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Sunday, July 6
Strategy fuels Herta's first IRL win
As one leader, then another, pitted late in the Kansas Indy 300 on Sunday, Herta drafted behind lapped Robbie Buhl and hoped he had enough fuel left in his tank.
He did -- barely. Herta took the lead with five laps to go and held on for his first Indy Racing League victory.
"We were looking for someone to hook up with to save fuel," Herta said. "I need to send (Buhl) a nice bottle of champagne."
Dixon, who started from the pole, finished sixth and lost ground to points leader Tony Kanaan.
It was the first win on an oval for Herta, a former CART driver. He signed on with Andretti Green Racing late last month after Dario Franchitti, who broke his back in a motorcycle accident in April, had season-ending surgery.
"I don't ever cry in a race car, but I was crying when I crossed the finish line," Herta said.
Kanaan, whose late pit stop gave Herta the lead, finished fourth and stretched his lead over Dixon from 27 points to 31.
Helio Castroneves finished second despite losing his top two gears. He closed to within one point of Dixon in the standings. Gil de Ferran, another late pit casualty, was third. Brack placed fifth as only four cars finished on the lead lap.
Herta was running third with 16 laps left in the 200-lap race and moved up to second when de Ferran pitted. After crossing the finish line, he ran out of fuel and had to be pushed into Victory Lane.
"We knew we were not going to make it without that last stop," said de Ferran, who led 93 laps. "That's the way it goes sometime. There's no way to predict that sort of outcome."
Herta credited team manager Kyle Moyer with making the call to conserve fuel.
"Tony dragged me around for a while, which was great," Herta said, "but he pulled away from me and I said I needed more fuel to stay with him. We had a choice right then -- we could either race Tony or save fuel. Kyle said, 'Let him go.'"
Dixon and Ganassi teammate Tomas Scheckter started the race on the front row. Dixon led the first 53 laps, then Scheckter briefly overtook him on the 54th.
That broke Dixon's string of 342 straight laps led.
"He's not Darth Vader or anything like that," de Ferran said. "He's just another guy. He's having a good run."
Dixon regained the lead twice, but he developed fuel pressure problems and lost the lead for good in the 134th lap.
"It's very frustrating to have this kind of thing happen," he said. "Luckily, we were able to salvage a sixth-place finish out of it. We're still in the points race, so we just need to keep finishing races and we'll be OK."
Scheckter battled starter and fuel pressure problems and finished ninth.
"I felt like if we didn't have the fuel pickup problem, we would have won the race," Scheckter said. "The car could run anywhere on the track, but we kept having to pit early for fuel."
Felipe Giaffone crashed on the 56th lap and broke his pelvis and right thigh, said Dr. Henry Bock, the IRL's medical services director.
Giaffone had to be cut from his car and airlifted to KU Med Center after the wreck.
He was attempting to pass Dan Wheldon for sixth place in the second turn when his right front tire made contact with Wheldon's left rear tire.
Both cars spun and hit the wall, and flames briefly shot from Giaffone's car.
Wheldon was checked out at the infield care center and released.
"I had just finished trying to get around the outside of Tony Kanaan, and unfortunately didn't pull off the move, so I slotted in behind him," Wheldon said. "I think Felipe just tried to dive down inside at the last minute, and we touched."Send this story to a friend | Most sent stories