Sunday, August 15, 2004

Kanaan, Rice bring rivalry to Speedway



By Dustin Dow
Enquirer staff writer

kanaan
SPARTA, Ky. - Tony Kanaan (above) doesn't mind starting second to Buddy Rice today in the Belterra Casino Indy 300 at Kentucky Speedway.

IF YOU GO
Belterra Casino Indy 300
10:30 a.m.: Gates open.
3:45 p.m.: Race begins (Ch. 9, 2, 3:30 p.m.).
Tickets: $40-$70. Available at
KentuckySpeedway.com,
at the gate or by calling 888-652-RACE.

TODAY'S LINEUP
1. (15) Buddy Rice, Panoz G Force-Honda, 216.016 mph
2. (11) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Honda, 215.731.
3. (6) Sam Hornish Jr., Dallara-Toyota, 215.592.
4. (5) Adrian Fernandez, Panoz G Force-Honda, 215.326.
5. (27) Dario Franchitti, Dallara-Honda, 215.181.
6. (3) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Toyota, 215.029.
7. (17) Vitor Meira, Panoz G Force-Honda, 214.724.
8. (10) Darren Manning, Panoz G Force-Toyota, 214.697.
9. (1) Scott Dixon, Panoz G Force-Toyota, 214.647.
10. (55) Kosuke Matsuura, Panoz G Force-Honda, 214.327.
11. (26) Dan Wheldon, Dallara-Honda, 214.275.
12. (13) Mark Taylor, Panoz G Force-Honda, 213.878.
13. (4) Tomas Scheckter, Dallara-Chevrolet, 213.091.
14. (52) Ed Carpenter, Dallara-Chevrolet, 212.976.
15. (14) A.J. Foyt IV, Dallara-Toyota, 212.937.
16. (8) Scott Sharp, Dallara-Toyota, 212.433.
17. (51) Alex Barron, Dallara-Chevrolet, 212.051.
18. (24) Felipe Giaffone, Dallara-Chevrolet, 212.032.
19. (20) Jaques Lazier, Dallara-Chevrolet, 211.968.
20. (12) Tora Takagi, Dallara-Toyota, 211.068.
21. (7) Bryan Herta, Dallara-Honda, no speed.
22. (2) Townsend Bell, Dallara-Chevrolet, no speed.
The way Kanaan sees it, if they can finish the race the same way they start, Kanaan would lose only a handful of points to Rice in the Indy Racing League points standings, which would keep Kanaan on track for a season-ending points championship.

The two drivers are the clear front-runners for the points title, Kanaan leading with 400 points and Rice in second with 343 and six races left on the schedule.

"We both want to win," Kanaan said. "But if you look at it, he's chasing, and I'm there. ... Right now, he needs to catch up. I need to just keep doing what I'm doing."

Rice won his fifth pole position of the season Saturday by turning in a 216.016 mph speed. Kanaan will start outside of Rice after qualifying at 215.731 mph.

Since Rice won the Indianapolis 500 May 30 with Kanaan second, the IRL season largely has focused on the two drivers. Kanaan has led the points standings, but Rice has earned the most prize money.

They each have three wins, and two weeks ago in Michigan, Rice overtook Kanaan with 10 laps to go before holding off his rival by .0796 seconds at the finish line.

Afterward, Kanaan said he was upset with the result, but he clarified his statements Saturday.

"We have a healthy fight going on," Kanaan said. "Some people try to put words in my mouth and say I was mad after the race with (Rice). I wasn't mad at him, I was mad at myself."

While the rest of the league tries to catch up to Kanaan and Rice, the two are more than content to keep the points chase between them.

"It's good for the IRL," Rice said. "This whole series thrives on close racing and close fights, and that's what's happening right now."

[img]
Buddy Rice, who captured the pole for the Belterra Casino Indy 300 at Kentucky Speedway with a qualifying speed of 216.016, talks with his crew after qualifying.
(Enquirer photo/PATRICK REDDY)
Kanaan figured to be the favorite at the start of qualifying after he had the fastest car in practice. But Rice picked up the mini-victory when he grabbed the pole position as the third car of the day to qualify. He had to wait about an hour, however, before Kanaan took the track as the third-to-last qualifier.

Rice doesn't gain any points on Kanaan for winning the pole, but seeing the two of them starting next to each other confirms they are the IRL's most consistent drivers.

Kanaan's success every race is Rice's biggest obstacle to moving up.

"I enjoy the points battle for sure," Rice said. "This is what it's all about. It's what you come here to do."

Kanaan expects a heated competition for the lead from the start.

"He's an aggressive driver, but he's fair," Kanaan said. "He's clean. ... We run wheel to wheel almost every weekend, so I don't think we'll have a problem."

---

E-mail ddow@enquirer.com




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