Kanaan Snags Vic­tory With Late Surge

The Washington Post Sunday - - Sunday Morning On The Air -

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.

BY SHUJI KA­JIYAMA — AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Tony Kanaan of Brazil wins the Indy Ja­pan 300, giv­ing An­dretti Green Rac­ing its first vic­tory of the IRL sea­son.

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