Tony Kanaan Wins Thrilling Firestone ndy 400 At Michigan International Speedway

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

BROOKLYN, Mich. (AP) -- What may be the last IndyCar race at Michigan International Speedway turned out to be one of the wildest.
"It was a crazy race, a crazy race," said Andretti Green Racing co-owner Michael Andretti, whose four drivers were the headliners of Sunday's Firestone Indy 400.
First, AGR driver Dario Franchitti survived a wild, upside-down crash. Then teammate Danica Patrick had to pit with a flat tire while stalking what might have been her first IndyCar Series win.
Finally, AGR's Tony Kanaan held off protege Marco Andretti -- Michael's 20-year-old son -- for the final 27 laps to earn his third win of the season.
"Dario was doing an awesome job and was the class of the field," Michael Andretti said. "Then Dan (Wheldon) gets into him. Thank God he's all right. Then we had three running up there and, unfortunately, Danica has a problem with a flat tire.
"Then it came down to the two of them -- Marco and Tony. They took care of each other and put on a great show. It was fun watching."
Kanaan was thrilled with the victory, but also felt pretty lucky to get out of the race unscathed.
"People were chopping people off, banging wheels and cars flying," Kanaan said. "I mean, that's not a way to race. I definitely think a lot of people disrespect each other out there. It's not anybody's fault but ours and the Indy Racing League not taking measures with the drivers that have been driving a crazy race.
"I saw at least 25 potential cars that could have flipped at some point in this race," the former series champion added. "Only one flipped and, thankfully, he's OK. But I really don't think it's a way to race."
Still, the 32-year-old Kanaan said he enjoyed his duel with his young teammate, who recently moved to Miami to live and work out with Kanaan.
"We did not have the fast car, and the kid was my wingman," Kanaan said after crossing the finish line less than a car-length ahead of Andretti. "He protected me, but he was also trying, believe me. I said, 'OK, let's play it to the end.'
"We respect each other a lot but I knew the low line was quicker. I knew from the back straightaway until the finish line, that's when I was beating him all the time. I knew I was stronger than him in (turns) three and four, and that's where I needed to be stronger to win the race."
Marco Andretti, who also finished second at last year's Indianapolis 500 and won on the road course at Sonoma, Calif., in 2006, said it was fun racing his older teammate.
"I knew we could run close together and we would be fine," Andretti said. "I just didn't have enough speed to get him."
The race began 4 1/2 hours late because of rain. Only eight of 20 cars that started the 200-lap event were running at the end.
There were a couple of crashes early in the race, including one that took out defending winner Helio Castroneves and Vitor Meira, but the big one came on lap 144 when Wheldon, trying to overtake leader Franchitti, appeared to drive his right front tire into Franchitti's left rear.
Suddenly, Franchitti's car soared high in the air, backward and upside down. He came down on top of the car driven by Scott Dixon and, before it was over, cars driven by A.J. Foyt IV, former Michigan winner Tomas Scheckter, three-time series champion Sam Hornish Jr. and Ed Carpenter were also involved.
"I had a very fast car today and I was just trying to stay ahead of Dan," Franchitti said. "All of a sudden I found myself up in the air, backward about 30 feet in the air. I was just hoping it wasn't going to hurt when I came down.
"I'm a lucky guy," added Franchitti, who led 101 laps but had to watch his teammates battle for the win from his pit.
Both Dixon and Hornish were able to return to the race, looking for points, after their crews scrambled to fix their battered cars. Hornish wound up ninth and Dixon 10th, while Franchitti, who dominated the race before his crash, was 13th.
The final result left the championship duel at the top exactly as it was when the race began, with Dixon, who had won three straight races and was closing in on Franchitti, still 24 points behind.
Patrick, the fourth AGR driver, was right behind Kanaan and Andretti in the final stint and appeared to have a good shot at her first IndyCar Series win until she had to pit on lap 187 with a deflating right rear tire.
She told her team on the radio, "This is just the nightmare of my life. I can't believe it."
After that, it was just Kanaan and Andretti.
With the IRL and track officials unable to come to agreement on a date for next year, it appears this was the last IndyCar race at the track for at least a while.
"I'm sad this (race) is going away but, as you guys saw, it was a crazy race," Kanaan said. "I kind of have mixed feelings about whether I'm going to miss it or not.
"Every win is special. It was good for the team. We did what we were supposed to do. I feel sorry for Dario but, as worse as it could be, Dixon went with him. We're looking good, so maybe we can catch up to Dario and go 1-2."
Franchitti didn't have mixed feelings about the race after his misadventure Sunday.
"After that one, I'm not going to miss it for sure," the Indianapolis 500 winner said. "I had a very fast car, but we were out there just battling wheel-to-wheel with Dan, and you saw what happened."
Scott Sharp wound up third, followed by Kosuke Matsuura, former Michigan winner Buddy Rice and Ryan Hunter-Reay, the last car on the lead lap. Patrick finished seventh, a lap down.


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