Andretti pit stop ushers Kanaan to first win of season

Updated: June 29, 2008, 12:13 AM ET
Associated Press

RICHMOND, Va. -- One week removed from a crash while leading, Tony Kanaan didn't let himself believe he would win a race he dominated until he took the checkered flag Saturday night.

"I just said with about 10 laps to go, I said, 'What's going to happen now?" the snake-bitten Andretti Green Racing star said after his 13th career victory. "I'm just like, 'OK, something's going to blow up, it's going to rain, ... maybe I'm going to spin in the rain.'

"That's how funny racing is. Sometimes it comes when you least expect it."

Kanaan made it happen by taking advantage of an out-of-sequence pit stop by front-running teammate Marco Andretti and ran away with the SunTrust Indy Challenge.

On a night when half of the 26 cars in the largest IndyCar Series field at Richmond International Raceway went home damaged, Kanaan got the good fortune he said he deserved for his first victory of the season. He got it by avoiding the near-constant mayhem caused by an event record-tying nine caution flags and beating Helio Castroneves by nearly 5 seconds.

The victory came a week after Kanaan led 71 laps at Iowa before crashing, absorbing what he said was one of the hardest hits of his life and his latest experience with bad luck.

He made up for it by beating the field out of the pits the only time he had to and paid homage to his crew. "They kept putting me in the lead and I kept letting them down," he said.

[+] EnlargeTony Kanaan
AP Photo/Steve HelberOn a night when half the field left the track damaged, previously snake-bitten Tony Kanaan raced to his first victory of the season and the 13th of his career.
Castroneves, who started 18th, used a blistering early pit stop to get into contention and finished second, followed by Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Scott Dixon and Dan Wheldon.

Oriol Servia was a career-best fifth, and Danica Patrick was sixth.

"I wasn't the fastest, but second is pretty darned good," said Castroneves, who gained five points on Dixon for the series lead and now trails by 43. Wheldon remained third, now 52 points back, and Kanaan trimmed 18 points off his deficit and now trails Dixon by 82.

Andretti, who was almost as dominant as his Andretti Green Racing teammate until he gave up the lead by pitting under green with 95 laps to go, never recovered and wound up ninth.

"I feel bad about Marco," Kanaan said. "I think he has as strong a car as I had."

Kanaan led twice for 166 laps, and Andretti led another 90.

The race looked like a more familiar NASCAR event on the 0.75-mile oval, the smallest on the series. Before a lap was completed, Ryan Hunter-Reay spun out in the front stretch.

Only one year after Dario Franchitti led 242 of 250 laps in a race that featured just four cautions, Hunter-Reay's spin was a sign of things to come and a crew member's nightmare.

Will Power hit the wall in the fourth turn on the eighth lap, A.J. Foyt IV hit the wall in the second turn with some help from John Andretti on the 30th lap, and another caution for debris came out after 68 laps when Kanaan was closing in on passing the slow-moving Patrick.

It went like that most of the night until Jaime Camara crashed in the front stretch on Lap 217, allowing Kanaan to grab the lead coming off pit road and sail off to the victory.

He beat Castroneves to the checkered flag by 4.77 seconds.

In all, 102 of the 300 laps were run under caution, the second-highest total in IndyCar Series history. Only the 2002 race at Nazareth, Pa., had more yellow flag laps with 116.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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