Hornish steals the show; Dixon overcomes morning problem FOUNTAIN, Colo., Monday, June 16, 2003 - While Scott Dixon was impressive in his Honda Indy 225 victory June 15 in the Honda Indy 225 at Pikes Peak International Raceway, the talk of the...
Hornish steals the show; Dixon overcomes morning problem
FOUNTAIN, Colo., Monday, June 16, 2003 - While Scott Dixon was impressive in his Honda Indy 225 victory June 15 in the Honda Indy 225 at Pikes Peak International Raceway, the talk of the garage area after the race was Sam Hornish Jr.
Hornish, the two-time defending IRL IndyCar( Series champion, put on a brilliant display of driving en route to a fifth place finish after starting 14th.
By Lap 23, Hornish had taken his No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone from 14th to ninth and he was up to seventh by Lap 70, which was even more impressive considering the first 100 laps were run under green, so the field never was bunched up by a caution period.
But disaster occurred on Lap 81 when Hornish ran out of fuel entering Turn 1. He had to coast all the way around the 1-mile oval to make a pit stop. Running out of fuel put him down a lap and moved him out of the top 10.
"The fuel tank said one thing, and the car's computer said another as far as how much fuel we were using," Hornish said. "We weren't sure which one to use, so we thought, 'Well, we'll pit early.' Well, it was miscalibrated far enough that we were going to pit at 33 gallons, and it ran out at 29.5. It was just one of those things where we didn't expect it."
The problem didn't deter Hornish, as he began climbing his way through the field once again after stopping for fuel, using an unusually high line around the 1-mile oval. By Lap 123, Hornish was up to 10th. By Lap 145, he passed two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves for fifth.
But Hornish again was the victim of bad timing when he pitted for four tires and fuel on Lap 158, five laps before the yellow flag came out for debris. While most of the field pitted under yellow, Hornish lost positions by pitting under green.
Once again, Hornish was not rattled.
On the Lap 171 restart, he was ninth but shot his way to sixth by Lap 178. On Lap 183, he climbed to fifth by passing rookie Roger Yasukawa and finished the race with his first top-five of the 2003 season.
"We had a good-handling race car," Hornish said. "We did what we knew we had to do. We come here every year and say, 'Put as much downforce on the car as you can,' because if you can run flat, you're going to be fast around here.
"We should've been up a little bit higher today, but it was the best finish of the year, so I guess we can't be too mad about that. Finishing these races is the biggest part."
Series points leader Tony Kanaan, driver of the No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished second and was impressed with Hornish's effort.
"He did a superb job," Kanaan said. "I think the guy is proving one more time that he's the two-time IRL champion. People used to say this and that. But he's a great driver. Unfortunately, he's not having the right package right now, but you have to count on this guy all the time. I think he did a great job.
"He came from a lap down to finish fourth. If I was him, I felt that I won the race today."
Said 2003 Indianapolis 500 winner Gil de Ferran, who finished third: "He (Hornish) was very, very, very strong. I mean, I can't emphasize that enough. He was really passing a lot. He passed me like I was stopping."
Dixon overcomes morning problem:
Scott Dixon, driver of the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone, earned his second victory of the season in the Honda Indy 225, despite completing only two laps in the final practice session on race morning.
"It was a bit of a shame," Dixon said. "You know, we only did the install lap. Then when we went to go out next time, I think we broke the drivetrain, I think it was a tripod on the inside of the wheel, which we can't do much about. Guess we had to swap the gearboxes because I guess it had broke something else inside the gearbox, as well."
Despite the problem, Dixon went onto lead 89 laps and become the first driver to win two races this season. One area that really helped Dixon was his ability to stretch his fuel mileage. He went 97 laps before making his first pit stop, more than any other driver.
"The Toyota engine just gave it great fuel mileage," Dixon said. "We just leaned the thing back, and we were able to still pick people off. We're a little leaner than what everybody else had been."
Toyota finding early success:
Scott Dixon earned his second victory of the season in the Honda Indy 225 and gave the Toyota engine its fifth win in six races this year.
Toyota engines have now scored victories with Dixon at PPIR and the Toyota Indy 300 March 2 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and with Scott Sharp in the Indy Japan 300 April 13 at Twin Ring Motegi, Gil de Ferran in the 87th Indianapolis 500 May 25 and Al Unser Jr. in the Bombardier 500 June 7 at Texas Motor Speedway.
Drivers using Toyota engines have now led 553 of the last 558 IndyCar Series laps, including 223 of the 225 laps at PPIR. However, Jim Aust, Toyota vice president of motorsports, knows there is still a long way to go in the 2003 IRL IndyCar Series season.
"We're extremely pleased with how the season has gone to date," Aust said. "It's been a great combined effort between our drivers, teams and everyone involved with the Toyota engine program. Yet it's crucial that we remain focused on the ultimate prize - an IndyCar Series championship. We still have 10 races remaining this season, and as we've found out, the competition in the IRL is intense and will only continue to grow in the future."
Chevy has solid day:
Chevrolet has struggled in the 2003 IRL IndyCar Series season through six races but had a solid outing in the Honda Indy 225, placing three drivers in the top 10.
Sam Hornish Jr. came home fifth in the No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, the first top-five finish for a Chevy-powered car this season.
Buddy Rice, driver of the No. 52 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, came home ninth, and 1996 Indianapolis 500 winner and 2000 IRL IndyCar Series champion Buddy Lazier was 10th in the No. 91 Victory Brand/Delta Faucet/Life Fitness Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone.
It was the best finish of the season for Hornish and Lazier, while Rice equaled his best finish. Rice also finished ninth at the Purex Dial Indy 200 March 23 at Phoenix International Raceway.
"We had a good result today," Rice said. "We finished in the top 10, which is a better finish then we had the past few races. We're happy with our new Chevy engine package. It ran well all weekend and helped to give us a good race car to work with.
Lazier, a native of nearby Vail, Colo., also was happy except for the yellow flag that came out on Lap 220 when rookie Roger Yasukawa crashed in Turn 1, causing the race to end under caution.
"We had a pretty good day," Lazier said. "We needed this top-10 finish. It was real disappointing to see that last yellow because I thought we would have been able to pick up another position or two. We were clearly faster than the car in front of us, and I was looking forward to overtaking it. But it is a top-10 (finish), and we're heading in the right direction."
Kanaan stretching points lead:
While Toyota engines have won five of the six races this season, it's a driver with a Honda engine that is leading the points. Tony Kanaan, driver of the No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone, leads the points standings, 217-168, over Scott Dixon.
Kanaan, who finished second in the Honda Indy 225, scored a win at the Purex Dial Indy 200 March 23 at Phoenix, and finished fourth at Homestead-Miami, third at Indianapolis and second at Texas. His worst finish of the season came at Motegi when he finished 14th after an accident with Dixon while both drivers battled for the lead.
Despite finishing second the past two races, Kanaan is pleased.
"I think the last two races, we didn't have the car," Kanaan said. "It was just the opportunity never came up. So the best thing I can do in days like this is take the highest position I can, and the highest position I could do today was second.
"As long as I can build up (the points lead), I don't care if I don't win any single race until the end of the year. If I finish second every time, I can win the championship."
Although Kanaan owns a 49-point lead over Dixon, there's quite a jam for third place. Helio Castroneves, Al Unser Jr. and Gil de Ferran are tied for third with 167 points. Only 19 points separate second-place Dixon from seventh-place Scott, Sharp who has 149 points.
Dario Franchitti, driver of the No. 27 Archipelago/Motorola Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished fourth in the Honda Indy 225, his first race since the Purex Dial Indy 200 March 23 at Phoenix.
Franchitti suffered a back injury in a motorcycle accident in April and missed races at Motegi, Indianapolis and Texas. The fourth-place finish is the best career IRL IndyCar Series finish for Franchitti. His previous best finish was seventh at the season-opening Toyota Indy 300 on March 2 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
"It was a pretty exciting race for the Archipelago/Motorola team," Franchitti said. "It was hard out there. With the amount of downforce on these cars, it gave me a great workout. This is a good way to come back after being out of the car for 10 weeks. It is something to build on."
Franchitti was running third with six laps to go before Gil de Ferran passed him in Turn 1 on a restart.
"We were ahead of (Gil) de Ferran on the last restart, and then we were blocked by some lapped cars," Franchitti said "We ran side-by-side into Turn 1, and he pretty much ran me up into the gray. That is how I lost third (place)."
Fike wins, begins busy week:
Infiniti Pro Series standout Aaron Fike began a hectic week of racing on a good note by winning the Pikes Peak 100 Infiniti Pro Series race on June 14.
Fike, driver of the No. 91 RFMS/Hemelgarn Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone, led 82 of the 87 laps in the event, which ended 13 laps early due to rain.
Beginning on June 15, Fike will be in a race car for eight straight days throughout the Midwest competing on short tracks and testing his Infiniti Pro Series car.
He competed in a USAC Midget event on June 15 at Kokomo, Ind., finishing eighth. On June 16 and the morning of June 17 he will test his Infiniti Pro Series car at Kansas Speedway, before competing in a USAC Midget event in Attica, Ohio the evening of June 17.
Fike will compete in USAC Midget events on June 18, 19, 20 at Fremont, Ohio, Lima, Ohio and Rossburg, Ohio, respectively. He will then compete in a Badger Midget event June 21 at Sun Prairie, Wis. Fike won the Badger Midget Series title in 2002.
"We usually keep pretty busy, trying to run as much as we can in USAC, midgets," Fike said. "We've always been pretty busy. I ran probably 60, 70 races (each year) the last three years. I've gotten a lot of experience for my age. This program definitely helps me, too. I think running in as many different types of cars is good for you. You get the experience of running at all these different tracks."