IRL: Stars prepare for IROC season debut at Daytona

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2003 -- IRL IndyCar Series stars Sam Hornish Jr., Felipe Giaffone and Helio Castroneves will start third, fifth and 10th, respectively, in the first True Value International Race of Champions race of the ...

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2003 -- IRL IndyCar Series stars Sam Hornish Jr., Felipe Giaffone and Helio Castroneves will start third, fifth and 10th, respectively, in the first True Value International Race of Champions race of the season Feb. 14 at Daytona International Speedway.

Starting positions for the 100-mile race on the 2.5-mile, high-banked were selected in a draw Feb. 12. The True Value IROC series puts 12 top drivers from different North American series in equally prepared stock cars in a four-race series.

The first race starts at 11 a.m. (EST) Friday, Feb. 14 at Daytona. It will be televised at 10:30 p.m. (EST) Sunday, Feb. 16 on ESPN2. The season finale is Aug. 2 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

In the draw, a selected media member drew a driver's name from a True Value hat. Then that driver drew a car color and a starting position. The driver then had the option to trade his car color with a driver starting higher in the field.

2001 Bombardier Rookie of the Year Giaffone, making his IROC debut, drew first and will drive the aqua car. Hornish will drive the purple car and Castroneves the blue car.

"The starting position doesn't matter at all," two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Castroneves said. "Last year, I started fourth and was last in the first lap. You just have to be patient and learn a bit. I'm going to practice a little bit and make sure I back into the rhythm. Then pedal to the metal.

"I like the blue color. Hopefully it doesn't give me a blue day. You can't see the color while you are inside the car, so you don't care. You just try to go fast."

O'Reilly World of Outlaws champions Steve Kinser and Danny Lasoski will occupy the front row, starting on the pole and second, respectively. Defending True Value IROC Series champion Kevin Harvick will start 11th.

The only color swap came when NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series star Mike Bliss traded his pink car to NASCAR Winston Cup Series star Jimmie Johnson for the rose car.

Two-time defending IndyCar Series champion Hornish and Giaffone tested IROC stock cars Feb. 11 at Daytona. Hornish was unhurt and cleared to drive after crashing between Turns 1 and 2 while in a pack with Giaffone, Bliss and Lasoski.

But Hornish will not practice again before the race, as he was sore due to the heavy impact with the outside retaining wall.

"I don't really know what happened," Hornish said. "I can't point any fingers and say I got bumped or whatever. The car started to come around, and I tried to correct it. Then I pretty much headed straight up into the outside wall and wrote off one of the cars for them (IROC). It was kind of a scary experience.

"I'm glad I was wearing the HANS Device and all of the safety aspects that the IROC officials go through to make sure I got out and walked out of that car. I'm just a little bit sore, but I'm glad I have the opportunity to go out there and race Friday. I'm cleared to do that, so everything is OK. I don't know if the purple car has ever won before, but hopefully we will take it to victory lane."

IROC rookie Giaffone and second-year IROC starter Castroneves planned to practice Feb. 12.

"The first race is going to be the place to learn," Giaffone said. "At the beginning of the race, I'm going to have to watch where the other guys go. I think the main thing is getting comfortable with the car. When the race starts, you always want to go forward, but at the same time you have to be really patient. You have to be really careful before you make a move, because it can hurt you really bad going backward.

"My first time ever was yesterday. I really had to get used to it with all of the movement. I'll make sure I polish my butt, because they (cars) are going to be touching."

-irl-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Kevin Harvick , Felipe Giaffone , Helio Castroneves , Danny Lasoski , Steve Kinser , Sam Hornish Jr.