Kanaan wins Indy Japan 300

Kanaan wins Indy Japan 300

Kanaan wins Indy Japan 300
April 20th, 2007

Motegi, Japan (Sports Network) - Tony Kanaan captured Saturday's Indy Japan 300 at Twin Ring Motegi to give Andretti Green Racing its first win of 2007. The No.11 AGR Honda crossed the finish line 0.4828 seconds ahead of Dan Wheldon.

The victory was Kanaan's first of the season and eighth of his IndyCar career.

Helio Castroneves, the defending champion and pole winner, brought the 18-car field to the green flag and quickly showed that he would be the early man to beat. Through the first 30 laps, he led them all building a two-second lead until a caution flag for debris came out on lap 33.

It erased Castroneves' big lead, but didn't make him any slower. When the green flag dropped to resume the chase on lap 42, the Brazilian was still sitting pretty out front.

But Wheldon mounted a challenge just after the stop and on lap 44 cut underneath the No.3 Penske machine for the lead. Castroneves' car was not handling as well as on the first run and Kanaan also got around him for second place.

Through 60 laps. Wheldon's lead was just under one second and more than three seconds on Castroneves. The No.10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver continued to build on his lead. It was 1.3 second after 70 laps and 1.8 seconds after 80 laps.

Green flag pit stops began shortly thereafter. It was a clean stop for all front runners and Wheldon re-inherited the lead on lap 87. Wheldon's pit crew must have done a great job as his lead was now 2.9823 seconds.

Castroneves, after dominating early, was not much better after the pit stop - more than 10 seconds behind Wheldon. The race was looking more and more like the season opener at Homestead where Wheldon was the class of the field.

But as the race neared the mid-point of the race, Kanaan started to chop into Wheldon's lead. The pace of the two leaders was tough for the rest of the field to stay up with. Just 10 cars were still on the lead lap and third place Dario Franchitti was more than 12 second behind.

Kanaan was still coming on and as they reached lap 111 he cut the margin to under one second. They were coming up on slower traffic on lap 121 and as Wheldon went to the high side on Marco Andretti and Buddy Rice, Kanaan went to the bottom and slid through for the lead.

Kanaan quickly built a lead of almost two seconds on Wheldon.

Another round of pit stops and Wheldon came in first among the leaders. Kanaan followed but it was Wheldon who ended up with the lead after the stops.

On lap 135 Andretti slammed the outside wall exiting turn four and then careened towards the inside wall as he was trying to avoid the leaders who were flying up at him. The youngster got up in the loose gravel, lost control, and just missed the two leaders.

With 55 laps to go there were just six drivers left on the lead lap, the last being Castroneves. While still under yellow, Franchitti made a strategic move to top off his fuel tank on lap 146 dropping from third to sixth. Castroneves also made a stop for fuel.

Would that be the deciding factor or could the leaders make it all the way to the finish line?

The field would restart on lap 148 with Wheldon, Kanaan and Sam Hornish Jr. in the top-three spots. Wheldon again showed how dominate a race car he had building the lead to 0.6299 seconds in just seven laps. Hornish Jr. couldn't keep up with the lead pair falling two seconds back.

Twenty laps remaining and Wheldon's lead was 1.8834 seconds over Kanaan. Wheldon couldn't go the distance and stopped for fuel with 13 laps to go.

Kanaan inherited the lead, but could he go the distance?

Wheldon came back on the track two second behind Franchitti. Then Kanaan turned down pit lane giving the lead to Hornish Jr. He needed less fuel than Wheldon and when he returned to the track he was ahead of him.

Kanaan and Wheldon were flying and got around Franchitti for third place.

Hornish Jr. peeled off on lap 194 and Dixon was the leader but probably needed to pit as well. On the next lap Dixon pitted and Kanaan was the leader once again.

Kanaan held 15 car lengths on Wheldon with five laps to go and though Wheldon closed in on Kanaan he could never get close enough for a passing attempt.

Kanaan took the victory by about half-a-second.

Franchitti, Dixon and Hornish Jr. completed the top-five.

The next race is scheduled for Sunday, April 29th at the Kansas Speedway.

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