Firestone Indy 400/Michigan 100 Postscript Michigan race a classic; Hornish sets records BROOKLYN, Mich., Monday, July 28, 2003 -- Michigan International Speedway has been the site of some historic Indy-style moments in its ...
Firestone Indy 400/Michigan 100 Postscript
Michigan race a classic; Hornish sets records
BROOKLYN, Mich., Monday, July 28, 2003 -- Michigan International Speedway has been the site of some historic Indy-style moments in its 35-year history.
Another chapter in the speedway's history was written July 27.
The Firestone Indy 400 won by Alex Barron will be one fans, teams, drivers, media and officials talk about for years to come.
The event was classic in every sense of the word, producing the fastest average speed in IRL IndyCar Series history, the fourth closest finish in series history, side by side racing throughout most of the day, 30 lead changes and even a spin by the eventual race winner.
Barron brought the MIS crowd to its feet on Lap 164 when he and Tomas Scheckter made slight contact in Turn 4. Barron, driver of the No. 21 Hollywood Mo Nunn Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone, spun, slid through a portion of the infield grass between pit road and the racetrack, spun back up the racetrack, kept the car from hitting the outside retaining wall, got the car going straight again and continued on.
The brilliant display of driving and control brought a standing ovation from the crowd.
"Some drivers will say they're fully skilled, and they pulled it all off on their own," Barron said. "There's a lot of luck involved. A little bit of skill."
Barron restarted the race in sixth and worked his way up to second, where he battled with Sam Hornish Jr., who put on his own impressive display of driving by leading 12 times for 126 laps in his No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Racing Dallara/ Chevrolet/Firestone equipped with the new Gen IV Chevy Indy V-8 engine.
Hornish and Barron swapped the lead four times in the last 10 laps, with Barron making the move that counted at the end. Exiting Turn 4 on the final lap, Barron moved around Hornish on the outside and beat him across the finish line by .0121 of a second, the fourth-closest finish in IRL IndyCar Series history.
The average speed of the 400-mile event was 180.917 mph, the fastest IRL IndyCar Series event in history.
Hornish now has been involved in six of the top 10 closest finishes in series history, and the Michigan event was only the second time he finished second rather than heading to victory lane.
"It was a great race," Hornish said. "Just came up a little bit short. We knew we had to be in the lead, knew you had to stay down on the bottom because it was too easy for somebody to get a run on you low. He timed it right. He worked on it for about the last 20 laps, kept coming up, dropping back. I knew that one of those times he was going to get it right. He happened to get it right on the last lap. He saved it for the end, so that's what you're supposed to do. We just came up a little short."
Hornish's only other runner-up finish in the top-10 closest races was in 2002 at Kentucky when he lost to Felipe Giaffone by .093 of a second. Ironically, Barron is substituting Giaffone, who was injured in an accident July 6 at Kansas Speedway.
Barron has competed in four events in 2002, every time as a substitute. He subbed for Gil de Ferran at Motegi and finished 17th after an accident. He then drove for Mo Nunn Racing at the 87th Indianapolis 500, subbing for Arie Luyendyk. He finished sixth, but was out of a ride until Nashville when he subbed for Giaffone. He finished fifth at Nashville.
"It's been a long season," Barron said. "But every time I've gotten the shot to drive, whether it's been with Roger Penske or Mo Nunn, the cars have been really strong. That's what I want to do when I go race. In my career since I moved up, I've done a lot of development programs. You know, when I go racing, I want to race competitively with a competitive car. I was fortunate enough to get that all four races this year.
"Hopefully, I continue to get the opportunity to do that."
Hornish sets records: Two-time IRL IndyCar Series champion Sam Hornish Jr. now holds the record for most laps led in IRL IndyCar Series history, breaking Tony Stewart's record.
Hornish led 126 laps at Michigan and now has led 1,587 laps in his career. The previous record, set by 1996-97 IndyCar Series champion Stewart was 1,515. Hornish has competed in 46 IRL IndyCar Series events, while Stewart has competed in 26 events.
Hornish now has led more than 100 laps in seven different races, more than any other driver in series history.
Tough day for Andretti Green Racing: Andretti Green Racing, one of the more high-profile teams in the IRL IndyCar Series, endured a tough day at the Firestone Indy 400 with drivers Tony Kanaan, Bryan Herta and rookie Dan Wheldon finishing 16th, 19th and 20th, respectively.
Wheldon, driver of the No. 26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda/Firestone, completed only 19 laps when an engine problem sidelined him. Herta, driver the No. 27 Archipelago/Motorola Dallara/Honda/Firestone, was the next to exit the race when an electrical problem ended his day after 37 laps.
Kanaan, the points leader entering the event, was among the drivers in the lead pack throughout most of the first three-quarters of the race and led lap 110. However, on Lap 160 his No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone had an engine problem and he was out of contention.
"We're not sure what happened," Kanaan said. "All of a sudden we lost a lot of speed. It's a shame. But, hey -- Honda did a great job of giving me a fast engine, the whole Team 7-Eleven gave me great pit stops, and we had a great race up until then.
"Days like this will happen. We knew it could happen to us and today was the day. That's racing."
Kanaan put on an impressive move at the start of the race, moving from 15th to fifth in the opening lap.
"I followed (team owner) Michael Andretti's instructions and it worked pretty well," Kanaan said. "It was a hell of a start."
Points battle getting close: With 10 of 16 IRL IndyCar Series events completed, the race to Disney for the 2003 IRL IndyCar Series championship celebration is heating up. The celebration will take place Oct. 25 in Epcot at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla.
Entering the Firestone Indy 400, Tony Kanaan had a 303-289 advantage over Gil de Ferran in the points standings. Scott Dixon was third, one point behind de Ferran.
The results of the Firestone Indy 400 juggled the standings, setting the stage for an exciting points battle throughout the final six races.
Dixon, driver of the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone, finished fifth at MIS and picked up 30 points, enough to vault him into first place in the standings.
However, he leads by a mere point over Kanaan, 318-317. Kanaan fell to second in the points after a finishing 16th. Three points behind Dixon is third-place Gil de Ferran who, despite missing the Motegi event to due an injury, has collected 315 points. His teammate Helio Castroneves is in fourth place, with 295 points, while Kenny Brack is in fifth place with 257 points.
Taylor also setting records: Sam Hornish Jr. isn't the only Panther Racing driver who set records at Michigan. Taylor won his fifth Infiniti Pro Series event of the season in the Michigan 100, driving the No. 4 Fulmar Panther Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone Panther Racing.
The team also fields a car for Hornish in the IndyCar Series.
The win was the fifth of the season and the fifth of Taylor's career, both records for the Infiniti Pro Series. He scored wins in the first two events of the season at Miami and Phoenix and now has won three consecutive races, winning at Kansas, Nashville and Michigan.
He is the first Infiniti Pro Series driver to accomplish that feat.
"I knew that I would have a great car, and that is the main reason I'm able to do it, with such consistency," Taylor said. "Without those (Panther) guys, I wouldn't be able to get these results. The car could break quite easily. I wouldn't have the confidence in the cars on the ovals.
"With my experience, it's very difficult to gain the confidence. You have to work hard to do that. The important thing that they've done for me is give me that confidence, make sure that I can go from race to race doing this, winning all the time."
FIRESTONE INDY 400 NOTES:
*The margin of victory, .0121 of a second, was the closest finish of any race in the 35-year history of Michigan International Speedway.
*Al Unser Jr. now has completed 8,528 miles in 23 Indy-style starts at MIS, more than any other driver.