Tony Kanaan Leads IRL Championship Chase at Mid-Season
Date: July 14, 2003 11:48
Honda Press Release
Torrance, Calif. 07/10/2003 -- Halfway through the 2003 IRL IndyCar Series, Honda-powered Tony Kanaan leads the driver's championship standings as the 16-race title fight begins an intense run of five events over the next seven weeks of July and August.
Already a five-year veteran of CART open-wheel competition, all but one of those with Honda power, the 28-year-old Kanaan has truly come into his own in the IRL this season, while driving for Andretti Green Racing. In addition to a thrilling win at Phoenix, Kanaan qualified on the pole at Homestead, Phoenix and Pikes Peak; has led 205 race laps to date; and has finished fifth or better at seven of the eight races run. He currently holds a 31-point lead (279-248) in the drivers' championship over Scott Dixon.
Honda's other race winner this season is Bryan Herta, who is substituting for an injured Dario Franchitti on the Andretti Green team. In just his third IRL start, Herta emerged victorious at the recent Kansas Indy 300. The Kansas Speedway race last weekend also was Honda's best combined result of the season, with the five Honda-powered finishers running 1-4-5-7-8 at the checkered flag. Franchitti, who started the season in the Archipelago/Motorola car, had a best result of fourth at Pikes Peak International Raceway before electing to undergo season-ending back surgery due to injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident in April.
Another Honda-powered driver having a strong first half of 2003 is Team Rahal's Kenny Brack. The Swede heads into next week's race at Nashville Superspeedway fifth in the points standings (217), 62 behind Kanaan. Brack has finished in the top five at four events this year, his best result a second-place run at the Honda-owned Twin Ring Motegi Circuit in Japan.
Super Aguri Fernandez Racing campaigns Atlantic graduate Roger Yasukawa in the IndyCar Series, and the Japanese-American has proven to be a consistent top-10 finisher, with a best result of seventh last week at Kansas Speedway. As a result, Yasukawa leads the IRL Rookie of the Year standings by a wide margin over a second Honda-powered rookie, Dan Wheldon.
Wheldon started the season as a test and development driver for Andretti Green Racing and missed the opening two races as a result. But the Briton was promoted to full-time driving duties upon the retirement of team co-owner Michael Andretti following the Indy 500, and has shown impressive speed in his six races to date. His best result also is a seventh-place run, in Japan.
Another former IRL champion, 1999 title winner Greg Ray, runs the sole Panoz G-Force chassis with Honda power as owner/driver for Access Motorsports. Like Wheldon, Ray missed the first two races while starting up his 2003 effort, but has shown steady improvement, highlighted by an eighth-place run at Kansas Speedway.
Honda's racing subsidiary, Honda Performance Development (HPD), Inc., is leading the IndyCar effort together with Ilmor Engineering, Inc. HPD and Ilmor are working as technical partners in the development and production of the 2003 Honda HI3R Indy V-8 engine. Ultimately, HPD will develop its own in-house design, development and production capabilities to become a self-sufficient engine manufacturing and development company.