Airton Dar? earned his first career Indy Racing League victory on Sunday, winning the Ameristar Casino Indy 200 with a dramatic late pass at Kansas Speedway and completing a great double win for team owner AJ Foyt.

The victory for Dar?, in his 31st career IRL start, was the first for an IRL car owned by four-time Indianapolis 500 winner A.J. Foyt since Kenny Brack won the 1999 Indianapolis 500. But the win actually was the second of the day for Foyt, whose grandson A.J. Foyt IV, won the inaugural Indy Racing Infiniti Pro Series race earlier in the day on the 1.5-mile oval.

"I'm part of the family now," Dar? said.

Said team owner Foyt: "It's like hitting a double jackpot at Harrah's. It's great. It's been a long time coming. We've had some dry spells, but all in all we were ready for it and due for it."

Dar?, from Bauru, Brazil, earned $115,200 for the victory in the No. 14 Harrah's/A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone. His average speed was 178.527 mph, the second fastest in IRL history, as the 200-lap race was slowed just four times for 23 laps by caution periods.

Defending IRL champion Sam Hornish Jr. finished second in the No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, .1741 of a second behind Dar? before a sell-out crowd. Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves kept the IRL points lead with a third-place finish in the No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone.

Dar? only led eight laps, including the last three, after starting sixth. He passed Hornish with an outside move on the backstretch on Lap 198 after a somewhat chaotic restart and pulled away.

The green flag was due to fly on lap 197 but George Mack allowed Hornish Jr to get a huge drop on the field and the IRL elected to extend the caution period by one more lap, much to Hornish Jr's chagrin.

On the next lap, Hornish Jr appeared to get caught unawares, and as several lapped cars climbed over each other in their attempts to get out of Dare's way, he was able to carry momentum into the first turn and complete the decisive pass on the high line going into turn three.

"Everything was working perfect," Dar? said. "I went through the gears, got up around the outside of Hornish, and that was it."

Hornish earned his third consecutive top-three finish but was disappointed with his second consecutive runner-up finish at this event.

"Nothing I won't get over by the next race," Hornish said. "Just not to win, that's why we come out here, that's why we run. The only car that we could not touch all day was Scheckter, and when he went out, I thought for sure that was ours."

The race was in rookie Tomas Scheckter's hands until less than 10 laps to go. MBNA Pole winner Scheckter led Hornish by more than a second when his No. 52 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone spun and crashed in Turn 2 on Lap 191. Scheckter, who was unhurt in the crash, led 101 laps and reported just before his accident that he felt his right rear tyre going soft. In addition to that, Al Unser Jr had just pulled off course in turn one with fluid trailing from the back of his Kelley Racing machine and it is possible that Scheckter ran over some of that fluid.

"It's disappointing," Scheckter said "We just can't seem to get a break. I thought it was mine as soon as I took the lead after the last stop.

"We had a good car the whole race. With 10 laps to go, I had low tire pressure in the right rear (tire). It deflated, and there was no way I could control the car." Earlier in the race Scheckter was forced to pit earlier than anticipated when one of his rear tyres blistered badly in the sweltering Kansas heat.

Hornish inherited the lead during the ensuing caution period before losing it to Dar? on Lap 198 on the first full lap after the restart.

Castroneves padded his points lead over teammate Gil de Ferran, who finished fifth in the No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone. Castroneves leads, 315-307, over de Ferran.

But Hornish pulled closer to the top two. He is third with 296 points, just 19 points behind Castroneves.

Felipe Giaffone kept up his strong season with a fourth place finish as the top five were covered by just 1.5-seconds at the flag.

Scott Sharp was the final car to complete the full 200 laps in sixth spot while Buddy Lazier, Alex Barron, Billy Boat and Richie Hearn rounded out the top ten.

The race was remarkably clean on the track with Scheckter's crash being the only contact of the day. However several drivers had trouble in the pits with Giaffone losing a right rear wheel early in the race and then trying to leave the pits with the fuel nozzle still attached. Jeff Ward also tried leaving the pits with the fuel nozzle still attached and for a brief moment it looked as though there could be a repeat of Buddy Lazier's pit fire from Richmond one week ago.

Thankfully Ward was able to drive away safely and went on to finish 12th.

Fourth place starter Laurent Redon had a strong run going once again in his patched up Conquest Racing Dallara-Infiniti before mechanical problems sidelined him from a top five position after 110 laps. Eddie Cheever also had a top five run going before engine issues dropped him nine laps off the pace. He soldiered on to 16th place at the flag, one place ahead of Unser Jr who was lying in third at the time of his problem.

The next Indy Racing League event is the Firestone Indy 200 on July 20 at Nashville Superspeedway. It's the final night race of the season.

 

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