Kanaan can't push the right buttons
FONTANA, Calif. -- Dramatic finishes have become commonplace in the IndyCar Series, so it was no surprise that the season-finale ended with a breathtaking two-car duel at speeds near 218 mph.
Kanaan, who had been just behind Franchitti for the last 31 laps of the 200-lap event, got a final chance to overtake his teammate after a late caution flag set up an eight-lap dash to the finish.
The Brazilian driver stayed tucked in behind Franchitti for seven laps as the two pulled away from the rest of the field. Kanaan made his move on the last trip around the 2-mile oval, pulling alongside the leader as the two drove off turn four.
Kanaan pulled just ahead for a moment before suddenly appearing to bog down just as the cars reached the finish line.
"I could see him coming," Franchitti said. "He was coming up quickly and I really don't know what happened. But it all came down to that, as usual, last two feet, didn't it?"
The disappointed Kanaan, the 2004 series champion, wasn't sure, either.
"Either I missed a shift or I hit the wrong button," Kanaan said. "The team thinks I hit the pit speed limiter instead of the overtake button. What can I say? People make mistakes. But it's not so bad since my teammate won."
The actual margin was 0.117 seconds, which is only the 23rd closest finish in IndyCar Series history.
"I actually thought it was closer than that," Franchitti said. "It was close enough."
Franchitti's victory was the 11th in 17 races this season for the dominating Andretti Green Racing team, which previously had Dan Wheldon clinch the IndyCar Series championship.
Rookie sensation Danica Patrick, who spent most of the day hovering near the back of the top 10, saw her magical season end in a jarring crash that brought out the fourth and final caution flag just 16 laps from the end of the 200-lap event.
It was a very emotional finish for both Franchitti and Kanaan, whose good friend and competitor Greg Moore was killed in a crash on the track in 1999 in a race sanctioned by the CART series.
Kanaan hurried to Victory Circle to congratulate Franchitti and the two hugged and spoke for several seconds.
Franchitti had tears in his eyes after he took off his helmet.
"I lost a good friend here six years ago and this means a lot to all of us who were friends of Greg Moore," the Scot said.
It was the second victory of the season and the fourth of Franchitti's IndyCar career, ending what had been a frustrating season on a high note.
"I was not very happy with the way things were going," said Franchitti, who finished fourth in the season points. "I've lightened up considerably, but I will push very hard for that championship next year."
Vitor Meira, Patrick's teammate, finished third, followed by Scott Sharp, Sam Hornish Jr., Wheldon and Tomas Scheckter, who dominated early in the race but lost his shot at a victory when he stalled his engine during a midrace pit stop.
Patrick, who came away from the crash with a sore left elbow, and Jaques Lazier, who was not injured, came together and both spun and slammed hard into the wall. Each blamed the other for the crash that set up the dramatic finish.
"That's not the way I wanted to finish by season," said Patrick, the IndyCar Series rookie of the year. "I was on the radio about him all day. He was all over the place."
Lazier said Patrick was the one at fault for continually pinching his car down in the corners.
"She didn't want to give me any room," Lazier said.
A.J. Foyt IV brought out the first caution of the race with a one-car crash in his final IndyCar race. The youngster, who will switch to NASCAR's Busch Series beginning next week in Memphis, Tenn., was taken to a hospital after complaining of pain in his knees. He was examined and released.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press