Hornish Takes Championship Lead with Kansas Win Marlboro Team Penske's Sam Hornish Jr. scored his third victory of 2006, and second win in as many weeks, as the reigning Indianapolis 500 winner dueled with 2005 Indy and defending series champion...
Hornish Takes Championship Lead with Kansas Win
Marlboro Team Penske's Sam Hornish Jr. scored his third victory of 2006, and second win in as many weeks, as the reigning Indianapolis 500 winner dueled with 2005 Indy and defending series champion Dan Wheldon for the final 17 laps before taking a typically-close Kansas Speedway victory by less than eight-hundredths of a second.
Victory in Sunday's Kansas Indy 300 also moved Hornish into the IRL IndyCar Series points lead after eight of 14 rounds, by 20 points over teammate Helio Castroneves. Castroneves, also a three-race winner this year, survived an early spin and contact with the Turn 4 wall to recover a sixth-place finish.
Starting together on the front row, Wheldon led the first 10 laps, but then Hornish assumed command and would eventually head the field for 149 of today's 200 laps, gaining the three bonus points awarded for leading the most race laps.
But Wheldon hung tough, leading 45 laps himself, and was ready to strike when the caution flag waved on Lap 177 for a single-car crash in Turn 4 that ended Buddy Rice's race. The race went green for the final time on Lap 183 and the pair resumed their battle for victory, often running side-by-side in the final 10 laps. Hornish edged ahead for good on the white flag lap, and took the victory by just 79-thousandths of a second, all on his 27th birthday.
Despite temperatures in the mid-to-high 90s all weekend, the field of Honda HI6R Indy V-8 engines once again performed flawlessly, with not a single failure recorded from the 19 entries during practice, qualifying or today's 300-mile race.
Just behind the top-two finishers, a fierce battle raged for third place among Panther Racing's Vitor Miera, 2004 IndyCar champion Tony Kanaan and Scott Dixon in his Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. Kanaan got the initial advantage when the green flag waved on Lap 183, after the last of three caution periods on the day, and jumped around a pair of lapped cars and Dixon to grab third. Dixon, who had been running third at the final restart, fell back to fifth, with Meira sandwiched in-between.
The trio repeatedly swapped positions over the final 17 laps, with Meira virtually scraping the Turn Four wall on the final lap to claim third, followed by Dixon and Kanaan as less than four-tenths of a second covered the three in crossing the finish line.
After back-to-back races at Richmond, Virginia and Kansas City, the IRL IndyCar Series now takes a one-week break before beginning a run of three consecutive race weekends, starting July 15 with the final Saturday night race of the season at the Nashville Superspeedway.
Sam Hornish Jr. (#6 Marlboro Team Penske Honda) Started 3rd, finished 1st, his 3rd win of 2006, record 17th career IndyCar win, and takes over the championship points lead:
"The last couple of laps were a little bit fun and a little bit nerve-wracking. Dan [Wheldon] had a really good car that ran pretty well on the outside, and I had a car that could run well wherever we put it. So I kept it on the low line, because that's usually the best way around here. I'm surprised to get out of here with a win. I led so many laps, and usually when you lead that many laps something happens and you don't win. But we did today, and that gives us some great momentum going into the last half of the season."
Robert Clarke (President, Honda Performance Development) on Honda reliability in today's race:
"As always seems to be the case here in Kansas, it was hot out on the track and in the pits today. But even though the temperatures were in the 90s, we still had 100% reliability from the Honda engines throughout all 300 miles. Our congratulations to Sam Hornish and the Marlboro Team Penske organization, and also to Dan Wheldon and Target Chip Ganassi Racing for their fighting spirit today. It made for another close, exciting IRL finish."