Originally created 10/04/04

Fernandez wins Toyota 400



FONTANA, Calif. - Adrian Fernandez won a two-lap sprint to the finish in Sunday's Toyota 400, nosing out Tony Kanaan, whose runner-up finish was good enough to clinch the Indy Racing League series point title.

Fernandez outdueled Kanaan over the final two trips around the two-mile oval after a restart following a caution flag.

The victory was the third of the year - and third in the last five IRL events - for the native of Mexico City.

Fernandez led 18 laps and averaged 178.826 mph and was only a blink -.0183 seconds - in front of Kanaan at the end of the 400-mile event at California Speedway.

Dan Wheldon, second behind his teammate in the points standings, finished third in the race, with two-time defending champion Sam Hornish Jr. fourth.

Reigning Indianapolis 500 champion Buddy Rice was fifth, followed by Dario Franchitti. Pole-sitter Helio Castroneves was seventh after leading 145 laps.

Kanaan, running his string of top-5 finishes to 14, needed only to finish fourth to wrap up the points championship - but he came up just some three feet short of winning the race.

After a mostly uneventful race, the third caution flag of the afternoon came out when Tomas Enge's car spun in the middle of the track and was struck by Tomas Scheckter's car.

Neither driver was seriously hurt.

Fernandez was a few feet ahead of Kanaan when the final yellow flag came out. Those two and the other 13 drivers still running went five laps under the caution before the restart.

When the green flag came out, Fernandez and Kanaan were virtually wheel-to-wheel, with Fernandez on the outside. They crossed the finish line the same way.

Kanaan began the race at the back of the 21-car field, but by the sixth lap, he was fourth. He went on to lead 25 laps late in the race.

A day earlier, Kanaan had mechanical problems and failed to get in a qualifying lap, so he was dropped to the rear of the starting grid. His crew switched the engine for race day.

Fernandez is a previous winner at California Speedway, making the winner's circle in a 1999 Champ Car series race.

Darren Manning, who turned in the fourth-fastest qualifying (215.82 mph) was unable to start the race because of a slight concussion and bruised back. He was hurt Saturday when his car spun out and rammed into a SAFER barrier in the second turn on his second qualifying lap.