Kanaan Snags Victory With Late Surge
MOTEGI, Japan, April 21 — Tony Kanaan saw what was happening, and his strategy was perfect.
After trailing the leaders for much of the race, the Brazilian took the lead with four laps remaining and won the Indy Japan 300 on Saturday.
Kanaan started from the second row and crossed the finish line at the 1.5-mile Motegi oval 0.4828 of a second ahead of England’s Dan Wheldon, giving Andretti Green Racing its first victory of the Indy Racing League season.
“It was a very fast race,” Kanaan said. “I knew the leaders were burning a lot of fuel so I was content just to stay behind them, save fuel and then wait for the right moment.”
Wheldon was leading when he went in for his final pit stop on the 186th lap. Kanaan headed to the pits on the 190th lap and then assumed the lead for good on the 196th lap when Scott Dixon went to pit.
“This was a race where I had to be patient,” Kanaan said. “When I started, the car wasn’t that good but I knew the track would get better. By the last stop, I was convinced I could pit and come out and go ahead of Dan and that’s what happened.”
Wheldon, who won in Japan in 2004 and 2005, passed pole sitter and defending champion Helio Castroneves on the 44th lap of the 200-lap race and looked set for his third win at Motegi. But a communication gear problem made it difficult for the Target Chip Ganassi driver.
“We were the fastest car but we lost radio contact early on and that cost us,” said Wheldon, who led for 126 laps. “That’s something that should be fixed. When we are costing ourselves the opportunity to win because of silly mistakes it’s very frustrating.”
Dario Franchitti of Scotland was third, 11.5538 seconds behind Ka- naan. Castroneves of Brazil finished seventh.
“From about the 15th lap I started to save fuel,” Kanaan said. “I pitted later than everyone else and that’s what probably gave me the win.”
Castroneves, who led for the first 44 laps, won the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on April 1. Wheldon captured the seasonopening XM Satellite Radio Indy 300 at the Homestead-Miami Speedway on March 24.
Dixon of New Zealand finished fourth while 2006 IndyCar Series champion Sam Hornish Jr. was fifth.
It was a short day for Japanese driver Kosuke Matsuura, who lost control of his car and slammed into the wall on the first lap.
Matsuura was fined by the IRL for using profanity during a television interview after the St. Petersburg Grand Prix. He was looking to redeem himself in his home country but crashed just seconds into Saturday’s race.
Tony Kanaan of Brazil wins the Indy Japan 300, giving Andretti Green Racing its first victory of the IRL season.