IRL: Chicagoland: Chevy race report

Chevy powers Hornish to second Chicagoland victory JOLIET, Ill., Sept. 7, 2003 - The outside was the right side for Sam Hornish Jr. today as he won the Delphi Indy 300 by inches at Chicagoland Speedway. Chevrolet powered the Pennzoil Panther ...

Chevy powers Hornish to second Chicagoland victory

JOLIET, Ill., Sept. 7, 2003 - The outside was the right side for Sam Hornish Jr. today as he won the Delphi Indy 300 by inches at Chicagoland Speedway. Chevrolet powered the Pennzoil Panther Racing driver to his second win of the season and his second consecutive victory on the 1.5-mile Chicagoland oval. Chevy had three top-10 finishers as Alex Barron and Robbie Buhl finished seventh and 10th respectively.

Hornish took the outside lane as he raced to the finish line three-wide alongside runner-up Scott Dixon and third-place finisher Bryan Herta. The interval between the three rivals was .0100 seconds - the closest 1-2-3 finish in IndyCar Series history.

"I knew that I had to be up toward the front," said Hornish after scoring his record 10th career IRL victory. "We stayed there and conserved fuel all day long, and we turned it up when we needed it. We got the most out of our Chevrolet, for sure. It was a great finish.

"I like to be on the high side because I'm in control," Hornish explained. "I don't like being pinched down to the apron - plus being on the high side seems to work out in those close finishes."

Hornish has now won the three closest finishes in IRL history with Chevy Indy V8 engines. He led five times for a total of 40 laps and averaged 184.294 mph over the 300-mile distance, the second fastest race in the IRL record book.

"For racing fans, it doesn't get any better than that," said Joe Negri, GM Racing IRL program manager. "It's great to see an exciting finish with Chevrolet up front. Sam and Panther Racing did their usual excellent job to take the victory."

The fuel efficiency of the Chevy Indy V8 gave the Panther Racing team a strategic advantage. Hornish made his final fuel-only pit stop on Lap 189 under caution when he was able to stay out longer than many of his rivals, who had to pit under green-flag racing conditions.

"All day long we tried to stay in the leader's draft and conserve fuel," Hornish noted. "It really worked out for us because when the last caution came out, we were able to go until the pits opened. It was good to be able to start at the front of the pack."

Hornish has now posted two wins and two runner-up finishes in his last four starts with the new Chevy Indy V8. That late-season surge has propelled him to within 41 points of leader Helio Castroneves in the championship race. A maximum of 104 points can be won in the two remaining races.

"I made a commitment to the team to try to come out of here a champion again," Hornish declared. "We had a great day in the points. We've got two more races, both at tracks where we won last year.

"Now that we've got the horsepower, we can make some things happen for us," he continued. "I'm really proud that Chevrolet has done what they've done and been able to give us all the support that they have this year. They really bore down and made sure that we had what we needed to compete - not just to compete for the top three, but to win races."

Richie Hearn started Team Menard's Chevrolet Dallara on the pole and threatened to run away with the race when he led the first 37 laps. A miscue on a pit stop and handling problems resulted in a 14th place finish for the pole winner.

"My car was really good in the first run, but I just picked up a huge understeer from then on, and I could not run in traffic," Hearn reported. "I was just hanging on."

Alex Barron drove the Red Bull Cheever Racing Chevrolet Dallara to a seventh place finish, the team's best finish of the season.

"The weekend went great and we earned a solid finish," said Barron. "I was happy with our race setup. We had a really good balance in the car. The Red Bull Cheever Racing Team had flawless pit stops, and the Chevy engine performed great. Overall, it was just a really good race for us. The yellow caught us out for a couple of positions, but we're still happy with the result."

Robbie Buhl notched his third straight top-10 finish in his Purex/Aventis Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Chevrolet Dallara with a 10th place finish, but he had hoped for a better result.

"We had too good of a car to be 10th," Buhl said. "We were putting that car in places that nobody else was. We had a run there at the end, but just couldn't take it anywhere. I know I drove all-out in the race, so we'll just pick it up and move on from here."

Rookie Ed Carpenter finished 13th in his first IndyCar Series race with PDM Racing's Metabolife Chevrolet Dallara. In the first 10 laps of the race, he moved from his 18th starting position into the top 10. He completed all 300 miles, finishing on the lead lap.

"At the start of the race, we just started flying," Carpenter recalled. "I never thought I'd be passing some of the guys I was passing right away in our first stint. We can be contenders once I figure out how to do restarts and get in and out of the pits a little better. As far as the car goes, we were capable of running up front."

Several Chevy teams will test this week as they prepare for the penultimate race in the 16-event 2003 IndyCar Series on Sept. 21 at California Speedway in Fontana, Calif. The Toyota Indy 400 will be televised live on ABC at 3:30 p.m. Eastern and broadcast on the IMS Radio Network.

RACE SUMMARY Track: Chicagoland Speedway, 1.5-mile oval
Winner: Sam Hornish Jr./Pennzoil Panther Racing Chevrolet Dallara
Margin of Victory: .0099 seconds
Average Speed: 184.294 mph
Pole: Richie Hearn/Chevrolet, 223.159 mph
Fastest Lap: Bryan Herta/Honda, 223.602 mph

RESULTS
Pos./Driver/Engine/Laps
1. Sam Hornish Jr./Chevrolet, 200
2. Scott Dixon/Toyota, 200
3. Bryan Herta/Honda, 200
4. Dan Wheldon/Honda, 200
5. Tomas Scheckter/Toyota, 200

7. Alex Barron/Chevrolet, 200
10. Robbie Buhl/Chevrolet, 200
13. Ed Carpenter/Chevrolet, 200
16. Buddy Lazier/Chevrolet, 199
18. Sarah Fisher/Chevrolet, 198

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS (after 14 of 16 events) Driver/Engine/Points (victories in parentheses)

1. Helio Castroneves/Toyota, 439 (2)
2. Scott Dixon/Toyota, 427 (3)
3. Tony Kanaan/Honda, 425 (1)
4. Gil de Ferran/Toyota, 422 (2)
5. Sam Hornish Jr./Chevrolet, 398 (2)

Manufacturer/Points (victories in parentheses) 1. Toyota, 128 (10)
2. Honda, 94 (2)
3. Chevrolet, 86 (2)

NEXT EVENT Sept. 21, Toyota Indy 400, California Speedway, Fontana, Calif. TV: ABC, 3:30 p.m. Eastern

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Sarah Fisher , Robbie Buhl , Buddy Lazier , Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Bryan Herta , Richie Hearn , Alex Barron , Dan Wheldon , Sam Hornish Jr. , Ed Carpenter
Teams Panther Racing , Dreyer & Reinbold Racing