Wheldon wins Road Runner Indy 300

Dan Wheldon won for the first time in a year, taking the checkered flag in the Road Runner Turbo Indy 300 at Kansas Speedway to become the first two-time winner in eight IndyCar Series races at the track.

            Wheldon, the 2005 Indianapolis 500 champion, hadn’t visited Victory Lane since winning at Kansas last April when he led 177 of 200 laps.             This year, the Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver led only the final 49 laps, but it was enough for his 14th career victory.             “It was a really good weekend for everyone at Target Chip Ganassi Racing,” Wheldon said. “It's unfortunate for Scott (Dixon) about when the yellow fell. I'm sure he'll make up for that later in the year. The cars were very competitive the whole weekend. The crews performed flawlessly, and that's the kind of weekend you want. It's great to have that weekend leading into Indianapolis."             Wheldon’s teammate Scott Dixon dominated the race, leading 145 laps, but Dixon, the 2003 Kansas winner, went in for a final pit stop two laps before a yellow flag came out. Dixon shuffled back to seventh but only had time to climb back to third in the final 28 laps.             Andretti Green Racing’s Tony Kanaan finished second, his best finish of the season.             Helio Castroneves finished fourth and retains the series points lead heading into the Indianapolis 500.             Danica Patrick, who recorded her first career victory one week ago, was seventh when she went in for her final pit stop, however a bent wheel ended her race. She was 19th.             Also on April 27, Californian J.R. Hildebrand earned his first victory in Firestone Indy Lights competition, leading 47 of 67 laps in the Kansas Lottery 100. Robbie Pecorari was second and Arie Luyendyk Jr. finished third. ***             Homeless animals will benefit if Andrew Prendeville does well in today's Kansas Lottery 100.             Through a Web site at racinglapsforbestfriends.com, fans make donations to the Best Friends Animal Society based on the number of laps Prendeville completes in the 67-lap race and other Firestone Indy Lights races with his Best Friends Animal Society No. 5.             All donations to the not-for-profit animal welfare group, which cares for 1,500 animals daily at its shelter in Kanab, Utah, are tax-deductible. Best Friends is affiliated with animal shelters around the world, including the Humane Society of Greater Kansas City.             Per-lap donations may be made for any amount starting at 25 cents per lap.              In addition to making per-lap donations at racinglapsforbestfriends.com, fans can also participate in a special raffle that benefits Best Friends through that Web site. The prizes are sessions at the Bertil Roos Racing School. ***             SWE Pole Qualifying for the Kansas Lottery 100 has been cancelled due to the conditions. The starting field will be set according to entrant points. There will not be a bonus point awarded for the pole position. ***             Prior to becoming a race car driver, Brent Sherman served his country as a member of the U.S. Air Force. Now his current career will help promote his previous one.             The National Guard announced that it has expanded its sponsorship of Panther Racing to include primary sponsorship of the team's No. 16 Firestone Indy Lights entry driven by Sherman.             Sherman served in the Air Force for six years, including four years in which he spent conducting combat, surveillance and instructional missions on an AWACS airplane.             The news is part of a big weekend for Sherman, who will get his first experience in an IndyCar Series car on April 28 as part of the Indy Racing League's bonus testing program.             BRENT SHERMAN (No. 16 Best Buddies/PEC): “It’s just awesome. Being prior military, it’s pretty special to be able to represent National Guard and the colors on my car. Hopefully we can grow the relationship and do well for them. Obviously it brings a big name to a big team also in the Firestone Indy Lights series, just like Vitor (Meira) has on the No. 4 car (in the IndyCar Series). It’s great to get back into the Firestone Indy Lights car again on an oval track, but I’m really excited to test the IndyCar (Series car) on Monday once the races are over.” ***             Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves will make his 99th consecutive IndyCar Series start today. The streak dates back to the beginning of the 2002 season. ***             St. Joseph, Mo.-based LifeLine Foods is the official supplier of the 100 percent fuel-grade ethanol used by the IndyCar Series in 2008, providing about 120,000 gallons of the renewable fuel throughout the season. The company adds to equation by using corn to produce food and fuel for the facility's energy needs. One portion of the corn kernel is processed and marketed to the food industry while the remainder is used for, among other things, cattle feed and energy needs. Utilizing a bran energy recovery system, total plant energy needs will be reduced by about 50 percent. This method insures that the company is getting the most value out of corn, benefiting the agriculture, food and ethanol industries.             MIKE SOBETSKI (Chief Operation Officer, LifeLine Foods): “It's extremely exciting for LifeLine Foods being the first facility in the second-generation of ethanol production. With all of the innovation that we have at our facility, it marries up very well with the (IndyCar Series) and the innovation that they have going around the track here this afternoon. It's extremely exciting for us to represent not only the member-owners of LifeLine Foods, our immediate community in St. Joseph, Mo., but also the entire fuel ethanol manufacturing center in the U.S. It's a tremendous opportunity for us to showcase the virtues of fuel ethanol here on the racetrack and hope that people that witness it can also see the virtues of using the product in their own automobiles, driving around their communities.” *** FIRESTONE INDY LIGHTS POST-RACE NOTES: This is J.R. Hildebrand’s first victory in Firestone Indy Lights. His previous best finish was second at St. Petersburg 2 earlier this year. This is the first victory for RLR/Andersen Racing. Robbie Pecorari improved 21 positions, the greatest advance from start to finish in series history. The previous mark had been held by Jaime Camara, who advanced 20 positions at Homestead-Miami in 2007. The 0.0553 margin of victory is the eighth-closest finish in series history and the closest at Kansas Speedway. Arie Luyendyk Jr.’s third-place finish marks his best finish since Milwaukee 2005. *** FIRESTONE INDY LIGHTS POST-RACE QUOTES: J.R. HILDEBRAND (No. 25 Allied Building Products, finished first): “I'm so happy. It feels so good for the team; everybody has worked so hard. To be able to come away with a win in just the fourth race has put us in a really good spot in the championship. I didn't think our first win would come on an oval, but we'll take it and keep going with Indy coming up and then the height of the season. We've progressed and improved our finishing position with every race, and now I'm on the top step of the podium.” (About the last seven laps) “I was probably looking backwards more than I was looking forward. He (Pecorari) raced me clean. My car was good right at the bottom so I was able to stay there and keep him behind me. We ended up pulling it off at the line.” ROBBIE PECORARI (No. 55 Guthrie Racing, finished second): “The car was great. I have to thank the entire Guthrie Racing team. We knew we had a car that was capable of running strong. It's unfortunate that we didn't get to qualify, but we had a strong car. It paid off in the end. There weren't too many close calls for us today. Coming up to the start/finish line on the last lap, I had a bit of a bobble in Turn 3, but at that point it was all about trying to go for the win. Congratulations to RLR/Anderson team for pulling it off.” ARIE LUYENDYK JR. (No. 26 Automatic Fire Sprinklers, Inc., finished third): “Our car struggled a bit on the restarts. I think that's what caught us at the end. Other than that, the car was beautiful to drive. We had a few really good opening laps that helped me move up to third right away. Then it was just me and (J.R.) Hildebrand up at the front for awhile, working together to get away from everybody, but the restarts brought everyone back together. Great job by the crew. We had a tough car to drive this weekend, but it was fast. It was just a shame that we couldn't pick up that first win.” DILLON BATTISTINI (No. 15 Panther Racing, finished fourth): “It’s been a good ending considering the way the rest of the weekend has gone. We had a few problems in practice (Saturday) that cost us track time, and this morning we lost fuel pressure that cost us the warm-up. Going into this race, I had no idea what the car was going to be like. My engineer did a fantastic job of second-guessing the setup. I had a car that was capable of winning the race. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find my way through (traffic at end). Part of my mind was on the championship as well. I was aware that the two drivers I would consider my main rivals for the championship had bad races, so I knew if I just finished in the top three or four I was looking really good for the championship.” WADE CUNNINGHAM (No. 33 Brian Stewart Racing, finished fifth): “The track hasn’t been in good conditions all weekend, so we ran with a lot of downforce on the car. It was great for the first half of the race when I was passing people. We got in that front pack really quickly, but there was no way I could challenge the first- and second-place cars. Just the way the gearing worked and how the headwinds were made it difficult to try to make a pass. We didn’t have the capacity starting so far back and with so much downforce. I didn’t take that many chances, and it was a good result.” ***             Danica Patrick received congratulatory calls, voice mail messages and e-mail messages from numerous people following her victory last weekend in Japan, including presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and singer Alanis Morrisette.             DANICA PATRICK (No. 7 Motorola): “It’s flattering that people like that would think of me.” ***             The crew of the #19 Moraes car that was damaged in a practice accident yesterday worked tirelessly to put the car back on the grid for the start of today’s Road Runner Turbo Indy 300.             The crew worked until midnight last night and arrived back at the track at 7 a.m. A new left sidepod and rear wing were brought in from Indianapolis while the team borrowed the left side of the front wing assembly from another team.             The crew also put in new brakes, suspension and Honda engine as all were damaged in the accident. The only salvageable part from the car was the right sidepod. *** ROAD RUNNER TURBO INDY 300 POST-RACE NOTES: ·         This is Dan Wheldon’s 14th career victory and his first victory of the season. Wheldon’s last victory came at Kansas Speedway last season. ·         Wheldon is the first two-time winner at Kansas Speedway in eight IndyCar Series races at the track. ·         Wheldon led 49 laps in today’s race and has led 382 of 800 laps at Kansas Speedway in the last four seasons. ·         This is the 18th victory for Target Chip Ganassi Racing in the IndyCar Series. The team also won this season with Scott Dixon at Homestead-Miami. ·         Wheldon and Scott Dixon combined to lead 194 laps, bringing Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s total to 520 in the eight races at Kansas. ·         Tony Kanaan’s second-place finish is his best finish of the season. This is Kanaan’s 10th consecutive top-10 finish. ·         Helio Castroneves retains the points leading heading into Indianapolis. This is his fifth consecutive top-five finish. ·         Hideki Mutoh’s sixth-place finish ties his career-best finish which he accomplished earlier this season at St. Petersburg. ROAD RUNNER TURBO INDY 300 POST-RACE QUOTES: DAN WHELDON (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, finished first): (About staying out longer than Dixon): "I think to be honest, I was able to sit behind and save a bit more fuel. He was doing everything he could. We were running the same fuel position, and I could hear him lifting. When you're behind a car, you can save a little bit more and that might have made the difference.” TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven, finished second): “If you watched the last 30 laps of the race, you could see I was just trying to catch (Dan Wheldon). I definitely didn't have anything for him. Second place is pretty good, especially before Indy. We can carry the momentum into the month. It's a good finish, let's see what happens.” SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, finished third): “That's two weeks in a row. I don't know what we're trying to do on the 9 car side. We definitely lost the race ourselves. It's just something we have to work on. At least a Target car won this weekend. Congrats to Dan (Wheldon). He was just sitting back smartly and saving a bit of fuel. It's something we need to work on strategy-wise. We came away with good points and are still in the championship and that's what counts.” HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske, finished fourth): “The Team Penske car was solid today. We had made some changes between qualifying and the race, and they seemed to make us a little bit quicker. However, during the middle part of our runs, we weren’t able to keep up with the leaders. Thankfully, we were able to stay out of trouble and bring home a fourth-place finish, which keeps us in the championship lead heading into Indy. We’ve ran consistently well the first part of the season, and I have no doubt that the team will continue to give me the car I need to go for my third Indianapolis 500 win next month.” MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 Forsythe, finished fifth): “It was a struggle today. It is these kinds of days that you have to fight through that will really help you in the championship. The car balance wasn’t the best, but we can’t complain about fifth place. I think Helio (Castroneves) has a little more experience than I do in close finishes, so he may have been hiding a little bit of speed in the closing laps. He turned it on and ended up getting me at the line. It would have been nice to put the Forsythe car in fourth but from what we were dealing with, I’m happy with fifth.” HIDEKI MUTOH (No. 27 Formula Dream, finished sixth): “A sixth-place finish is the best result for me on an oval race track. Considering the fact I started from the 13th position, I am happy with the result. The Formula Dream crew gave me a very good car, so I was able to race hard against the Penske cars at the end. That was an exciting finish. I think our strategy was perfect for today’s race, and I learned so much.” RYAN BRISCOE (No. 6 Team Penske, finished seventh): “I thought today was a good race for Team Penske.  We had a solid car and I'm fairly happy with our result.  The final laps were a little frustrating, because I think I had better than a seventh place car.  I was just trying to play it safe, looking for a solid finish.  I thought it was a good day for me and I feel like I learned a lot out there.” A.J. FOYT IV (No. 2 Vision Racing, finished eighth): “I had a good car today so I have to thank my guys for that and for the great pit stops. I wish we could have had a better result today, but we got caught in the pits when a caution came out and that hurt us. I am glad that the race was clean for us, but I wish we could have come out of here with a better result after starting up where we did.” JUSTIN WILSON (No. 02 McDonald’s Racing Team, finished ninth): “The McDonald’s car was great in traffic and when I was in a draft. It was great to be able to keep up and start to race people. I was enjoying myself and having fun. As soon as we lost the draft, we struggled to keep up with the pace. That’s the part where these other teams have had years of experience on us so hopefully we will work that out over the next couple of weeks and close some of that gap. Generally I am just very pleased with how the McDonald’s car ran and feel like we are starting to be able to race well. We just need to work on some little things. We learned a little bit by leading the race and running in the front pack.” ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Menards/Vision Racing, finished 10th): “I had a great car today and was in fourth and could have challenged for a podium spot, but E.J. Viso ruined our chances of that. I came into the pits and he was trying to pit in my pit box and that's just unacceptable. It's a shame that our fate came down to his mistake. If there's something we can take away from the race at this point it's that we have a great car and we can run with the leaders. We just have to put all of this other stuff behind us and focus on getting our cars ready for Indy and having a great month of May.” DANICA PATRICK (No. 7 Motorola): “We had understeer in the beginning and that made me drop back, but I was climbing back up again. I could see the leaders. A yellow and a good restart and we're back in it. That last run - I went high in (Turns) 1 and 2 because Marco (Andretti) was in the middle and I didn't know how many people were underneath me in the middle of the corner. I got caught up in the grey and I was out of the throttle for an eternity and lost a whole straightaway. That was disappointing. I got back going and I was, 'This is exciting rear-end stuff going on here.' It felt like something was wrong at some point with the left front and that's kinds of, I don't know when it started. Definitely the loose feeling I was having that last stint was probably the rear tire moving when I got in the corner." (About close racing with Tomas Scheckter and E.J. Viso): "I always expect Schec kter to drive like that. And that Viso, I don't know who he is even. He's new and he's got a pretty fast car. He's learning the ropes of this oval racing. He almost put me in the wall at one point. I was like, ‘Look dude, you're new. You better be nice because we all know how to handle this a little better than you do at this point.’ It's all right. You got some newcomers and they're going to be trying to push it. They're not going to know how. They're not going to know what they can and can't do. There's a lot of etiquette to learn in oval racing. It takes a little time. Yeah, there was close racing out there, but didn't end up racing close at the end.” ***             The 2008 IndyCar Series season continues with the 92nd running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 25 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at noon (EDT) by ABC. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network. A Spanish-language telecast of the race will be carried by ESPNDeportes. The IMS Radio Network broadcast also is carried on XM Satellite Radio and indycar.com. The 2008 Firestone Indy Lights season continues May 23 at Indianapolis. The Kansas Lottery 100 will be telecast at 2 p.m. (EDT) on May 1 by ESPN2.