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Series of misfortunes interrupts Kanaan's race But the defending series champion still manages to finish second behind Dan Wheldon.
By JOANNE KORTH
Published April 4, 2005
ST. PETERSBURG - Tony Kanaan didn't win the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, but his stories will be hard to top.
During the course of 100 madcap laps on the 14-turn street course, Kanaan made contact with other cars at least three times and was pinched into one wall. He ran over a tool during a pit stop and had a crew member injured on another.
He was penalized. He was accused. He was riled. He passed dozens of cars during his front-to-back-to-front run, including the leader with less than 10 laps left. And what did he have to show when it was all over? Well, there is no shiny trophy for the runner up, but he had plenty to talk about.
"Long day," Kanaan said.
The prickliest of Kanaan's incidents came late in the race when he made an aggressive move on leader Ryan Briscoe going into Turn 10, a hard left at the end of a long straight. Kanaan had inside position as the two made the turn and contact sent Briscoe nose-first into a tire barrier.
"I was looking at the apex as I was turning in and he wasn't there and all of a sudden, "Bang,"' said Briscoe, rookie driver of the No.33 Panoz/Toyota for Chip Ganassi Racing.
"I don't know what he's doing. He's won the championship, but I think he's got to settle down a bit. It's unfortunate because it was looking like an awesome result."
Kanaan, the defending series champ, saw it differently.
"In my point of view, when you are ahead of the car that you are passing, you're ahead," said Kanaan, driver of the No.11 Dallara/Honda for Andretti Green Racing. "I was ahead of him and he turned. Three corners before that, he put me in the wall. ... When you're young and stupid you do things like that. I guess he's going to get old and wise."
Briscoe led Kanaan for a Lap 91 restart, but with advice from teammate Dario Franchitti, Kanaan set up Briscoe for a pass in Turns 3 and 4.
"Unfortunately, (Briscoe) ran me into the wall, otherwise the pass would have been made right there," Kanaan said. "After that I wasn't really happy about it. I said, "Well, if you're going to play that game, we'll play it."'
Had Kanaan waited, IRL officials might have done the dirty work for him. According to series president Brian Barnhart, Kanaan did not give him time to take action against Briscoe.
Slowed by the contact in Turn 10, Kanaan watched teammate Dan Wheldon take the lead and pull away in the closing laps.
"Tony drove a very good race there in the end," said team owner Michael Andretti, whose cars swept the top four positions. "He did everything right. When Briscoe did what he did, Briscoe got what he deserved, and that was to end up in the wall."
A few laps earlier, Kanaan tangled with Briscoe's teammate, Darren Manning, while executing a pass for second place. Not designed to bump and bang like a stock car, Kanaan's open-wheel car proved surprisingly durable considering the contact it endured.
Kanaan's first setback came on a Lap 16 pit stop when he ran over an air wrench and was sent to the back of the pack, 17th place. On his next stop, outside rear tire changer Steve Price injured his knee running around the car.
"Obviously, I wasn't expecting to have the problems that we had on the stops," Kanaan said. "Other than that, it was very exciting. People trying to put me in the wall every time I tried to pass them. I guess they got what they deserved."