IRL: Chicagoland: Chevy race report

Giaffone Turns in Season-Best Performance to Finish Eighth for Chevy JOLIET, Ill., Sept. 12, 2004 - In a race marked by spectacular accidents and steady attrition, Felipe Giaffone drove through the mayhem and finished eighth in the Team ...

Giaffone Turns in Season-Best Performance to Finish Eighth for Chevy

JOLIET, Ill., Sept. 12, 2004 - In a race marked by spectacular accidents and steady attrition, Felipe Giaffone drove through the mayhem and finished eighth in the Team Purex/Dreyer & Reinbold Chevrolet Dallara. En route to his best finish since he joined the Dreyer & Reinbold team in May, Giaffone led five laps - his first of the season - and posted Chevrolet's best finish in the Delphi Indy 300 at Chicagoland Speedway. Adrian Fernandez scored his second win of the season in a Honda G Force.

Accidents sidelined seven of the 22 starters, but there were no injuries. The front-running Chevrolets of Tomas Scheckter, Townsend Bell and Jaques Lazier all encountered the wall. Competitive runs by rookie Ed Carpenter and veteran Alex Barron were undone by mishaps in the pits that cost both Red Bull Cheever Racing drivers a lap.

Giaffone's race car bore the scars of battle when he pulled into the pit lane at the conclusion of the 300-mile, 200-lap race. A tire donut on the left sidepod and a broken wheel ramp bore silent testimony to the closeness of the competition.

"It was a little too crazy out there," said Giaffone. "I had so many close calls, I didn't think I would make it to the end. It was fun for a while, but towards the end it was really getting crazy. My car is in pieces, and fortunately it made it to the end.

"The guys did a great job and the car was handling great," he reported. "We were just a little too short on the gears, so I was in the rev limiter coming out of Turns 2 and 4, so I had nowhere to go on the straights. But finally we had a race that we've deserved for a while."

Tomas Scheckter's season of misfortune continued. The South African charged from the last row of the starting grid to the front using his trademark outside line. Starting 22nd, Scheckter broke into the top 10 by the 15th lap, and was third on Lap 30 and second on Lap 46. But Scheckter's race ended prematurely when the cars of Jaques Lazier and Vitor Meira tangled in front of him.

"I felt like our luck had turned the corner today," said Scheckter. "I was running great and (Vitor) Meira comes by and tags Lazier right in front of me. I got lost in his dirty air, and without the downforce I couldn't keep the car out of the wall.

"Chevy gave us another great engine," Scheckter added. "We had to change the motor out yesterday, but it didn't even matter because we were so quick out there. The Pennzoil car moved all the way from last to the front of the field in about 18 laps. There's still two races left, and we'll get it right."

Scheckter's teammate Townsend Bell also ended his day against the Turn 3 wall. Starting 12th on the grid, Bell ran consistently in the top 10 through the first half of the race, climbing as high as sixth on the 20th circuit. But a close encounter with another driver was his undoing.

"Well, Scott Sharp got us again," Bell declared. "I don't know if his spotter is watching somebody else or what, but this is the second race in a row that he's decided to end our day. This is a long race, and there's five lanes on the race track and these guys can't figure it out. He's always moving all over the place and he just moved right up on me as we went into Turn 3. The Menards/Johns Manville Chevrolet was just great today, and this is really a shame."

Lazier concurred: "Without a doubt, there were some crazy things going on out there," he said after the incident in Turn 3 eliminated the Patrick Racing Chevrolet Dallara. "People were driving over their heads. Our car was good in the corners and we were running easily in the top 10. I was just being patient, waiting for the end of the race, and someone hit me from behind and put me in the wall. I'm just disappointed."

Red Bull Cheever Racing teammates Barron and Carpenter had comparatively uneventful races after starting their twin Chevrolet Dallaras side-by-side on the eighth row. They finished 12th and 13th respectively.

"We got a good balance under the car after the first stint, but we had a pit incident that got us off the lead lap and that cost us the whole race," said Barron. "I had a right front tire that went flat after rolling through the debris on the track and had a huge push at the end of the race.

"We need to get a break, but it's one thing after another," he continued. " I know we have a strong team and a strong race car so I'm looking forward to racing in Fontana at my home track."

Carpenter made his IndyCar series debut at Chicagoland one year ago, and his familiarity with the track paid dividends.

"The first stint was like my first race here last year," he observed. "I started in the back and was able to pick up a lot of spots while some people were feeling out their cars. I went straight to the front and ran up there most of the first stint. Then I came in for the first green-flag pit stop and my foot slipped off the clutch pedal and I stalled it. That just killed our day.

"The car was awesome, it was handling perfectly and was probably capable of a top-five finish," Carpenter continued. "It's a shame that early mistake cost us."

The IndyCar Series will return to a 2-mile oval for the penultimate race of the 2004 season. The Toyota Indy 400, the 15th round of the 16-race IRL season, will start at 3 p.m. EDT on Sunday, October 3, at California Speedway in Fontana, Calif. The 200-lap, 400-mile race will be televised live on ESPN.

-gm racing-

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Felipe Giaffone , Scott Sharp , Jaques Lazier  , Adrian Fernandez , Alex Barron , Townsend Bell , Ed Carpenter , Vitor Meira