HOMESTEAD, Fla., April 8, 2001 - Young lion Sam Hornish Jr. and the Pennzoil Panther Racing team roared today at Homestead-Miami Speedway as Hornish scored his second straight victory in the Indy Racing Northern Light Series with his ...
HOMESTEAD, Fla., April 8, 2001 - Young lion Sam Hornish Jr. and the Pennzoil Panther Racing team roared today at Homestead-Miami Speedway as Hornish scored his second straight victory in the Indy Racing Northern Light Series with his Oldsmobile-powered Dallara. Youth had its day in the sun at the south Florida track as 21-year-old Hornish edged 20-year-old Sarah Fisher at the finish line by 1.870 seconds. Hornish became the first driver to win consecutive IRL races since 1999, and the only driver to win the first two races of an IRL season.
Hornish dominated the 300-mile race on the flat 1.5-mile oval, leading 142 of 200 laps, turning the fastest lap of the race, and scoring Oldsmobile's 39th IRL victory. He averaged 148.508 mph and extended Panther Racing's winning streak to three consecutive races after the team won last October in Texas with driver Scott Goodyear. Hornish used the power of his Oldsmobile racing engine and a superb chassis setup to recover from a miscue on his last green-flag pit stop that dropped him from first to fourth place. On the final restart with 16 laps to go, Hornish picked off Fisher and then four laps later pulled off an outside pass on race leader Eliseo Salazar to take the lead for good.
"The car was great all day long, and the team gave me a car I could put anywhere," Hornish reported. "I made a rookie mistake (stalling on pit road), even though I'm not a rookie. The car was fast and we had more in reserve."
Can Hornish continue his hot streak? "I don't know, but we're sure going to try," he said. "The car ran awesome, just like in Phoenix. I was working on an outside line all day, and I knew I might be able to pass some people out there."
Oldsmobile engines dominated the IRL series' inaugural event in Homestead, winning the pole, sweeping the first eight finishing positions and leading every lap. IRL Aurora V8s powered 24 of the 26 starters and 18 of the 19 finishers.
"It was an exciting race for the fans and an excellent race from the standpoint of engine reliability" said Joe Negri, GM Racing IRL/Road Racing Group manager. "The Oldsmobile IRL Aurora V8 continued to show its dominance over Infiniti's new 35A engine."
Hornish's victory marked the fourth straight win for Oldsmobile engine builder Rick Long's Speedway Engine Development shop in Indianapolis. "Speedway Engines builds the greatest motors in the world!" declared Panther Racing co-owner John Barnes. "GM's motorsports program has really helped out Speedway in the last two years. We were seeing only about an 800 rpm spread between the turns and the straights. Sam really gases it!"
Panther Racing crew chief Kevin Blanch concurred: "This kid's just unreal. We got behind on the last stop, but we believed he could catch them, and he did."
Hornish and Fisher continued their racing rivalry that began when they competed in go-karts as 11-year-olds. "Today is (team owner) Derrick Walker's birthday, and it couldn't be better, except for a win," said Fisher after the best finish by a woman in Indy car history. "The Comptech engines were awesome today."
Forty-four year old Eliseo Salazar represented experience on the victory podium after a third-place finish in A.J. Foyt's Oldsmobile Dallara. "I'm older than both of them together," joked the Chilean driver. Combined with a runner-up finish to Hornish in Phoenix, Salazar is second in the IRL championship race, 29 points behind his young rival.
With his fast start in 2001, Hornish has emerged as a serious contender to win both the IRL championship and the Indianapolis 500 - a feat that would make him the youngest Indy 500 winner in history. "This gives me confidence," Hornish confided. "This race was a lot like I think Indy's going to be - it's going to be warm, windy and gusty at times, and a patience race."
IRL teams will return to the high-banked corners of Atlanta Motor Speedway on April 28 in the final prelude to the Indianapolis 500. The Atlanta 500 Classic will be the first Saturday night race of the season.
<pre> Race Summary Track: Homestead-Miami Speedway, 1.5-mile oval Winner: Sam Hornish Jr., Pennzoil Panther Racing Oldsmobile Dallara Margin of Victory: 1.870 seconds Average Speed: 148.508 mph Pole: Jeff Ward/Oldsmobile, 201.551 mph (track record for naturally aspirated race cars) Fastest Lap: Sam Hornish/Oldsmobile, 195.949 mph
Top Five Finishers: Pos./Driver/Engine/Laps 1. Sam Hornish Jr./Oldsmobile, 200 laps 2. Sarah Fisher/Oldsmobile, 200 3. Eliseo Salazar/Oldsmobile, 200 4. Felipe Giaffone/Oldsmobile, 199 5. Jeff Ward/Oldsmobile, 199
Manufacturer Results Laps Led: Oldsmobile 200, Infiniti 0 Starters: Oldsmobile 24, Infiniti 2 Running at Finish: Oldsmobile 18, Infiniti 1
Championship Standings (after 2 of 13 events) Driver/Engine/Points (victories in parentheses) 1. Sam Hornish Jr./Oldsmobile, 104 (2) 2. Eliseo Salazar/Oldsmobile, 75 3. Felipe Giaffone/Oldsmobile, 60 4. Scott Sharp/Oldsmobile, 56 Billy Boat/Oldsmobile, 56 6. Sarah Fisher/Oldsmobile, 53 Manufacturer/Points (victories in parentheses) 1. Oldsmobile 22 (2) 2. Nissan 14 (0)
Next Race: April 28, 2001, Atlanta 500 Classic, Atlanta Motor Speedway, Hampton, Ga., 1.5-mile oval TV: TV: ESPN2, 7:00 p.m. EDT