitstops.
Clinging to the bottom groove of the 1.5-mile Kentucky oval Wheldon had managed to hold off a sustained assault from Penske teammates Hornish and Helio Castroneves and his own partner Scott Dixon only to lose it all when he misjudged his pit stall entry for his late 'splash and dash' and lost invaluable seconds.
Luckily for Wheldon, who parked his #10 Dallara-Honda out of reach of the fuel nozzle, a late spin by veteran Scott Sharp brought out the caution flag and packed the field up for a final dash to the chequered.
With but a handful of the 200-laps remaining Hornish Jr suddenly found himself in the lead for the final restart with Dixon and Castroneves nipping at his heels. While Wheldon was able to slice his way past several cars he could rise no higher than fourth as Hornish successfully rebuked one challenge from Dixon and then cruised away as Dixon and Castroneves battled side by side for the final four laps.
Using the low groove to his advantage Dixon kept Castroneves at bay after a wheel to wheel scrap with Wheldon passing Tony Kanaan and Vitor Meira in the final three laps to minimise the damage done by Hornish Jr in the points table.
After losing his points lead in the last race at Michigan Hornish reversed an eight point deficit into a seven point lead over Castroneves with Wheldon still 24 points back in third and Dixon 33 marks back in fourth with just two races remaining.
Everyone else kissed goodbye to their title chances on Sunday with Kanaan and Meira, who finished fifth and sixth respectively, fighting over fifth spot in the championship. At present Meira holds a nine-point margin over Kanaan, who continues to uphold Andretti-Green Racing honours during this difficult season.
Vision Racing's Tomas Scheckter kept his nose ahead of Danica Patrick for seventh place with AGR veterans Dario Franchitti and Bryan Herta completing the list of lead lap finishers in ninth and tenth places.