IRL: Tough day for Indy Racing drivers in California

Castroneves leading IRL finisher in seventh at Fontana. FONTANA, Calif., Saturday, April 27, 2002 -- NASCAR Winston Cup Series star Kevin Harvick won the True Value IROC race April 27 at California Speedway, while 2001 Indianapolis 500 winner ...

Castroneves leading IRL finisher in seventh at Fontana.

FONTANA, Calif., Saturday, April 27, 2002 -- NASCAR Winston Cup Series star Kevin Harvick won the True Value IROC race April 27 at California Speedway, while 2001 Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves led the Indy Racing League contingent in seventh.

NASCAR drivers dominated the race on the 2-mile oval, capturing the top six spots in the race. Open-wheel drivers took the final six spots in the 12-car "all-star" race between top drivers from various series in equally prepared stock cars.

The finish in this race, the second of four True Value IROC rounds this season, was a contrast from the season opener Feb. 15 at Daytona International Speedway. IRL drivers captured three of the top five spots at Daytona, with 2001 series champion Sam Hornish Jr. second, 1996 series co-champion Scott Sharp third and two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr. fifth.

At this event, Unser followed Castroneves in eighth, 1996 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Lazier finished ninth, Sharp was 10th, and Hornish was 11th. World of Outlaws champion Danny Lasoski finished last, the only driver not on the lead lap.

"The tires started going away, and then I was just holding trying to find the line," Castroneves said. "It is tough because there are a lot of different lines out there. I lost the draft, and then I ended up seventh. I had fun."

NASCAR drivers Bobby Labonte, Dale Jarrett, Sterling Marlin, Jack Sprague and Tony Stewart followed winner Harvick.

Harvick led 46 of the 50 laps and averaged 161.580 mph. He edged Labonte by .149 of a second at the finish.

This event will be televised at 1 p.m. (EDT) April 28 on ESPN.

Hornish entered this event as a strong contender for victory. He adapted to IROC racing quickly in his series debut in February at Daytona and won the Yamaha Indy 400 Indy Racing League event March 24 at California.

But Hornish's race was essentially over almost at the green flag, as he was penalized for jumping the start. IROC officials forced Hornish to drive through the pits slowly as a penalty, and Hornish was forced to play catch-up the rest of the race.

"I didn't know we weren't allowed to pass before the start-finish line," Hornish said. "They had said you could go down on the apron as long as you are back on the track before you get to the corners. There wasn't a problem with that. They said the fact that I pulled up and started to pass someone before was the problem."

While Lazier and Sharp never contended for victory, they did have a spirited, side-by-side battle for position during the race.

"It was a lot of fun," 2000 IRL champion Lazier said. "We were racing together. I was having a hard time getting by him. I think I was a little quicker through the center of the corner. I just couldn't get by him. I finally did.

"It was a disappointing run, in general, but a lot of fun. I think a lot of the IRL guys erred on the side of caution today, being one week away from practice for our biggest race, the Indy 500."

Stewart, winner of the opening round at Daytona, kept his series points lead with 35. Harvick climbed to second with 32, followed by Labonte at 30.

Unser is the top IRL driver in the standings, tied for fourth with Sprague with 22 points. Hornish is sixth at 21, Sharp is tied with Marlin for seventh at 19, Castroneves is tied with Lasoski for 10th at 12, and Lazier is 12th at 11.

The next True Value IROC race is July 13 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill. The season finale is the IROC at Indy race Aug. 3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

INDY RACING LEAGUE TRUE VALUE IROC QUOTEBOOK:

HELIO CASTRONEVES (Seventh): "The tires started going away, and then I was just holding trying to find the line. It is tough because there are a lot of different lines out there. I lost the draft, and then I ended up seventh. I had fun."

AL UNSER JR. (Eighth): "It (car) was just pushing real bad. It was a good race. I just couldn't stay with anybody. I'm excited about going to Indy."

BUDDY LAZIER (Ninth): "It was good. It was fine. On the start of the race, we missed that big time. I got passed by everybody within the first lap or two. Toward the end, the car was really good. I just had a hard time passing Scott (Sharp). I hate for all of us to be racing all the IRL guys, but that is just how it worked out today. I finally got back Scott, and I was catching Al Jr., and I ran out of laps." (About racing Scott Sharp side by side for several laps): "It was a lot of fun. We were racing together. I was having a hard time getting by him. I think I was a little quicker through the center of the corner. I just couldn't get by him. I finally did. It was a disappointing run, in general, but a lot of fun. With a little different restart, I think we all could of had a lot better race. I think a lot of the IRL guys erred on the side of caution today, being one week away from practice for our biggest race, the Indy 500."

SCOTT SHARP (10th): "We had a good time. I wish they had thrown a yellow. I think early on I was pretty loose, and I had to back off a little more than I wanted to. The pack got away from me so I lost the draft -- Buddy and I both did. It seemed like we stabilized that, and we started catching both Al and Helio. It would have been great if they had thrown a yellow, maybe we would have had a chance to move up a few spots." (About heading to Indy): "I'm excited for Indianapolis. I don't think the Delphi team could have anymore momentum than we have right now. We had a great test at Nazareth, a wonderful test at Indy, win the race at Nazareth -- we are loaded and ready to go. That is our 100-percent focus."

SAM HORNISH JR. (11th): "I didn't know we weren't allowed to pass before the start-finish line. They had said you could go down on the apron as long as you are back on the track before you get to the corners. There wasn't a problem with that. They said the fact that I pulled up and started to pass someone before was the problem. The car handled good. I started to slow down toward the end just to make sure I had the right-front tire on it still in case there was a caution, but no caution." (About heading to Indy): "I wish it was already here. I wish the race was tomorrow."

-irl-

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About this article
Series IndyCar , IROC
Drivers Dale Jarrett , Bobby Labonte , Tony Stewart , Kevin Harvick , Sterling Marlin , Al Unser Jr. , Buddy Lazier , Scott Sharp , Helio Castroneves , Danny Lasoski , Sam Hornish Jr.