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Monday, July 7
Fuel played role in IRL, NASCAR
KANSAS CITY, Kansas -- Perhaps some of the top strategists in the Indy Racing League IndyCar Series should have consulted Aesop's Fables during the Kansas Indy 300 because it was definitely a case of the "Tortoise and the Hare."
The hare was the blazing pace set by leaders Scott Dixon, Gil de Ferran and Tony Kanaan. The tortoise turned out to be Bryan Herta, who slowed enough to conserve fuel and ended up winning the 200-mile race.
While second-place finisher Helio Castroneves and third-place teammate Gil de Ferran had faster cars for Marlboro Team Penske, the tortoise-like strategy worked as Herta finished 7.326 seconds ahead of Castroneves.
"Depending on the traffic he was sitting in, you could turn the fuel down from the beginning and make it work," said Penske Racing President Tim Cindric, who worked with Herta at Team Rahal when he recorded two CART victories. "It's great for him. He's had this rap of only being the Laguna king by winning his two races at that track, but he was able to be great for us."
Cindric actually thought about Saturday night's NASCAR Winston Cup Pepsi 400, when rookie Greg Biffle scored his first win by employing fuel strategy to perfection.
"That's exactly what I had on my mind after our car fell out of gear and we all got almost a lap down," Cindric said. "I thought the only thing we would do anything today was be Biffle. I was hoping we couldn't be (Bobby) Labonte or (Michael) Waltrip."
Castroneves finished second despite a gearbox problem that nearly dropped him off the lead lap on lap 132.
"I went to up shift to sixth gear and all of a sudden, I lost sixth," Castroneves said "Then I downshifted to fifth, I lost fifth. Then, all of a sudden, my day seemed to be dark and I say I couldn't believe it ... stuck in fifth gear as I was going down to turn 1, I thought, 'I'm going to stop. I don't want to cause a yellow.'
"All of a sudden, I found at 20 miles an hour, I downshifted to fourth and the gear seemed to be back. From first to fourth, the gears were OK. I was able to go back somehow. I don't know how I managed to finish second."
Castroneves admits he was incredulous late in the race when Cindric radioed that he was fighting for second place.
"Honestly, I was just so worried to come back from what happened, having a gearbox problem, that I was like not -- I was asking who was the leader until they said 'you're (second),'" Castroneves said. "I'm like, 'Get out of here. Is that right? Get out of here. How is that possible?'"
De Ferran was encouraged that the two Penske drivers finished second and third on a high-banked 1½-mile oval. This type of layout has not been the best for de Ferran or Castroneves, but coming so close to victory boosted their outlook.
"The car was brilliant," de Ferran said. "Not only was it handling well, but it was very fast. Even though we didn't win the race, we didn't even finish second today. I would say that I'm happier about this third place today than I've been for happy about a third place in a long time. This 1½-mile oval has not really been our strength. We do OK on the short ovals, but we somewhat struggle in this type of race track." ...
Kanaan has 279 points at the midway point of the season. Dixon is second with 248, one more than Helio Castroneves and nine ahead of de Ferran. Sweden's Kenny Brack has 217 points.
"Helio closed the gap on us, but we gained some points on Scott, and that is what we need to do," Kanaan said.
With 30 laps to go, Kanaan knew the race would be decided by fuel mileage.
"We're leading the championship, so I had to think about that," he said. "I was trying to be aggressive, but fourth place is a pretty good finish for the championship. I was pushing, and my teammate, Bryan Herta, was driving slow, trying to get the fuel mileage.
"Bryan is a fine driver, a good driver and was able to win the race. I'm happy for him."
"It was a very frustrating day for Red Bull Cheever Racing," Rice admitted. "On lap 34, we ran into problems and the car was smoking from an oil leak. The team worked really hard and got it fixed, but we were 30 laps down when I got back in the race. We were running OK, but then on lap 92, I came in again for oil problems and the team had to fix the same problem.
"I headed back out but had missed about another 40 laps. We managed to stay in the race a few laps more until we had more problems with the oil leaking. We were unable to fix the car and had to throw in the towel for the day."
Hornish run ends early
"Really, the only thing that we know is that we had a major miss and we think it's somewhere in the wiring harness," Hornish said. "We changed all the electronics, but we just couldn't get it to go over 150 (miles per hour). It's tough luck. We'll come back and go to Nashville and see what we can do."
"We had some problems in warmup yesterday, so we weren't sure where we were on our race setup," Brack said. "Obviously, we didn't have a good car at the start. Our team did a great job on pit strategy and changing the car. At the end, we finally had a pretty good car, but we were a lap down.
"Considering the day, we'll take fifth and move on."
Both cars suffered problems with fuel pickup.
"Our car was very good and we were able to stay up front for most of the day," Dixon said after leading the first 53 laps. "The fuel pickup problem ended any chance that we had at winning three straight today. It's very frustrating to have this kind of thing happen.
"Luckily, we were able to salvage a sixth-place finish out of it today. We're still in the points race, so we just need to keep finishing races and we'll be OK."