Bryan Herta has piled up plenty of poles, but yesterday in Brooklyn, Mich., he picked up his first IndyCar Series victory of the season.
Herta held off three drivers in a scramble to the finish, beating Andretti Green Racing teammate Dan Wheldon by less than a car length on the wide, two-mile oval at Michigan International Speedway to win the Firestone Indy 400 for his first victory since 2003.
"We were the only ones on the team that hadn't won a race this year," said Herta, who spent part of his childhood in Warren, Mich. "We wanted to make that right."
Herta finished with an average speed of 167.197 mph, with Wheldon, the series points leader, second. Tomas Scheckter was third, followed by Tony Kanaan and Sam Hornish Jr.
Herta had won poles at Phoenix and St. Petersburg, Fla., before notching his third at Michigan. But his best finish of the year was a third at the Indianapolis 500.
Rookie Danica Patrick, who had performed well on large ovals all season, struggled. She finished 20th after blowing an engine on her 164th lap, quickly pulling off the track and avoiding pit row.
Patrick started from the eighth position, but immediately fell back in the pack because of handling problems. She reported to her pit crew that the track felt slippery, and she had dropped to 20th in the 23-car field about 25 laps in.
Wheldon increased his season series lead. He has 417 points, 78 ahead of Hornish with six races left.
"It was Herta's day," Wheldon said. "It's very good to see him in Victory Lane."
Scheckter performed well early, leading briefly when Herta pitted on the 38th lap. But Scheckter was assessed a penalty for entering the pits too fast, and was ordered to drive through pit row again. That knocked him out of the top 15, but a fast car, combined with yellow flags, allowed him to move back into competition.
* FORMULA ONE: Kimi Raikkonen used the pits to perfection and raced away from Michael Schumacher and the rest of the field for his fourth victory of the season at the Hungarian Grand Prix in Budapest.
On a hot day in the Hungarian hills where track temperatures approached 113 degrees, Raikkonen finished 35.5 seconds ahead of Schumacher, a pole-sitter for the first time this season. Ralf Schumacher was third, 36.1 seconds back.
"It was really the pit stops that decided it," Schumacher said.
The turning point came after the second pit stop. Separated by less than a second, Schumacher pitted on Lap 36 and Raikkonen a lap later.
Raikkonen opted to add only a little fuel, and the strategy worked. He came out of the pits just ahead of Schumacher and immediately started padding the lead by nearly two seconds a lap.
"It was a combination of things," Schumacher said. "At this stage, he was at least a second quicker. Then I had some traffic."
By Lap 38, Raikkonen was seven seconds ahead of Schumacher. By Lap 40, the lead was more than 12 seconds.
* CHAMP CAR: All Sebastien Bourdais had to do to win the inaugural San Jose Grand Prix was stay out of trouble.
The combination of a very bumpy track and looming concrete walls on the narrow downtown street circuit took out half the 18-car field during the 75-minute, timed race. But Bourdais, the reigning Champ Car World Series champion, managed to avoid the pitfalls and came away with his second win in a row and third of the season.
Paul Tracy, trailing Bourdais in the season standings, came in second, 3.724 seconds behind Bourdais.