By: Spencer Neff
February 7, 2019 | 9:11 AM
Welcome to another edition of IndyCar Flashback. After a 14-year absence, the NTT IndyCar Series will return to WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
On September 22, the season finale will be held at the 2.238-mile road course. It will be the 23rd race at the road course and the 15th straight year that the NTT IndyCar Series will race on a road course in California.
With that in mind, IndyCar Flashback takes you to the beginning of that streak.
This week, we profile the 2005 Argent Mortgage Indy Grand Prix. The race featured a veteran driver earn another career milestone.
Kanaan Earns First Road Course Win at IndyCar’s Return to Sonoma
2005 would be a year of firsts for the IRL IndyCar Series. The third race of the season would be the first on a road or street course, this one taking place on the street course of St. Petersburg, Florida.
Dan Wheldon won the race in an Andretti Green Racing 1-2-3-4. Throughout the season, history continued to be made.
The Indianapolis 500 saw the rise of rookie Danica Patrick. Patrick started fourth and led 18 laps (the first female to lead the race in 89 runnings), before finishing fourth and earning Rookie of the Year honors. Wheldon won that race, giving Car Owner Michael Andretti his long-awaited win in the Indianapolis 500.
At the August 28 Argent Mortgage Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma, more history was made. The event at Infineon Raceway marked the first on a natural terrain road course in series history. It also marked a return after 34 years away from the track.
Chip Ganassi Racing rookie Ryan Briscoe earned his career pole in his 13th start. The Australian driver turned in a lap of 108.248 MPH around the 1.99-mile road course.
With IndyCar legend Al Unser giving the command to start engines, the 80-lap race was on.
The first lap would spell trouble for Sam Hornish Jr. The Team Penske driver spun in Turn 7. Although Hornish Jr. was able to refire, he stalled in Turn 10 and brought out the first caution of the day for his tow-in.
Briscoe continued to pull away until Vision Racing driver Ed Carpenter spun in Turn 11. Carpenter’s spin brought out the second caution on Lap 16.
A lap later, the leaders headed to pit road for the first round of stops. Team Penske driver Helio Castroneves leapfrogged Briscoe for the lead.
At the restart, Andretti Green’s Bryan Herta took the top spot in front of five other drivers who did not pit. Meanwhile, Herta’s teammate and points leader Wheldon had refueling issues on his stop.
On the Lap 20 restart, more issues broke out. Briscoe attempted to go three-wide with Patrick and Helio Castroneves. After briefly going off course, Briscoe collided into both drivers and spun out. The resulting damage knocked all three drivers out of the race.
After the Lap 24 restart, Herta continued to lead. On Lap 33, he pitted and handed the lead to Panther Racing rookie Tomas Enge, Enge’s first laps led since St. Pete.
Since Enge stopped a few laps earlier, the Czech driver was able to hold serve at the front until Lap 45, despite spinning on Lap 38.
After Enge pitted on Lap 46, Andretti Green continued their 2005 dominance. Kanaan took over the lead, his first time leading on a road course since CART’s race at Mexico City in 2002.
Kanaan pitted five laps later, handing the lead to his teammate and points leader Wheldon. Wheldon, in turn, stayed out and led a lap. While leading, Wheldon ran out of fuel and would require a tow-in. After Herta took the lead for a lap prior to the yellow, Kanaan again took the lead.
This time, Kanaan (who started third) did not give up the lead. As Wheldon dropped out of the race with fuel pickup issues, the 2004 champion pulled away from the field.
Although there were multiple incidents in the final handful of laps, no full-course yellow was displayed. Kanaan won for the second time in 2005, the seventh win in his career and first on a road or street course. Kanaan also joined Dan Gurney as IndyCar winners at Sonoma.
1.183 seconds back of Kanaan would be 2004 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Rice in his best effort of 2005. Team Cheever’s Alex Barron and Patrick Carpentier followed them, along with Enge in fifth.
Kanaan shrunk Wheldon’s points lead to 79 with three races to go.
Two weeks after his first pole, Briscoe suffered two broken clavicles and other injuries in a violent crash at Chicagoland Speedway.
He returned to IndyCar competition part-time the following two years. In 2008, he signed with Team Penske. Over the next five years, Briscoe earned seven victories (including the 2012 Sonoma race).
In 2008, he signed with Team Penske. Over the next five years, Briscoe earned seven victories (including the 2012 Sonoma race).
2005 saw the continuation of Andretti Green’s dominance. Wheldon earned the team’s second series title in as many years. Kanaan would remain with the team through 2010, winning eight more races before moving to KV Racing and in 2014, Chip Ganassi racing.
Infineon Raceway (later renamed Sonoma Raceway) continued its place on the IndyCar calendar. In 2015, the track became the season finale.
The race marked the first time a unified IndyCar Series ended the season at a road course since 1995 (ChampCar became road/street courses only in 2007, having hosted the finale on one since 2002).
In 2018, Sonoma hosted its final IndyCar race. Laguna Seca had signed on to host its first IndyCar event since 2004 (ChampCar) for the 2019 season.
Header Image By Ron McQueeney