IRL: Homestead: Season opener race report

Hornish Edges Castroneves For Toyota Indy 300 Win HOMESTEAD, Fla., Sunday, Feb. 29, 2004 -- Sam Hornish Jr. passed his Marlboro Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves on the final lap and held on to win the Toyota Indy 300 on Feb. 29. Hornish,...

Hornish Edges Castroneves For Toyota Indy 300 Win

HOMESTEAD, Fla., Sunday, Feb. 29, 2004 -- Sam Hornish Jr. passed his Marlboro Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves on the final lap and held on to win the Toyota Indy 300 on Feb. 29.

Hornish, making his debut for Marlboro Team Penske, edged Castroneves by .0698 of a second, the 10th-closest finish in IRL IndyCar Series history. Dan Wheldon finished third, tying his career-best finish.

Hornish, who has an IndyCar Series record 12 career victories, won at Homestead-Miami Speedway for the third time in the last four years, becoming the first IndyCar Series driver to record three victories at one track.

It was the third time Hornish has won the season opener. Hornish won in 2001 at Phoenix and in 2002 at Homestead-Miami. He won the series championship each of those seasons.

Toyota Indy 300 Post-Race Quotes:

SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "It definitely was exciting. A lot of people had asked me what I thought about the change in the layout of the track. I said I was real partial to the way the old track was, but I really like this new track. It's just a great day to be able to come out here in my debut with Marlboro Team Penske and have a win. Everybody just really welcomed me in, made me feel at home. I'm really excited to start off the year this way and looking forward to a lot of good things down the road."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "The car was very well set up. I was looking good, looking sharp. He (Hornish) always beat me on the outside. I said, 'This time, he's not going to beat me on the outside.' But I guess he's beat me on both. I was just trying to see where could be better for me. He definitely did a hell of a job, and Team Penske did another good job. It's good points, and that's what we need. It's better than last year, when we finished third. We need to keep working together so both cars will be right there."

DAN WHELDON (No. 26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "This is an excellent finish for the Klein Tools/Jim Beam team. We worked really hard this weekend. Qualifying didn't turn out the way I wanted it to, but that is what this team is all about. We focus on the race because that is what pays the points. I'm sure today is a good show to how strong all of Andretti Green Racing will be in the races to come. I just wanted my boy (Tony) Kanaan with me, and it would have been all right. We're going to be strong in the remaining races for the season. It's a long season, so as long as we score points, I'm really happy for the team. It was pretty intense out there. Certainly, the Honda engine was pushing me down those straights pretty good at the end, especially with (Tora) Takagi outside. It was like a Honda-Toyota battle, and Honda came out on top of that one. We didn't win the race, but the Klein Tools/Jim Beam car was strong, and I enjoyed every minute of it."

BRYAN HERTA (No. 7 XM Satellite Radio Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "It was good to get a finish for the XM Satellite Radio team in its first start. But we were looking at a much better finish before we had the cut tire late in the race. These guys worked so hard in the last couple of months to put this program in place, and we were hoping for a better result."

SCOTT SHARP (No. 8 Delphi Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "Hats off to the Penske guys. They're probably not running with the strongest engine at the moment but for them to go one-two is impressive. The Delphi guys did a great job today. We took a bit of a gamble on our pit strategy because we felt we didn't have anything to lose, and it almost paid off for us. The guys gave me a really good handling car, but we just didn't have the speed we needed when we ran alone. We needed the draft, and we were good in the draft. We had to pit too early, and we ended up out running on our own, which was the kiss of death. It was a gamble, and we've tried those before and ended up winning races. So although ninth place isn't perfect, we were happy to bring the car home, and now we're on to Phoenix."

TORA TAKAGI (No. 12 Pioneer Mo Nunn Racing Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "Normally, Friday and Saturday my car was really slow, but today my car was very good."

TOMAS SCHECKTER (No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "I'm happy. We got a little bit unlucky with a yellow; we got caught in the beginning. It was pretty tough getting by people when it went side by side, but the team had unbelievable stops. I have to thank Chevy and Pennzoil for doing a great job. It's good to get some points on the board in the first race. Let's move on to Phoenix. You couldn't pass people three-wide, and as soon as they caught up and went side by side it was impossible to get by, so I was sort of stuck. I tried going low, I tried going high, but there was no way I was going to pass them if they were going to go side by side. I'm glad we came back from I think 14th or 15th right in the beginning of the race to get a top-five finish and get some points on the board."

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "It was a long day. I think the car was a little too 'stuck' (too much downforce). I felt like I drove a pretty good race, but we just didn't seem to have enough today, and we'll work on that. But, it was a great job by all the Team 7-Eleven guys. It's a long season. There are 15 races left and a lot of points out there. I'm anxious to get to Phoenix now and defend my title there."

A.J. FOYT IV (No. 14 Conseco/A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "The Conseco car was comfortable all weekend. We knew we had been having problems with the motor in qualifying and final practice. It finally gave up on us in the final 10 laps. We had a solid car all weekend, and the car was solid today. We brought it home in one piece so it wasn't too awful bad. We just have to get our motor program to where it needs to be."

ROBBIE BUHL (No. 24 Team Purex/Dreyer& Reinbold Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "We were better than 10th, but we got stuck in sixth gear after the last stop and didn't have the ability to shift and pass like we needed to. We had a fifth- to seventh-place car easy, probably better. We know we can run with these guys, and they need to know we're back. Great job in the pits by our guys because and we gained spots every time we came in. From here, we'll take the points and move on to Phoenix."

BUDDY RICE (No. 15 Pioneer/Argent Mortgage Panoz G Force/Honda/Firestone): "Everything started off really good. The car was excellent. Sam (Hornish) tried a couple of moves high and low, and he couldn't get by. We made our first pit stop, and I went out, and the car went super loose. Then the sensor for the right rear tire came on, and we cut the tire on the first green lap. I know I ran over some debris, and that really hurt us. It was a pretty bad cut. It dropped us back to the end of the pack. I was really strong out front, and that is where I wanted to be. I think the track rubbered up more than we thought because we had a big push (understeer) the last half of the race. But this was a good weekend for the Pioneer/Argent team because I'm new and the G Force is new. I know everyone knew we were here. It just didn't finish up how we hoped. There were some very interesting driving out there today. I won't name names, but you could see the guys that had wheel marks all over their cars. They were running into people. That means trouble. It's going to happen when you run this close. I think this team showed it can be strong once we got things in place. It was tough in testing with a lot of problems, but this weekend showed we can run up front. We'll be ready for Phoenix. I'd love to have a great race there since it's my hometown."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 1 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone): "Yeah, I just came in a little hot, maybe. I just got a little wide in the turn and lost it halfway through. I just lost it."

ALEX BARRON (No. 51 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "It was the same exact thing as with Dario (Franchitti). It was the same thing with Darren Manning and I. He entered in too wide, and the next thing I know, his car just started coming up the track. He hit me and put me in the wall. You've got to hold your line. There's a lot of wandering going on out there."

MARK TAYLOR: (No. 2 Menards/Johns Manville Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone):"At this point, we're not really sure what happened out there today. We had a great race car all weekend. The Panther Racing guys really proved that we can qualify at the front and that we can move our Menards/Johns Manville car up the grid during the race. This isn't how we wanted to finish the race, obviously, but this team had a great weekend. We're looking forward to Phoenix, and I'm ready to get going again and put this car up front." (About making first pit stop in IndyCar Series competition): "Our pit stop went well, and it really helped getting that experience. It's just another positive we're going to take into the next race."

DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 27 Arca/Ex Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "We were going pretty well. I'm pretty lucky, I think. The 55 car drove up into my left rear and spun me around. It's his first race and stuff, but when it starts to understeer, you should get out of the gas and not run into the car above you. I'll have a word with him afterward."

-irl-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Darren Manning , Helio Castroneves , Dan Wheldon , Chip Ganassi , A.J. Foyt , Jim Beam , Sam Hornish Jr. , Mo Nunn
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing