IRL: Homestead-Miami: Chevy race report

HOMESTEAD, Fla., March 2, 2002 -- Eight years, four months and 29 days after Chevrolet scored its last Indy car victory, the red Bowtie returned to the winner's circle in open-wheel racing. Chevrolet and Sam Hornish Jr. dominated the Grand Prix of...

HOMESTEAD, Fla., March 2, 2002 -- Eight years, four months and 29 days after Chevrolet scored its last Indy car victory, the red Bowtie returned to the winner's circle in open-wheel racing. Chevrolet and Sam Hornish Jr. dominated the Grand Prix of Miami today at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Chevrolet's all-new Chevy Indy V8 engine led all 200 laps and powered Hornish to the fourth victory of his Indy Racing League career. Chevrolet engines swept the first five finishing positions.

"It feels great," said Hornish after duplicating his winning performance last year on the 1.5-mile Florida oval. "Chevrolet has done so much work to put out a product that was capable of winning right from the start. The Chevy engine ran flawlessly and Pennzoil Panther Racing did a great job as they always do. I can't wait to go to the next race."

Starting his Pennzoil Panther Racing Dallara on the pole after a record-setting qualifying run, Hornish lapped the entire field by the 136th circuit. A series of late-race cautions, combined with sharp pit strategy by Penske Racing, cost Hornish his one-lap advantage, but he was never challenged for the victory. Penske teammates Gil de Ferran and Helio Castroneves finished second and third respectively. The race finished under caution after Airton Dare hit the wall in Turn 2 on lap 196.

"We are very excited about Chevrolet's successful return to Indy car racing today," said Chevrolet IRL Marketing Manager Terry Dolan. "Racing is an important part of Chevrolet's heritage, and the original Chevy Indy V8 was a dominant force in open-wheel competition. Now we are able to assert Chevy's dominance again with our new engine technology.

"Working under a very short development cycle, GM Racing engineers have done their homework," Dolan noted. "The entire Chevrolet organization is very proud of the accomplishments that Sam Hornish Jr., Panther Racing and our affiliated drivers and teams achieved today."

Panther Racing tested the new Chevy Indy V8 extensively during the off-season, and that development program paid dividends today.

"One of major projects this winter was the Chevrolet conversion," said team co-owner John Barnes. "Speedway Engine Development has done a tremendous job and worked tirelessly to come up the power we need. That showed on the straightaways today. Sam and (team engineer) Andy Brown had the car working well in the corners, but Speedway and Chevrolet gave us the power we needed to be the leader of the pack."

De Ferran and Castroneves both cited the gusty crosswinds that made driving difficult today as factors in the race's outcome.

"In the beginning my car was very good, but later I was having a lot of trouble in turns 3 and 4," said Castroneves, the 2001 Indy 500 winner. "I just couldn't keep the speed, and I was just trying to hold on.

"We just started a new championship in a new series with new equipment," he added. "To finish in the Top Three was my goal, and I'm satisfied."

Following a different pit stop strategy than the Panther and Penske teams, Jeff Ward led 29 laps in Ganassi Racing's G-Force and ran the fastest lap of the race at 195.052 mph with the new Chevy Indy V8. Ward finished fourth in his first outing with his new team.

"It was brutal," Ward reported. "I mean the track was really tough and slippery."

After the victory celebration, Hornish pointed to the arrival of Penske Racing as full-time competitors in the IRL series as a source of motivation.

"We wanted to send a message that we'd done our homework over the winter and that we were going to defend our championship," Hornish said. "We're still pushing as hard as we were last year."

Asked to evaluate the dominant performance of his 22-year-old driver, Barnes replied, "Sam's our secret weapon. He's very dedicated and a tremendous individual. He hasn't changed a bit after all of his wins and his championship. He's the same Sam."

If the same Sam shows up at the next IRL event at Phoenix International Raceway on March 17, where he also won last year, it could be a tough day in the desert for his rivals.

-chevy-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Jeff Ward , Airton Daré , Gil de Ferran , John Barnes , Sam Hornish Jr.
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing