AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREOregon Ducks football players get stuck on Disney ride during Rose Bowl event “I was hanging way back on the restart just to stay out of everybody’s way,” Herta said. “I went into turn one and it just came around. I don’t know if it was cold tires or the turbulence from the cars in front or something else. I have no idea. The car hadn’t behaved that way up to that point and it just caught me by surprise.” Dan Wheldon, driving for Chip Ganassi’s Team Target, won the Miami race, successfully defending his victory from a year ago. Dario Franchitti was the highest finishing Andretti Green Racing driver. He was fourth. It snapped a streak of 39 straight races of top-three finishes for Andretti Green Racing. “I had some runs on Dan but I couldn’t go anywhere,” said Franchitti, driver of the No. 27 Honda-powered entry for Andretti Green. “It’s frustrating when it gets like that. We were lucky with the cautions (Sunday) and the boys in the pits were really on it. That kept us in the hunt all day. The car was balanced all day, just not fast enough to win.” Andretti Green’s Tony Kanaan was 11th and Marco Andretti was 15th. “We felt like we had cars that were good,” Herta said. “We were competitive. Only one of our cars made it to the end.” Only 16 cars started the race after driver Paul Dana was killed during the morning practice session. Dana, a driver for Rahal Letterman Racing, crashed at nearly top speed with Ed Carpenter, who spun out and hit the wall during the warm-up session before the race. Dana’s Rahal Letterman teammates Danica Patrick and Buddy Rice were withdrawn from the race by team owner Bobby Rahal. Rahal said he would not enter a driver in Dana’s No. 17 car for the next race on the IRL schedule in St. Petersburg, Fla. The Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is Sunday. Roberto Moreno will replace Carpenter in the No. 20 Vision Racing entry for the St. Petersburg race. The 47-year-old Brazilian has been working as a consultant for Vision Racing and racing in the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series. Herta won the pole in the St. Petersburg race last year. He finished fourth in the race and was part of a 1-2-3-4 finish for Andretti Green Racing. “We have our work cut out for us trying to recreate what we did last year,” Herta said. “I do really love the challenge of a street course.” John Watkinson of Canyon Country started his NASCAR Grand American Modified season on a winning note. Watkinson won the Grand Am race last Saturday night at Irwindale Speedway, finishing ahead of longtime friend Joe Ruggles of Palmdale, who was second. In other action, Kevin Thompson of Bakersfield won the NASCAR Super Late Models race. Canyon High graduate Todd Southwell of San Marcos was third, Canyon Country’s Rod Johnson was fifth and Canyon Country’s Cory Fancy was 16th. Ron Peterson of Riverside won the Super Trucks race. Pat Mintey Jr. of Quartz Hill was second, Brian Reed of Castaic was fourth and Dave Blakenship of Stevenson Ranch was fifth. The NASCAR Late Models, Pure Stocks, West Coast Pro Trucks and Ford Focus Midgets are scheduled to race tonight at Irwindale Speedway. Newhall’s Travis Thirkettle, Action’s Chris Houwen and Canyon Country’s Aaron Staudinger are expected to be entered in the Late Models race. Gates open at 4 p.m. Races start at 7. Irwindale Speedway: NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series: Ron Hornaday Jr.’s record at Martinsville Speedway in Virginia, site of tonight’s NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race, includes three top-five finishes and four top 10s. His best finish is third, a feat he has accomplished twice. He was third in one of the Martinsville races last year and posted a third-place finish in 1998. This time around, Hornaday, driver of the No. 33 Chevrolet Silverado for Kevin Harvick Inc., has a new truck. Coming off a 20th-place finish at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Hornaday would like to see a better result at a track that has been kind to him in the past. “We’re taking a brand-new truck to Martinsville this weekend,” said Hornaday, a former Saugus Speedway champ from Palmdale. “After my run at Bristol (Motor Speedway) in the Busch car, it’s exactly what I needed to get my head back in the game and give me that little extra boost of confidence.” Hornaday made his NASCAR Busch Series season debut for Kevin Harvick, Inc., in the team’s No. 33 Chevrolet Monte Carlo last weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee and finished seventh. “Watching Hornaday get around Bristol was definitely a treat,” said owner DeLana Harvick. “He made some great saves and brought the No. 33 home in one piece.There may have been a few places that were knocked in, but that’s just Bristol. I think that will be a great motivator going into Martinsville this weekend. I know it will be for me.” Staff Writer Tim Haddock covers auto racing for the Daily News. He can be reached by e-mail at [email protected] NASCAR CRAFTSMAN TRUCK SERIES Kroger 250 Site: Martinsville, Va. Schedule: Today, qualifying, 9:05 a.m., race (Speed Channel, noon). Track: Martinsville Speedway (oval, 0.526 miles, 12 degrees banking in turns) Race distance: 131.5 miles, 250 laps. Last race: A spectacular four-wide pass gave Todd Bodine the lead and the momentum to pick up his first victory of the season at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 17. Bodine finished second behind Nextel Cup star and part-time truck racer Mark Martin in the first two events this season, losing both in overtime duels. Last year: Bobby Labonte became the first driver to win in each of NASCAR’s top three series at Martinsville Speedway by capturing the Kroger 250 in the closest truck event at the track. His Chevrolet beat Ricky Craven’s Ford to the finish line by 0.257 seconds. Fast facts: Bodine has won four of the last six races dating to last year. … Former truck champion Bobby Hamilton has a cancerous growth in his neck and will miss most if not all of the season while undergoing treatment. Bobby Hamilton Jr. will step into the No. 18 Dodge until he returns. … Ted Musgrave has top-five finishes in all three races this season. Next race: Dodge Ram Tough 200, April 29, Madison, Ill. On the Net: www.nascar.com INDY RACING LEAGUE Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Site: St. Petersburg, Fla. Schedule: Today, qualifying, 10:45 a.m.; Sunday, race (ESPN, 12:30 p.m.). Track: Streets of St. Petersburg (1.8 miles, 14 turns). Race distance: 180 miles, 100 laps. Last race: Rookie Paul Dana died after a two-car crash during the warm-up for the season-opening race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. … While streaking around the oval during a warm-up session, Dana failed to notice that the car of Ed Carpenter had spun to a stop, slamming into it at close to 200 mph. The race went on as planned, with defending champion Dan Wheldon beating Helio Castroneves by a nose cone. Last year: Wheldon became the circuit’s first multiple winner of 2005 when he took the inaugural Honda Grand Prix at St. Petersburg. … Andretti racers claimed the top four spots, with Tony Kanaan, Dario Franchitti and Bryan Herta finishing behind Wheldon. Fast facts: Carpenter came away from the crash with a bruised lung and was released from the hospital Monday. He was not cleared by doctors to take part in the open test in St. Petersburg, but hopes to be ready for the race. … The Rahal Letterman team withdrew Dana’s veteran teammates, Danica Patrick and Buddy Rice, from the season-opening race after the crash. Both are expected to begin their seasons this weekend. … Wheldon won four of the first five races last season. … Last year’s race was the IRL’s first on a non-oval track. Next race: Indy Japan 300, April 12, Suzuka. On the Net: www.indyracingleague.com – Associated Press160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Valencia’s Bryan Herta opened the Indy Racing League IndyCar Series with a 13th-place finish at the Toyota Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday. Before the race even started, Herta’s car had a fuel pressure problem and he had to take it into the garage for repairs. “I really don’t know what happened,” said Herta, a Hart High of Newhall graduate and driver of the No. 7 Honda-powered entry for Andretti Green. “We were a long way down, so we were just trying to run laps and pick up a few positions.” When he returned he was 28 laps down and completed only 140 laps before colliding with the wall, ending his race.