Dixon led after Franchitti’s demise, but Castroneves got the advantage during the first round of pit stops. As the race wound down, Dixon had stretched his fuel and was leading after Castroneves’ second stop but couldn’t stretch out enough of a lead to stay out in front after a quick fuel-only stop with six laps to go, falling back to second between Castroneves and Tony Kanaan.
The caution flag flew with three laps remaining, as Tomas Scheckter and Buddy Rice collided while contesting fourth place, putting both out on the spot and causing the race to end under yellow. Castroneves cruised to the checkers and treated the fans to his signature fence-climbing “Spiderman” act for the first time since winning at Richmond last June. Bryan Herta inherited fourth place ahead of Vitor Meira, with Danica Patrick, Kosuke Matsuura, Sam Hornish Jr., Felipe Giaffone and Scott Sharp filling out the top 10.
The series will be back in action in three weeks at Japan’s Twin Ring Motegi circuit.
IRL IndyCar Series Top Five (finish under caution):
1) Helio Castroneves, No. 3 Team Penske Dallara/Honda, 100 laps
2) Scott Dixon, No. 9 Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz/Honda, 100 laps
3) Tony Kanaan, No. 11 Andretti-Green Racing Dallara/Honda, 100 laps
4) Bryan Herta, No. 7 Andretti-Green Racing Dallara/Honda, 100 laps
5) Vitor Meira, No. 4 Panther Racing Dallara/Honda, 100 laps
Driver’s Championship: 1) Helio Castroneves, 93; 2) Scott Dixon, 70; 3) Dan Wheldon, 64; 4) Sam Hornish Jr., 62; 5) Kosuke Matsuura, 54.
NHRA: Bernstein, Capps and Edwards Score in Houston
Brandon Bernstein, Ron Capps and Mike Edwards were the class of their respective fields in the fourth round of the NHRA Powerade Drag Racing Series’ 2006 season at Houston Raceway Park.
Bernstein, son of legendary Kenny Bernstein, grabbed his ninth career Top Fuel victory in a final-round shootout with a 4.534sec/329.83mph to 4.580/323.35 performance over Melanie Troxel, who was appearing in her fifth straight final round, an NHRA record. Troxel got the jump, but her engine expired and Bernstein cruised to the win. Bernstein motored past Gainesville winner Dave Grubnic, Morgan Lucas and Cory McClenathan to get to the finals, while Troxel defeated Alan Bradshaw, Bob Vandergriff and Clay Millican.
Capps got lucky in the Funny Car final, as he lost a cylinder halfway down the track, but still had enough to win as Bob Gilbertson smoked his tires when the lights flashed green. Capps ran a sedate 5.005/293.47 to claim the win, having beaten Frank Pedregon, Del Worsham and John Force in the earlier rounds. Gilbertson got to the finals after outrunning Robert Hight, Phil Burkhart and Eric Medlen.
Mike Edwards became the fourth Pro Stock winner in as many rounds, winning for the first time since 2002. He beat Jim Yates with a holeshot, .058sec to.072sec, running 6.731/206.01 to Yates' 6.726/205.63. Edwards put Allen Johnson, Dave Connolly and Jason Line on the trailer in the semis, while Yates defeated Larry Morgan, Greg Anderson and Erica Enders.
The teams head to Las Vegas to continue the fight next weekend.
World Challenge – Aschenbach, Pobst Win at St. Pete: The Speed World Challenge Series was the supporting act for the Indy Racing League at St. Petersburg, and rookie Lawson Aschenbach fought back from fourth place to claim his maiden GT class win. Aschenbach’s Porsche 911 GT3 took the checkered flag ahead of Johnny O’Connell’s Cadillac CTS-V, with teammate Ricardo Imery’s Porsche third. In the Touring Car race, Randy Pobst capped off a perfect weekend with a win in his Tri-Point Mazda 6, leading the RealTime Racing Acura TSXs of Peter Cunningham and Pierre Kleinubing to the flag. The series heads to the streets of Long Beach, along with the Champ Cars and Grand-Am Rolex Series Daytona Prototypes, next weekend.