The Busch Series gets next weekend off, and will be back in action at Texas Motor Speedway on April 8th.
NASCAR Busch Series Top Five:
1) Kyle Busch, No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Monte Carlo, 300 laps
2) Kevin Harvick, No. 21 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS, -0.171sec
3) Matt Kenseth, No. 17 Roush Racing Ford Fusion, -0.368sec
4) Denny Hamlin, No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS, -1.160sec
5) Carl Edwards, No. 60 Roush Racing Ford Fusion, -2.527sec
Driver’s Championship: 1) Kevin Harvick, 952; 2) J.J. Yeley, 831; 3) Denny Hamlin, 814; 4) Clint Bowyer, 791; 5) Carl Edwards, 774.
IRL: Wheldon Wins Tragic Season Opener at Homestead
Defending IRL IndyCar Series and Indianapolis 500 champion Dan Wheldon was victorious in his first outing with Chip Ganassi Racing in the season opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday, taking the win with a thrilling last-lap pass on Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves, but the win was overshadowed by the tragic death of rookie Paul Dana in the morning’s final practice (see separate story).
Most of the race was dominated by Castroneves’ teammate Sam Hornish Jr., who started from pole alongside Castroneves. He led 145 of the first 160 laps, building up leads of nearly 6sec. Meanwhile, Castroneves pitted early to split the Penske team’s strategy. When Hornish made his pit stop on Lap 161, Tony Kanaan spun at the entrance to pit lane, bringing out a caution that trapped Hornish in fifth place.
Castroneves after the caution, with Wheldon hot on his heels and Hornish trying to work his way up through traffic to join in the fight. Wheldon pulled alongside Castroneves and the two ran wheel-to-wheel at nearly 215mph for the last 20 laps, with Wheldon pulling ahead a couple of times but never being able to complete the pass. He dropped back over the closing laps and made a final charge at the white flag, pulling alongside and getting his nose out in front to take the checkered flag first by a razor-thin 0.0147sec, the ninth-closest finish in series history. Castroneves had to settle for a frustrated second, followed by Hornish, Dario Franchitti and Wheldon’s teammate Scott Dixon. Kosuke Matsuura (-2 laps), Scott Sharp, Felipe Giaffone, Tomas Scheckter (-3 laps) and Eddie Cheever (-4 laps), making his return to the cockpit for the first time in three years, completed the top 10.
The original field of 20 cars was down to 16 when the race started, with the crash involving Dana and Ed Carpenter accounting for two, and the withdrawal of the two Rahal-Letterman team cars accounting for two more. The field was down to 12 by Lap 12, as Marco Andretti, Vitor Meira, Buddy Lazier and Bryan Herta all had early trouble, though Herta was eventually able to continue after losing 28 laps. Only 11 cars were running at the finish.
The series moves northwest across Florida this week, and will run on the street circuit at St. Petersburg next weekend.
IRL IndyCar Series Top Five:
1) Dan Wheldon, No. 10 Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Honda, 200 laps
2) Helio Castroneves, No. 3 Team Penske Dallara/Honda, -0.0147sec
3) Sam Hornish Jr., No. 6 Team Penske Dallara/Honda, -0.4744sec
4) Dario Franchitti, No. 27 Andretti-Green Racing Dallara/Honda, -0.9401sec
5) Scott Dixon, No. 9 Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Honda -1.1989sec
Driver’s Championship: 1) Dan Wheldon, 50; 2) Helio Castroneves, 40; Sam Hornish Jr., 38; 4) Dario Franchitti, 32; 5) Scott Dixon, 30.
WRC: Loeb Wins Again in Tragedy-Marred Spanish Rally
Two-time and defending World Rally Champion Sebastien Loeb claimed his second victory of the young season on Sunday, winning the Rally of Catalunya, his second win in a row. Loeb led a 1-2 sweep for the privateer Kronos Racing team, leading teammate Daniel Sordo home by 48.2sec.
Ford’s Marcus Gronholm led the event for the first five of six legs on Friday, but a turbo problem dropped him back to 10th and elevated Loeb to the lead. Loeb led a three-deep sweep for Kronos on Saturday, but teammate Xavier Pons went off the road and, seeing smoke, set off the fire extinguisher and effectively ended his day.
Meanwhile, Gronholm was fighting back and was back up to fourth at the end of Saturday. Gronholm got past privateer Alex Bengue on Sunday to claim the final podium position, 57.6sec behind Sordo. Bengue held on for fourth, followed by the Skoda Fabias of Jan Kopecky and Francois Duval. The works Subarus struggled throughout the event, claiming the final two points-paying positions for Petter Solberg and Stephane Sarrazin.