Kanaan Content With Win

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Any time a driver wins an IRL IndyCar Series race, he has needed a skilled effort to defeat the many talented teams and drivers in the field.

Tony Kanaan, who captured his first IndyCar Series victory March 23 in the Purex Dial Indy 200 at Phoenix International Raceway, certainly put forth a show of skill and determination, overcoming a stall in the pits, a bit of confusion and dodging six accidents en route to victory in the No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara.

“The car was competitive all day,” Kanaan said. “I knew I had a good car. Obviously, the track changed a little bit so I was working my car into the pit stops. Again, we had a problem in the pits. I stalled the engine again. Completely my fault. I was mad to myself, but I never lost concentration.”

At one point between Laps 128-154, Sarah Fisher chased down leader Kanaan. Fisher knew the lead was at stake.

Kanaan didn’t – until the post-race press conference.

“It was hard to hold Sarah behind me,” Kanaan said. “She was in a light load of fuel; she was pushing me to get her lap back. I didn’t want to let her by.”

It was then that someone told Kanaan that she was actually in second-place and racing him for the lead.

“Thanks for telling me now,” Kanaan said as the room erupted in laughter.

Kanaan dodged the accidents during the race, but he wasn’t the only driver who eluded problems. Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves somehow missed his teammate Gil de Ferran when de Ferran spun exiting Turn 2 on the second lap. Castroneves went on to finish second in the No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara, finishing .9328 of a second behind Kanaan.

“The race was very challenging,” Castroneves said. “I was trying everything. First, we started with Gil spinning right in front of me. Man, I had no idea how I came through. It's something that really I just closed my eyes, said, ‘I wish nothing happens.’ I guess my wish came true in that time.

“We kept going. Again, we just have to be smart. A lot of action over there. People were like really, really not giving any space at all. But, again, it's just racing. Very, very close.”

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Drivers happy with Firestone: One concern that no driver had in the Purex Dial Indy 200 was the reliability of the Firestone Firehawk tires that are the exclusive tire of the IndyCar Series. Just look at the top three finishers.

Andretti Green Racing’s Tony Kanaan had 90 laps, or 90 miles, on the last set of Firehawks on his winning No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara. Second-place finisher Helio Castroneves, driver of the No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara, had 118 laps on his final set, while third-place finisher Felipe Giaffone, driver of the No. 21 Hollywood Mo Nunn Racing Panoz G Force, had 110 laps on his last set.

The performance was so good that many teams opted to take fuel only on their last stops, knowing there was plenty of good grip left in their tires.

“The tires were great,” Kanaan said. “They worked well all the race; they were really consistent the whole time.”

Said Castroneves, “I have to thank Firestone for making those tires so durable that we didn't have to change tires on our pit stop.”

Al Speyer, executive director of Firestone Racing, was as pleased as the drivers.

“Congratulations to the entire Andretti Green Racing organization,” Speyer said. “In just their second race of IRL competition, Tony Kanaan drove one of the three team cars to a well-deserved victory. We’re delighted for Michael Andretti and the rest of the team. They've always been super supporters of Firestone Racing.

“We're also equally pleased with that the updated tires our engineers designed for this event drew universal praise. The proof is in the performance, and the fact that the top three finishers ran close to half the race distance or more on one set of tires validates the wear and durability improvements that our engineers achieved.”

***

Honda scores first win: Tony Kanaan had the honor of giving the Honda engine its first victory in IRL IndyCar Series competition in only the second race for the manufacturer in the IRL IndyCar Series.

Honda joins Chevrolet, Ford Cosworth, Infiniti, Oldsmobile and Toyota as engines that have won an IRL IndyCar Series race since the series began in 1996.

A Toyota engine powered Scott Dixon to victory in the season-opening Toyota Indy 300 on March 2 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

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Auto Club 500

@ Auto Club Speedway
Saturday, October 19, 2013
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