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Roundup: Kanaan repeats as Phoenix champion

The Associated Press

AVONDALE, Ariz. — Tony Kanaan repeated as Phoenix champion Sunday, dominating the Copper World Indy 200 to win the fastest Indy-car race at Phoenix International Raceway since 1995.

The star of Andretti Green Racing’s four drivers led 191 laps — the most since Bobby Rahal led from start to finish in 1992 — and averaged 127.981 mph.

Sam Hornish Jr. (four), Darren Manning (four) and Tomas Scheckter (one) were the only other drivers to see the field in their mirrors.

Kanaan led 77 laps last year, taking the lead for good with 40 laps to go, and averaged 100.073. This time, he passed teammate and polesitter Dan Wheldon on the first lap and ground out the mile circuits in his Dallara-Honda.

Kanaan took advantage of the only major crash in an exceptionally clean race, covering 11 of the last 20 laps under a yellow flag with Scott Dixon on his tail in a Toyota-powered G Force.

On the restart, Kanaan held his lead and pulled away, beating Dixon by a dozen car lengths.

Wheldon, last season’s IRL Rookie of the Year, was third, with Alex Barron fourth and Manning fifth.

Recent races in the series have been punishing for cars — last year’s event, when Kanaan beat Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves to the finish, featured 10 cautions for 73 laps, and the yellow flag came out at least seven times in five of six races from 1997-2002.

The recent arrival in the IRL of some of CART’s best drivers may have helped the field stay out of trouble. But the 96-degree heat, which translated into 123 degrees on the pavement and created slippery conditions, made it impossible for some skilled drivers to stay out of trouble.

Hornish, who won the IRL season opener for Penske on Feb. 29, lost control coming out of the second turn on the 81st lap, and the back end skated into the wall.

But the impact was relatively light, and Hornish resumed racing after the rear wing was replaced during a pit stop. He completed 195 laps for 15th — the last car running.

It took another 45 laps before the next interruption — Ed Carpenter’s spin into the wall in the second turn. It also was minor, but it allowed Kanaan to pit for fuel and drive the last 60 miles without worrying about draining the tank.

Formula One — In Sepang, Malaysia, Michael Schumacher is off to a fast start just two races into the season.

With pole position for the 57th time in his career, Schumacher and his Ferrari easily beat the rest of the field at the Malaysian Grand Prix. The six-time world champion coasted past the checkered flag 5.0 seconds ahead of Juan-Pablo Montoya in a Williams-BMW for his second win in two races.

It was the 72nd victory of Schumacher’s career and marked a huge turnaround from the start of last season, when he failed to make the podium in the first three races.

“It is easier to lead rather than have to fight back like last year,” Schumacher said. “But it’s only two of 18 races — 16 to go.”

Last year, Schumacher started the season with a fourth in Australia, a sixth in Malaysia, and failed to finish the Brazilian Grand Prix before winning the championship in the final race at Japan.

Now, after dominating in Australia and Malaysia heading into the inaugural Bahrain Grand Prix, he looks unbeatable in his quest for a seventh world championship.

“I think Michael is even stronger than in the past, and I don’t know where that comes from,” said Ross Brawn, Ferrari’s technical director.

BAR-Honda’s Jenson Button of Britain was third, his first time on the podium in 68 races, 11.5 seconds behind Schumacher.

Rubens Barrichello was fourth. The chance for another 1-2 Ferrari finish after the season-opening Australian Grand Prix dimmed on the second lap when Barrichello missed a turn and ran wide, dropping to fourth.

Jarno Trulli was fifth in a Renault, and David Coulthard finished sixth in a McLaren-Mercedes.

Spain’s Fernando Alonso, a rising star for Renault, ended more than a minute behind in seventh but had a strong showing after starting in the last row. He wore Spanish flags on his helmet and uniform in honor of the victims of the March 11 terrorist bombings in Madrid that killed over 200.

Schumacher now has the maximum 20 points after two races. After winning in Malaysia in 2000 and 2001, the German came third in 2002 after an early bump with Montoya, and sixth in 2003 after a nick from Trulli.


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