Kansas says IRL finish was staged

UPDATE More talk about the staged finish at the Kansas IRL race two weeks ago in today's Indy Star newspaper. How Tony Kanaan and Dan Wheldon drove in the closing laps of the most recent Indy-car race was not illegal because the Indy Racing League's top official said it wasn't reports the Star. But others didn't like that the Andretti Green Racing teammates made a pre-race deal at Kansas Speedway to run side by side at the front to protect their positions and ensure a 1-2 finish for the Indianapolis-based team. Kanaan won by 0.0120 seconds.

The only passing option a charging Vitor Meira had was driving below the white line off the final corner, a move that would have been disallowed if he had pulled it off.

Rick Mears, a four-time Indianapolis 500 winner, said Friday drivers shouldn't be allowed to make pacts like that, particularly when there's so many tracks where that's possible, including the one that hosts tonight's race, Nashville Superspeedway. "As far as I'm concerned, that's blocking," Mears said.

IRL president Brian Barnhart, who is the league's chief official at races, said blocking, which is not allowed in the league, officially occurs only when a driver changes lanes to protect his position. What Kanaan and Wheldon did was part of the strategy of racing, he said.

"The biggest difference is in the fact that blocking constitutes a safety hazard," Barnhart said. "Two-wide in front of the pack that limits options for cars behind is more of a sporting code issue." Mears wants to see the trailing drivers in such instances have a chance to win, provided they do so in a safe manner. One way would be to eliminate the white-line boundary.

"The last corner of the race should be fair game," Mears said. "Anywhere from pit road to the grandstand should be (inbounds)." [Editor's Note: The groove at Nashville tonight will be too narrow to allow the drivers to run side-by-side and block like they did in Kansas. If they try it for too long they will crash, opening the door for the third place driver to win.]

07/04/05 “It wasn‘t like we just came up with that side-by-side finish," Kanaan said on SPEED Channel. “I talked about it with Dan before the race. It was planned, if that would happen, what we were going to do," i.e. run side-by-side on purpose presumably to block any other driver from making a pass for the win and to put on a staged show for the fans. "We talked about doing it with 10 laps to go but I didn't make it alongside him until about 5 laps to go."

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