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Cunningham's winning end to 2006 Indy Pro series

 

New Zealand racing driver Wade Cunningham ended his 2006 Indy Pro Series season in style yesterday morning (NZ time) getting the better of class young gun Jonathan Klein to win the Chicagoland 100 at the Chicagoland oval.

New Zealand racing driver Wade Cunningham ended his 2006 Indy Pro Series season in style yesterday morning (NZ time) getting the better of class young gun Jonathan Klein to win the Chicagoland 100 at the Chicagoland oval.

The win was 22-year-old Aucklander Cunningham's third this season and it came after some of the most exciting wheel-to-wheel action seen on the IPS circuit this year.

A daring three-wide move on the first lap got Cunningham up with the leading bunch from his row three starting position and he took the lead for the first time on lap 14. From that point it was literally 'game on' with Cunningham, Klein and championship points leader Jay Howard lapping within millimetres of each other at speeds up to 300+ km/h.

Klein did manage to get a break of sorts mid race but Cunningham fought back and the pair swapped the lead through the third quarter while Howard found himself under attack from rookie Japanese driver Akihira Okamoto.

Twice the pace was slowed by yellow flag caution periods, but this time - in stark contrast to other times this season - Cunningham did not find himself disadvantaged, and each time Klein came back at him he was able to respond.

When he did so the second last time, with just six laps to go, the race looked like Cunningham's for the taking, but out came the yellow flag again, this time in response to an accident by Tom Wieringa, and the track did not go green again until lap 66 of 67.

Could Cunningham hang on? Or would Klein or Howard simply jump him on the re-start?

Klein tried, getting around Howard and going after Cunningham, but this time the 2003 World Karting Champion and 2005 Indy Pro Series winner was not to be denied, crossing the line 0.6097 of a second in front of Klein and 0.6444 of a second ahead of champion-elect Howard.

Third place was enough to give Howard the 2006 Indy Pro Series title, albeit by just four points from teammate Klein. The win meanwhile elevated Cunningham up another spot to third, just seven points behind Klein and 11 adrift of Howard and gave the Entrant's Championship to his team, Brian Steart Racing.

For the seventh time this season Cunningham led more laps than anyone else, 35 to Klein's 30 and Howard's 12,

After the race Cunningham said that he knew he was going to be quick, despite being pushed back to sixth place (after being fastest in the second practice session) in qualifying.

"We've always had a good race set-up this season and we've always been quick in the races, even if something hasn't quite gone right in qualifying. We also know from experience that the Sam Schmidt cars (those of Howard, Klein and Okamoto) are never as quick in a race as they are in qualifying. So I knew we would be able to get up to the front and, you know, when you make up places like we did at the start (when Cunningham took the high line and went three-wide on the first lap) you know you are going to have a good race. I guess at the end of the day we were stronger than the others and that's want counted in the end."

Wade Cunningham is proud to be one of New Zealand motor racing's Black Bullets. To find out more about our Black Bullets go to www.blackbullets.com

2006 Indy Pro Series Rnd 12 Chicagoland 100 Chicagoland Speedway Saturday September 9 2006

Qualifying
1. Jay Howard 28.9870
2. Jonathan Klein 29.0623
3. Akihira Okamoto 29.1586
4. Alex Lloyd 29.2734
5. Bobby Wilson 29.2763
6. Wade Cunningham 29.3013
7. Ben Petter 29.3869
8. Jaime Camara 29.4788
9. Tom Wood 29.5082
10. Mike Potekhen 29.5314

Race (67 laps)
1. Wade Cunningham
2. Jonathan Klein +0.6097
3. Jay Howard +0.6444
4. Alex Lloyd +1.0492
5. Chris Festa +1.1045
6. Arie Luyendyk Jnr 1.2082
7. Mike Potekhen +1.3681
8. Nick Bussell 2.1315
9. Tom Wood +3.0077
10. Ben Petter +4.0352

Final Points
1. Jay Howard 390
2. Jonathan Klein 386
3. Wade Cunningham 379
4. Bobby Wilson 343
5. Nick Bussell 319
6. Jaime Camara 298
7. Alex Lloyd 294
8. Chris Festa 205
9. Brett Van Blankers 179
10. Raphael Matos 154


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