IRL: Fontana: Sunday notebook 2003-09-21

Hornish wins again; Points battle remains close FONTANA, Calif., Sunday, Sept. 21, 2003 -- Sam Hornish Jr. won the Toyota Indy 400 Sept. 21 at California Speedway. TOYOTA INDY 400 POST-RACE NOTES: Sam Hornish Jr. won his third race of the ...

Hornish wins again; Points battle remains close

FONTANA, Calif., Sunday, Sept. 21, 2003 -- Sam Hornish Jr. won the Toyota Indy 400 Sept. 21 at California Speedway.

TOYOTA INDY 400 POST-RACE NOTES:

Sam Hornish Jr. won his third race of the season. He won in August at Kentucky and in September in Chicago. This is his second consecutive victory.

Sam Hornish Jr. has won 11 career IRL IndyCar Series events, extending his record. Scott Sharp and Buddy Lazier are second in career wins with eight each.

Panther Racing has won 14 IndyCar Series races, more than any other team. The next closest team is Team Menard, which has won 10 races.

The average speed of the race was 207.151 mph, the fastest race on a closed course in auto-racing history. The previous record was 197.995 during a 500-mile CART event at California Speedway in 2002. The previous IRL IndyCar Series record was 197.897 mph set at Kentucky in 2002. Hornish also won that event.

There was only one caution period in the race, tying an IndyCar Series record that was set in August at Kentucky. There were only six laps of caution today, a record. The previous record was 10, also at Kentucky.

Dan Wheldon finished fourth, tying a career-best. He finished fourth in July at Nashville and earlier this month at Chicagoland.

The top five drivers in the point standings are separated by 31 points and are still eligible for the IndyCar Series Championship. In 1999, six drivers were eligible for the championship entering the final race; however, 61 points separated them. The season consisted of only 10 races.

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone):

"We definitely had a good last stop. We saved fuel all day. We were just sitting back there trying to save it, but Sam (Hornish Jr.) definitely had a quick car. I couldn't use my car on the high side. It seemed like a lot of the time in traffic, that's what you needed to do. It was still a great day for points. We're right up there now, and it gets us down to Texas."

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone):

"We didn't have it quite at the end, but the whole 7-Eleven team did a great job. I need to thank Honda. Honda has kept up their game and gave me a great engine. Two more weeks to work on the engine, two more weeks to work on the car, and we'll get it. We'll get them in Texas."

SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone):

"I could run wherever I wanted to, and that was the big key today. We definitely didn't have the fastest car, but we had the car that could run wherever. It was just a great day for us. We're doing everything that we can do. You can't do anything more than win the race, and that's all there is to it. The guys really worked together. With all the green flag stops that we had, it was really important to get us in and out quick. They gained us positions every time we went (into the pits), so we're pretty happy about that. The power was good. I knew as long as we were out front, that's where we needed to be because our car could work in traffic, where a lot of other people's couldn't. It was hot. It was windy, just like we thought it was going to be, but it actually picked up and came out of the south, which is kind of weird around here. It was making the cars really loose coming off of Turn 2. That was something that we battled all day long, but hot slick conditions, I like them. We all want to win, and we all are committed to this team. We're doing the best we can. That's what made the decision (to leave the team) so hard, is that these guys put 110 percent in all the time, and we're going to keep working away at it."

BRYAN HERTA (No. 27 Archipelago/Motorola Dallara/Honda/Firestone):

"Alex Barron went on the high side, and I gave him room. I actually had to get off the throttle. I was going to give him the corner, but he just kind of came down and hit my right front, and that broke the front suspension. I'd say he turned down on me. Maybe Alex would have a different version. I gave room on the high side. I had a car on the inside of me, and there was no place to go, so we touched. We tried to fix it and went back out, but it wasn't handling right. It got real loose on me. We were working our way up towards the front and just getting right with the lead pack when that happened. It's a shame."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone):

"We set up pretty well towards the end. It's a shame that we lost the draft. They (Panther Racing) stopped late, and they short-fueled, so that means they saved two seconds getting out of the pits. For us, we just lost the draft and could not keep it up. It's going to be a good finish for the championship. I just want to have different end result this year."

TOMAS SCHECKTER (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone):

"I don't know what happened. We were good in the beginning and bad in the end. We got out good, and I don't know what happened. The car ended up loose. It went sideways everywhere. I saved it from hitting the wall on several occasions. None of the adjustments helped."

ROGER YASUKAWA (No. 55 Panasonic ARTA Dallara/Honda/Firestone):

"I was able to finish seventh, so we pretty much accomplished what we could have. From a rookie of the year standpoint, Dan's (Wheldon) catching me up again, so I think it's going to go down to the last race, which I knew. I'm going into it ahead, so I'm not under pressure. I just need to do my own job and try and finish ahead of him. Whoever does will probably win it, which should be the way."

RICHIE HEARN (No. 91 Metabolife/Delta Faucet/Life Fitness Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone):

"The car was not bad, and all of a sudden it went real loose. It went loose not too long after the second pit stop. It is not fun to be out there just hanging out. I think something broke."

DAN WHELDON (No. 26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda/Firestone):

"Certainly, my Klein Tools/Jim Beam car was strong. The crew was excellent. It's a good solid finish, I would say. The team is doing a fantastic job. It is our first year in the series. I think people forget that just because it's a top team. They're doing a really, really good job. We've got to make sure that Tony (Kanaan) wins this championship. That's what's important."

ALEX BARRON (No. 52 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone):

"We started on the grid in ninth place, which is the best qualifying for Red Bull Cheever Racing this year. We were pretty excited going into the race and were looking to pull off a strong finish. Unfortunately, we had a poor race balance, and the car was pushing a lot. We stuck it out through the race and made some changes to try and fix the problem, but we never seemed to get a good balance. We'll have to use this experience to make some adjustments and learn from our mistakes. However, the crew gave me great, quick pit stops throughout the race, so I was able to finish in the top 10."

GIL DE FERRAN (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone):

"It was a long, hot day for everyone, and unfortunately, my car wasn't handling well at all, which made it even more difficult. I spent most of my time just struggling to stay in the race, and I've got to thank my crew for doing a great job in the pits to keep me out there. In hindsight, we probably didn't have enough experience with the (Panoz) G Force in this race trim. However, we took a chance. Sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose. Certainly, we're a long shot for the title now so we'll have to depend on everyone else's results. But Marlboro Team Penske is still in the hunt, and we'll do everything we can in Texas to get the job done. Hopefully, we'll have a more competitive car, and we'll just see where we end up."

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone):

"Things were fast. There was only one yellow, and we took care of each other. That was the key, because there wasn't a single crash. Nobody seemed to have a real mechanical problem. From lap one to lap 200, it was tough. We were struggling at some points. I couldn't control my car. I felt like we were on top of a mad horse, and we were just hanging in there. There were times when Sam (Hornish), Helio (Castroneves), myself, Scott (Dixon) were all fighting for the championship, so nobody wanted to be in the middle of us. That tells you the communication Brian Barnhart (senior vice president of racing operations for the IRL) has with us and the control, and the respect we have for each other. One day we could be in their position, and it could happen to us, too. What he (Barnhart) does is tell the guys to stay out of the way if you're already a lapped down. We talk about where we want the lap cars to be, high or low. When we decide that, if the guy can, we know he's going to stay low, basically. The communication is the key and Brian (Barnhart) took care of us."

About the wind: "It was bad from the beginning. The traffic obviously aggravates it a lot more. The wind doesn't affect you a lot unless you're behind somebody because he's taking the wind out of you, anyway."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone):

"Things are still up in the air. Everybody is going to be pushing towards the end. It's going to be tough. Gil (de Ferran) I guess is still mathematically in it, so he's still got a chance. It's going to be tough no matter what."

About the race: "Everybody was looking out for each other, even the lapped cars and people who were at similar speed were letting me pass. They let the rest of us get on with it. I think a lot of times that is what could cause a chain reaction with everybody hitting. But everybody was pretty smart out there today, and I think (Brian) Barnhart's done a pretty good job of keeping us under control. Most of the race, our car was really bad in the traffic. We had a hard time staying on the low line, so we had a pretty tough day out there. When we didn't have sticker tires on, we had a hard time hanging onto the group."

About his car's handling: "Some of it is probably setup. Obviously, we didn't work hard enough on race setup. I just think as a team we need to look at. I think Tomas (Scheckter) had the same sort of problem towards the end."

The Chevy 500, the final IndyCar Series event of the 2003 season, will take place Oct. 12 at Texas Motor Speedway. The dreamerscandles.com 100, the final Menards Infiniti Pro Series race of the 2003 season, will take place Oct. 11 at Texas Motor Speedway.

-irl-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Buddy Lazier , Scott Sharp , Alex Barron , Dan Wheldon , Chip Ganassi , Brian Barnhart , Jim Beam , Sam Hornish Jr.
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing