LEBANON, TN, July 19, 2003 - Gil de Ferran won the Firestone Indy 200 at Nashville Superspeedway tonight under yellow, taking the lead on the 173rd lap during the sixth of eight yellow periods in the 200-lap contest. Polesitter Scott Dixon was ...
LEBANON, TN, July 19, 2003 - Gil de Ferran won the Firestone Indy 200 at Nashville Superspeedway tonight under yellow, taking the lead on the 173rd lap during the sixth of eight yellow periods in the 200-lap contest. Polesitter Scott Dixon was second in the #9 Team Target Panoz G Force/Toyota and Helio Castroneves finished third in the #3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota for Toyota's seventh win of the season.
"This was a fantastic race and my car was fantastic right from the start," de Ferran said. "The car felt really good and even though I lost a few positions with a difficult first pit stop, after that everything went as well as I could have hoped for. The team got me out ahead on the last stop and today was really a team effort," he emphasized.
Dixon would lead at the start and take clear air for a total of 20 laps en route to his second place finish, getting shuffled to the middle of the pack as different teams employed diverse strategies in the contest. By the close, his right rear Firestone Firehawk was in near shreds and the Kiwi had nothing left to challenge the Brazilian. "I knew it would be hard to keep the car together," Dixon explained. "It was a lot of fun out there.
"Gil's car was a little faster and this was a really strange race. Everybody seemed to have different strategy. I was glad for the late yellow as I probably would have blown that tire," he laughed. The tire was not his only problem at the end, as Dixon couldn't get his shift-without- lift to work. Despite the difficulties, Dixon moved to third in the standings, just one point behind de Ferran and has led 544 laps, a League high.
Castroneves "hoped for more cautions because it was the only way I could get around those guys. I was hoping something would happen to the two guys in front," he said. "I never tried the outside line for passing because I didn't think it was worth the chance." Spiderman now holds fourth place points with 282 following this 9th race in a 16-event campaign.
Rookie Dan Wheldon finished fourth in the #26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda, despite struggling "a little bit on the restarts. It wouldn't accelerate as quick as I'd like to off Turn 2, in particular," the Briton explained. "Once the momentum was up, I was able to focus on bringing the car home." Wheldon liked the concrete surface of the Nashville oval. "It was cool. It just like another racetrack really and the only thing I was concerned with was the tires going up, but the car was under me the whole night, very, very well."
After regaling fans with his music earlier in the afternoon, Kenny Brack showed his talents behind the wheel of his #15 Pioneer/Miller Lite Dallara/Honda and took sixth place tonight. While he ventured up and down the standings - as did many in the field - Brack admitted, "We had a good car at the end of the race." He was turning consistent laps over 201mph toward the end. "It's just a shame that we had trouble on one pit stop and had to make an extra stop to get the left front wheel back on properly."
Tora Takagi looked like Tora the Tiger during many stages of the contest, leading 15 laps and staying in the top 10 for much of the evening in his #12 Pioneer Panoz G Force/Toyota, finishing seventh. While the Japanese driver didn't agree with his Mo Nunn team's strategy of having him on a different pit schedule from the balance of the front-runners, he was able to advance one spot to tenth in points with 175.
Texas winner Al Unser Jr. took eighth place tonight and led 45 laps in mid- race after the #31 Corteco Dallara/Toyota team gave him a great second stop. "The guys gave me a great car to drive, but the wrong strategy cost us the win. I ran well all night and did most of my passing in the pits," Unser explained.
Points leader Tony Kanaan was ninth in the #11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda, his second lowest finish of the season (Kanaan crashed out of race #3 at Twin Ring Motegi while battling for the lead). "It was just one thing after another tonight," he sighed. "But you get races like that. It wasn't a good night for us and I think we ran out of luck tonight, to be honest."
Another driver in need of racing luck? Try Tomas Scheckter, finishing tenth in the #10 Team Target Panoz G Force/Toyota, who had a drive-through penalty for speeding on pit road. "It was such a tough race with so much stuff going on. The black flag cost us; we'll have to be more careful in the future."
Next weekend Sam Hornish Jr. will have a different engine in the back of his #4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet, as he is the first driver to test the new Gen IV Chevy Indy V8 under racing conditions at Michigan International Speedway. Apparently, Sam can pass without benefit of horsepower at Nashville, as he spent much of the middle of this 200-lap contest at or near the front, leading four laps, including the halfway mark..
"Obviously, the race was not how we wanted it to turn out, but we had a good car. We were able to get up there in the lead for a little bit, something we hadn't done yet this year. The car was really good in traffic," Hornish noted.Red Bull Dallara/Chevy) touched in the same turn and Meira spun his #2 Menards Dallara/Chevrolet, bringing out caution #2 on lap 31.
The third caution was for debris, but Meira would hit the Turn 2 wall and bring out the fourth caution on lap 111. There were two more yellows for debris before Buddy Lazier spun the #91 Delta Faucet/Life Fitness Dallara/Chevy in Turn 4 for the seventh yellow of the night. Lazier caused the last caution on lap 199 as well, when he hit the turn 2 wall and slid along it, just like Meira did earlier in the race.
"Those cautions helped me," winner de Ferran said, "taking away any fuel worries we might have had. We ran full [rich] fuel all the time." Even though he missed one race due to injury earlier in the year, Gil de Ferran hopes the "bad results are out of the way. We haven't really lost heart despite [missing one race] because racing is racing," he shrugged. You're likely to have two or three bad results in a 16-race season. It's nice to have everything come together tonight."
The IndyCar Series now dashes up the highway to the Irish Hills of Michigan for next weekend's Firestone 400 in Brooklyn at Michigan International Speedway. Only 76 points separate first place Tony Kanaan from 6th place Al Unser Jr. and there are still seven races to run.