Rear View Mirror: Homestead
March 26, 2007 | 1:43 P.M. EST
A year after Target Chip Ganassi and Team Penske combined to take the top four spots in the championship and 12 of 14 victories, Dan Wheldon led the way on Saturday night, with teammate Scott Dixon and championship rival Sam Hornish Jr. finishing behind. The fourth "Red Car," the No. 3 Team Penske Dallara-Honda of Helio Castroneves, finished ninth.
En route to his 12th career win, Wheldon also broke a significant amount of track records, demonstrating just how good his team is this season.
- The win was Wheldon's third-straight win at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and marks first time in IndyCar Series history a driver has won three consecutive events at one track.
- The Englishman won with the largest margin of victory, 6.4993 seconds, in seven IndyCar events at the 1.5-mile speedway.
- He led the most laps by a race winner with 179 of 200 laps. In three years, he has been out front for 345 of 600 laps at HMS.
- Due to the Target driver’s dominance, there were an event low five lead changes.
- Ganassi became the most successful IRL owner in track history with his third victory.
"It's a great way to open up the season," said the driver of the No. 10 Target Dallara-Honda. "I think with Ganassi Racing this is not a sales pitch, this is the truth - we've worked very hard over the winter to try to perfect what we started last year.
Anybody have any lingering doubts about the "Red Cars" continuing their dynasty in 2007? Complete Results | Photos
Not Such a Record Day for AGR
While Ganassi and Penske laughed their way through the field on Saturday, Andretti Green was languishing through the first event of the 2007 season.
AGR, the team that was supposed to be the toughest competition for those pesky "Red Cars" looked anything but after 200 laps at Homestead-Miami Speedway, with Tony Kanaan earning the best finish for the four-car organization, fifth.
"I wasn't having a good time out there tonight. We took a big risk and to be able to catch those guys in the future, that's the way it's going to have to be," said Kanaan, the last driver to finish on the lead lap. "We've found the speed, now we just have to make it last."
Dario Franchitti was the only other AGR driver to finish the race, coming home seventh, one lap down.
"Very disappointed. Very difficult night," admitted Franchitti. "I started off and I felt like we were in very good shape. I moved my way to the front and then we had a little problem with the fuel cell in the first stint. That put us back in traffic a little bit and then we really struggled. As soon as there was a car in front of us we just didn't have the grip.
"I just fought my way as hard as I could to the finish."
The remaining drivers in the outfit, newcomer Danica Patrick and Marco Andretti, retired early and finished 14th and 20th respectively.
It may be only the first race of the season, but team owners Michael Andretti, Kim Green and Kevin Savoree may want to have that handy panic button ready just in case in the coming days. Championship Standings
Hard Day’s Night for Simmons
While it was a history making weekend for sponsor Ethanol, Jeff Simmons was not in a celebrating mood following the XM Satellite Radio 300.
Following back-to-back top 10 finishes for Simmons to end the 2006 season, he was hoping to continue his form as he began his first full season in the series – having taken over the No. 17 Team Ethanol Dallara-Honda at the third race of last year following the death of Paul Dana.
Unfortunately, things did not go to plan.
First, he qualified a disappointing 16th on the grid which was made worse by the fact that he and his teammate Scott Sharp failed post qualifying inspection, dropping them to the rear of the field for the start of the 200 lap event.
"Our cars have been in the same configuration since arriving at Homestead, and have passed IndyCar Series technical inspection at various times throughout the weekend," said the team in a statement before the race. "While we don't agree with the ruling, we are confident our cars were legal and therefore eligible within the Indy Car Series rules for competition, and we will now focus our energy on the race at hand and maximizing our results here at Homestead-Miami Speedway."
Simmons was on his way to doing just that when he lost control of his Dallara as he was trying to enter pit road on lap 92, hitting the wall and triggering the sole accident of the race. Both Kosuke Matsuura and A.J. Foyt IV were unable to avoid Simmons, causing a three car collision on the fronstretch.
"I don't know. The car came around real quick. We were loose for a real long time but made the changes during a stop. The car was then a lot, lot better and didn't come loose again until that moment," said Simmons, who was credited with a 17th-place finish, his worst result in eight races.
However, even without him on track, his sponsor did receive lots of attention as the IndyCar Series became the first major motorsports group in the world to use an environmentally friendly fuel.
Hopefully for Simmons, he can share the spotlight for positive reasons in the near future. Simmons Race-by-Race Results
The IRL IndyCar Series won’t get much of a breather this week, as they travel from up the interstate to the Tampa area for the St. Petersburg Grand Prix on Sunday, April 1.
The event will be the first of five road courses on the 2007 schedule. It will be telecast live by ESPN and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network and XM Satellite Radio. A Spanish-language telecast of the race will be carried by ESPN Deportes. 2007 Schedule