Honda Racing / IZOD IndyCar Series / RacingLine
Honda Domination Continues at Indianapolis
It wasn't quite as dominant as in 2004, but nonetheless, Honda hammered the competition at the Indianapolis 500 for the second straight year - capturing the top four spots and seven of the top eight.
"At one point, I know Andretti Green Racing was running 1-2-3 and Honda had the first six or seven spots on the scoreboard, so it goes without saying that we've had the power to succeed at this place," said Dan Wheldon, following his first Indy win and fourth IRL triumph of 2005 (in five events) in the Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara Honda.
"I just have to thank Robert Clarke and all his people for making this dream come true."
While Sam Hornish Jr. traded the lead with Tony Kanaan for much of the first 100 laps, only Honda drivers were out in front for the final 80 laps as Dario Franchitti, Danica Patrick, Vitor Meira, Kanaan and Wheldon took turns swapping the top spot.
Meira, driving the Menards Johns Manville Panoz Honda, used a steady, heady pace to claim second place and was only a couple of car lengths behind Wheldon when the yellow flag came out with two laps left.
"My car got 100 percent better from Lap 110 on, and it was one of the most entertaining races I've ever run," said the 28-year-old Brazilian, who matched his best-ever IRL finish and also led his first three laps at Indianapolis.
"It was hard to overtake, but not impossible, and having a Honda really helped. For the second year in a row, they won and dominated the finish and that's really something to be proud of."
Herta, who started 18th in the XM Satellite Radio Dallara Honda, drove his usual smart race and took advantage of some good strategy to take third place.
"We struggled a lot and when I finally made it into the top seven, I got busted for speeding in the pits, so I'm very pleased with this result," said the 35-year-old veteran.
"I've got to say thanks to Michael [Andretti] and George [Klotz, crew chief] for making the right call and keeping me out when most people stopped that last time. I wish I could have gotten that first Indy win for Michael, but I'm thrilled he finally got it."
Patrick, whose speed and savvy captured the national media's attention all month, turned in one of the more memorable rookie performances in IMS history. She started fourth and ran in the top five until stalling during a pit stop and dropping back to 16th. Then, she spun on a restart, getting hit by another car, but it straightened her out and she drove into the pits with a broken nose and wing.
Team co-owner Bobby Rahal opted to leave her out on the final pit stop, and she proceeded to make history as the first female to lead Indy for the next 18 laps.
On Lap 190, Patrick brought the crowd to its feet by passing Wheldon for the lead on a restart, but eventually, she had to conserve fuel and fell back to fourth at the finish.
"I am so proud of Danica; she drove like a champion today," gushed co-owner David Letterman afterwards. "I'd adopt her if she didn't have a family."
The 23-year-old resident of Roscoe, Ill. earned Rookie-ofthe- Year honors as well as the cover of Sports Illustrated. "I made some rookie mistakes, but I think I also showed I belonged," she said. "I just can't thank my team enough and, thankfully, I had a Honda to get me going when I was back there in 16th place."
Franchitti started and finished sixth in the Archipelago Dallara Honda after leading 15 laps.
"It's disappointing because we got behind and couldn't make our way through the turbulence, but at least Dan was able to win it for Michael," he said.
Kanaan, who captured the pole position in his 7-Eleven Dallara Honda, led 54 laps and appeared to be the driver to beat before his handling went off during the closing 20 laps and he wound up eighth.
Sebastien Bourdais, the 2004 Champ Car king, was running fifth in his Centrix Panoz Honda before tangling with another car and hitting the wall on Lap 199. He was uninjured but had to settle for 12th. His teammate at Newman/Haas Racing, Bruno Junqueira, was holding down sixth and lapping Anthony Foyt IV on Lap 77 when Foyt clipped his wheel and sent the Brazilian heavily into the outside wall in Turn 2. Junqueira, who was leading Champ Car's point standings at the time, sustained a broken back and was expected to miss the rest of the season.
Kosuke Matsuura and rookie Jeff Bucknum were eliminated in separate accidents, while Roger Yasukawa was sidelined with mechanical problems.
Kenny Brack's brilliant comeback from severe injuries sustained in the 2003 finale at Texas was stopped after 92 laps with steering problems.