INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- July 3, 2006 Today's IRL headlines 1. Hornish takes points lead with Kansas win 2. IndyCar Series sets another milestone at Kansas 3. Drivers reap post-race rewards 4. Bidding for Firestone Indy 200 Honorary...
INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- July 3, 2006
Today's IRL headlines
1. Hornish takes points lead with Kansas win
2. IndyCar Series sets another milestone at Kansas
3. Drivers reap post-race rewards
4. Bidding for Firestone Indy 200 Honorary Starter ends July 6
5. Of note
1. Hornish takes points lead with Kansas win: Sam Hornish Jr. has been involved in four of the 10 closest finishes in IRL IndyCar® Series history, winning three of the shootouts. The Marlboro Team Penske driver was expecting another squeaker when he and Dan Wheldon hooked up in a late-race duel at Kansas Speedway.
He had reason to be concerned. Wheldon, the pole sitter in the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, led by 0.0078 of a second as the two series champions caught the start-finish line on Lap 197. Hornish was able to nose ahead on the white-flag lap and win the Kansas Lottery Indy 300 by 0.0793 of a second.
"When it gets down to that little bit, it's just me and the other driver," said Hornish, who claimed his 17th IndyCar Series victory and first for Penske Racing at the 1.5-mile oval. "To tell you the truth, I was quite a bit nervous about it, considering that I've won most of the times when I've been in those close finishes. The one time I've lost, I was on the inside. All the ones I won I was on the outside, except for Indy this year. That's a little bit different story.
"Michigan a couple years ago, I lost by about that much (as at Kansas). I had a feeling it might turn out to be like Michigan. I just kept digging and trying as hard as I could. It was great to hear (spotter Tom Wurtz say) 'Clear.' ''
The victory and three bonus points for leading the most laps (149 of 200) give Hornish a 20-point cushion over teammate Helio Castroneves in the standings after eight races. Scott Dixon is third (39 points behind) and Wheldon remains fourth (43 shy).
After a weekend off, a challenging montage of races (1.33-mile Nashville Superspeedway on July 15; The Milwaukee Mile on July 23; and the 2-mile Michigan International Speedway on July 30) await the IndyCar Series teams.
Hornish said momentum is churning for the No. 6 Honda-powered Dallara team. The victory -- his third of the season -- followed a dominating performance at Richmond International Raceway eight days earlier.
"We had a couple races that were off at the beginning of the year," he said. "We had a mechanical problem at St. Petersburg. I got too excited the weekend after the Indy 500. I thought I could really get on the gas, but spun out, ended up a lap down at Watkins Glen.
"I think we just came to a lot of tracks that we've been fast at over the last couple years, but haven't been able to win. Richmond, we were right up there the last couple years, as well as here. Both of those races, we were able to win.
"It really makes us look forward to going to places like Nashville, where we finished second the last two years, and Milwaukee, where we won. Of course, going to Michigan where we have so many hometown fans (is special). We haven't had strong runs, but had a second three years ago.
"I think there are a lot of things that are going our way as far as momentum. While we are happy to have the break next weekend, I wish that we could just keep going so we could see how this championship unfolds. Unfortunately, we're going to have to wait a weekend to go to one of my favorite racetracks, Nashville.
"Hopefully, we'll get out of there with a win this year instead of another second. I guess we could take that, as well."
For the remainder of the season, it's about maximizing points in his quest for a third IndyCar Series championship. But strong contenders -- Castroneves and the Target drivers, plus Panther Racing's Vitor Meira -- are poised to pounce should Hornish's momentum falters.
"(The season) already has been special," Hornish said. "I won Indy. That makes the whole year special. That was the main thing for me.
"I love to win as much as the next guy, but that was the crowning achievement in my career. I don't know if anything will ever match up to that. I'm sure having a lot of fun with winning races since then, and really happy to get out of here with the points lead for the championship."
2. IndyCar Series sets another milestone at Kansas: Close finishes have been the signature of IndyCar Series events -- especially on high-banked 1.5-mile ovals. The July 2 Kansas Lottery Indy 300 at Kansas Speedway was no different.
Sam Hornish Jr.'s victory over Dan Wheldon was by .0793 of a second, the 23rd-closest finish in series history and the 25th finish with a margin of victory of less than one tenth of a second.
In all, 50 of the 111 IndyCar Series races have had a 1-2 finish of less than a second. This year, the last three races have had a margin of victory of less than a second.
When it comes to winning nail-biting races, no driver has had more success than Hornish.
Hornish has been involved in 11 of the 25 closest finishes in IndyCar Series history, including wins in three of the four closest finishes.
3. Drivers reap post-race rewards: Sam Hornish Jr. again reaped the benefits from winning an IndyCar Series event.
As the Kansas Lottery Indy 500 race winner, Hornish was presented with a Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT Camera and an engraved Aquaracer Automatic timepiece from TAG Heuer, the official timekeeper and watch of the Indy Racing League. TAG Heuer presents an engraved Aquaracer Automatic timepiece to the winner of each IndyCar Series event.
The Aquaracer concept is founded on providing the accuracy that all water sports demand. Based on the design and features of the timeless 2000 series, launched in 1982, TAG Heuer's watchmakers and designers have created an original, prestigious sports watch that is water-resistant to 300 meters.
Hornish also collected the Firestone Performance Award and its $10,000 prize for leading Lap 128 of the race, while Tomas Scheckter won the K&N Award and its $2,000 prize for being the highest-placed eligible finisher. Scott Sharp won the Lincoln Electric Hard Charger Award and its $2,000 prize for being the race leader who started furthest back. Dan Wheldon won the Marlboro Pole Award and its $10,000 prize.
4. Bidding for Firestone Indy 200 Honorary Starter ends July 6: Firestone is again offering the opportunity to bid to be the honorary starter for the July 15 Firestone Indy 200.
Firestone has placed for bid on the auction website eBay the Honorary Starter's position for the Firestone Indy 200 at Nashville Superspeedway on July 16. The highest bidder, provided the offer meets the minimum reserve bid, will be invited by Firestone Racing to climb into the flag stand before the race and wave the green flag. Proceeds go to United Way of Metropolitan Nashville.
The winning bidder receives four grandstand tickets for the race from Firestone Racing, admission to Firestone's pre-race hospitality area and gets to meet Andrew Firestone, great-grandson of Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. founder Harvey Firestone and most recently star of the ABC-TV reality show "The Bachelor." Transportation to and accommodations for the event weekend are the responsibility of the winning bidder.
To view and bid on this opportunity, follow this Internet link: http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=200002868430&ssPageName=ADME:B:EF:US:11. Or, go to www.eBay.com and enter item number 200002868430 in the item search. Bidding ends on July 6.
5. Of note: ABC Sports' coverage of the Kansas Lottery Indy 300 earned a 1.3 overnight rating and a 3 share, according to according to Nielsen Media Research. The rating is the percentage of all homes with TVs, whether or not they are in use. Share is the percent of households or persons using television at the time the program is airing and who are watching a particular program. -- Hornish and Marlboro Team Penske won at Kansas for the first time in the IndyCar Series. -- Hornish has led 3,089 laps in his IndyCar Series career.
The next IndyCar Series event is the Firestone Indy 200 at 9 p.m. on July 15 at Nashville Superspeedway. The race will be telecast live by ESPN and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network. A Spanish-language telecast of the race will be carried by ESPN Deportes. The IMS Radio Network broadcast also is carried on XM Satellite Radio channel 145 "IndyCar Racing" and www.indycar.com. The fifth season of Indy Pro Series competition continues with the Sunbelt Rentals 100 on July 15 at Nashville Superspeedway. The race will be telecast by ESPN2 at 2 p.m. on July 20. ESPN2's coverage of the Liberty Challenge will be telecast at 2 p.m. on July 6.