IRL: California: Chevy Racing event report

Chevy 1-2 in Fontana photo finish FONTANA, Calif., March 24, 2002 -- After 400 hard-fought miles, Chevrolet drivers Sam Hornish Jr. and Jaques Lazier crossed the finish line inches apart in the inaugural Yamaha Indy 400 at California Speedway.

Chevy 1-2 in Fontana photo finish

FONTANA, Calif., March 24, 2002 -- After 400 hard-fought miles, Chevrolet drivers Sam Hornish Jr. and Jaques Lazier crossed the finish line inches apart in the inaugural Yamaha Indy 400 at California Speedway. The record-setting race saw the new Chevy Indy V8 post its third straight victory in Indy Racing League competition.

Hornish scored his second win of the young season in Pennzoil Panther Racing's Chevrolet Dallara, edging Lazier's Team Menard Chevrolet Dallara by .0281 seconds at the finish line. The IRL's first race in southern California produced a record 39 official lead changes, and dozens of unofficial lead changes around the 2.0-mile track. The event's 179.345 mph average speed was the fastest in the series' seven-year history.

"From the beginning of the race, I knew that Jaques was going to give me the most competition and he would be the hardest to pass because he had a Chevrolet engine just like me," said Hornish. "It takes a lot of horsepower to be able to go around someone on the outside, and that's how I passed him. Speedway Engines and Chevrolet did an awesome job for us today."

Hornish led 73 of the 200 laps today, the most of any driver. He increased his lead in the IRL championship to 26 points (141 to 115) over Helio Castroneves, who finished fifth in Penske Racing's Chevrolet Dallara.

"We are pleased that a Chevrolet engine powered Sam Hornish Jr. and Panther Racing to victory in the inaugural IRL event at California Speedway," said GM Racing Group Manager Joe Negri. "In many ways this was a rehearsal for the Indianapolis 500, and this victory gives us confidence in our equipment going into that important event.

"Today's race was the longest run we've made in competition with the new Chevy Indy V8 engine, although we completed more than 500 miles in testing at this track with no reliability problems," Negri noted. "The Chevrolet engine has demonstrated its power and durability, and that in combination with great teams, talented drivers and excellent race strategy will continue Chevrolet's winning streak."

Lazier started second and finished second in Team Menard's Johns Manville entry. The day was not without drama for the driver from nearby Alta Loma, Calif., as he battled back to the front after losing radio contact with his crew and running out of fuel. He held the inside line tenaciously in the closing laps, forcing Hornish to go to the outside for the winning pass in the final turn. The two cars touched wheel-to-wheel as they raced to the stripe.

"A second-place finish shows that Team Menard is back," Lazier declared. "The team and Chevrolet gave me a tremendous car today. I could go just about anywhere -- I could go high, I could go low. The Chevrolet program is getting stronger and stronger and I think we're going to be a threat from now on."

With his fifth career victory, Hornish extended Panther Racing's remarkable reliability record. The team's GM-powered entries have now been running at the finish in 21 consecutive races.

"Our crew has done an incredible job keeping a car underneath our drivers," said team co-owner John Barnes. "That's a testament also to Chevrolet, General Motors and Speedway Engines. I can't tell you how much they have done for us. They always have the best product for us, and it's always reliable."

Chevrolet engines powered 22 of the 27 starters. Predictions of heavy attrition proved to be incorrect as 22 cars were running at the finish -- 20 of them powered by Chevrolet engines. The first 84 laps were completed before the first yellow flag, and only 23 laps were run under caution.

After three races in four weeks, the IRL series will take a brief break before the Firestone Indy 225 in Nazareth, Pa., on April 21.

NEXT EVENT April 21, Firestone Indy 225, Nazareth Speedway, Nazareth, Pa.; 1-mile oval, 225 laps
TV: ABC, 1 p.m. Eastern

-chevy-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Jaques Lazier  , John Barnes , Sam Hornish Jr.
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske