KANSAS CITY, Kan. - The pole and the crowd might have belonged to Danica Patrick. The trophy - and the last word - went to Tony Kanaan.
"You guys wanted Danica to win? Sorry," Kanaan said after his Indy Racing League victory Sunday at Kansas Speedway. "You got to wait until next time."
A 1-2-3 qualifying effort by Patrick and Rahal Letterman Racing teammates Buddy Rice and Vitor Meira led some to believe the team might dominate the Argent Mortgage Indy 300 - as it did here last year, when Rice edged Meira in the second-closest IRL finish in history.
Instead, Patrick's first career pole proved to be the highlight of her day. The 23-year-old rookie, only the second woman in league history to start from the pole, struggled with mechanical problems all day and finished ninth on the 1½-mile tri-oval.
Kanaan edged Andretti Green teammate Dan Wheldon by.012 seconds - the sixth-closest finish in league history - for his first victory of the season and the fifth of his career.
"I don't hear anybody talking about Rahal Letterman now, so who cares? They can talk all they want," said Kanaan, the defending series champion. "The race is finished when the checkered flag drops, and now they're going to have to talk about us."
Patrick said she did everything she could to win.
"It would have been nice to finish up front, where I think the car was fast enough to finish, but I worked so hard today," Patrick said. "I basically raced side by side for 200 laps. I did all that I could."
With only three cautions and the last 61 laps of the 200-lap race under green, Wheldon's strategy of pitting earlier than the rest of the field appeared to have him headed to his fifth victory in eight races this season.
The points leader and Indianapolis 500 winner took the lead with three laps to go, when Rice had to pit.
But Kanaan, who pitted in the 190th lap, went ahead on the next lap and then held on to deny Weldon, who needed a win to tie Sam Hornish Jr.'s record for most victories in a season.
"I love Tony to bits. I'm glad he beat me instead of somebody else, but losing like this is difficult to take," said Wheldon, who led 111 laps after struggling to find speed all week and starting 11th.
"I don't know that we found any more speed," said Wheldon, whose points lead over Kanaan shrank from 83 points to 75. "I think other people lost some speed today."
Meira, running just behind the leaders, made a last-second dive to the inside, crossing below the white line, but still came up third.
"If I could keep my foot down and on the inside, it's a little downhill, so that was my only shot," Meira said. "I tried outside on Wheldon when it was only me and him, but I couldn't make it."
Dario Franchitti, another Andretti Green racer, was fourth, followed by Tomas Scheckter, Scott Sharp, Darren Manning, Helio Castroneves, Patrick and Rice.
"We tried to save fuel for the end and hoped for a yellow flag," said Rice, who beat Meira by only.0051 seconds in the 2004 race. "With one yellow lap, we could have stolen the race."
Patrick, who joined Sarah Fisher as the second woman to win a pole after qualifying first Saturday, lost the lead to Rice on the opening lap and dropped to fifth on the second. She got as high as fourth late in the race, after falling as low as 15th, but never challenged for the lead.
"On the start, there's nothing I could have done," Patrick said. "It was foot to the floor. I couldn't run fourth gear, and fifth gear was so long that everyone passed me."
Patrick's engine also cut out on her once, and she had problems getting away from pit stops because her crew had her traction control turned off.
But winning the pole was the latest in a string of firsts for Patrick. In May, Patrick became the first woman to lead a lap at the Indianapolis 500 and placed fourth, the best finish by a woman in the 89-year history of the race.
Rice led for 12 laps, the first time he has been out front all season after winning three races and finishing third in the points last year.
"We didn't have the best car today," he said. "It was just pushing too much in the corners. I had to leave a lot in the corners or I was going to hit the fence."
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