David Reininger - Motorsport.com Homestead, Fla. (April 8, 2001) - Sam Hornish made it two for two in the Indy Racing Northern Light Series taking the victory in today's Infiniti Grand Prix of Miami at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Hornish becomes...
David Reininger - Motorsport.com
Homestead, Fla. (April 8, 2001) - Sam Hornish made it two for two in the Indy Racing Northern Light Series taking the victory in today's Infiniti Grand Prix of Miami at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Hornish becomes the first driver in Indy Racing League history to win the first two races of the season.
Hornish, who started fifth, moved under polesitter Jeff Ward in turn three to take the lead on lap 14. By the time Hornish reached the start finish line, he led Ward by nearly one second. "I had a car that was basically just like the Phoenix car," said Hornish. "I could go anywhere on the track. I didn't have to worry, the Pennzoil Panther guys gave me an awesome car to go out there and race with."
Hornish led five times for a total of 142 laps.
With 19 laps to go, Greg Ray hit the wall in turn two, setting the stage for the final dash to the finish. Hornish lined up third for the restart behind leader Eliseo Salazar and Sarah Fisher in second. After relegating Sarah Fisher to third place on the restart, he immediately set his sights on Salazar.
Salazar tried to retain the lead, blocking in turn three, but the Pennzoil Panther car ran like it was on rails all day long. The pair raced side by side on the next lap with Hornish taking the lead for good on lap 185.
Four laps later, Fisher drove her Kroger Dallara past Salazar to take second place. Fisher's second place finish is the highest finishing position for a woman in an Indy racing event.
"The fact that I didn't catch Sam doesn't matter. I'm happy where I ended up. I think it's great that Sam and I are up front racing together again," said Fisher, who raced against Hornish in karts at age 11.
While Hornish and Fisher raced together in karts, each found their own path to Indy racing, Hornish in the Atlantic series and Fisher in sprints and midgets. The different paths "illustrates that there isn't one single way to grow through the ranks in racing," Fisher said. "I went to sprints and Sam took a different route."
Eliseo Salazar, whose route to Indy racing took him through Formula One, ended the day in third place. Salazar's crew at A.J. Foyt Racing adjusted the car for the race but it didn't seem to help. "We adjusted the car for traffic, "said Salazar, "but we adjusted it too much. We took some front wing off because it was loose in traffic, but in clean air it was pushing. On the second restart it starting pushing more and more and I couldn't do anything about it."
Salazar's third place finish is his second consecutive podium finish. He finished second in the season opener at Phoenix.
Felipe Giaffone finished fourth, the highest placing rookie in the race. Giaffone went a lap down by the midpoint of the race, but a late fuel-only pit stop put the Hollywood car back on the lead lap. "We started fourth then dropped down to 14th or 15th," said Giaffone. "We recovered and finished fourth, so I'm pretty happy."
The fuel-only strategy on the last pit stop meant that Giaffone raced the last 130.5-miles on his Firestone tires.
Polesitter Jeff Ward rounded out the top five. Ward led twice for a total of 40 laps but an ill handling car dropped the former motocross champion one lap behind the leaders at the finish. "It was real good at the beginning," Ward said, who led the first 13 laps, "but the first two pit stops killed us. The car started getting loose. It was not bad by myself, but in traffic it was bad. I couldn't get it to turn in easy."
"We showed we were one of the teams to beat, but we need a consistent race."
The Indy Racing Northern Light Series returns to competition in three weeks time in the Atlanta 500 Classic at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. The race, to be held April 28, is the first of three night races on the 2001 schedule.
Eddie Cheever scored a ninth place finish, the first top-ten finish for the new Infiniti Indy 35A engine. Cheever Indy Racing raced the engine for the first time at Phoenix on March 18.
Billy Asaro won the second U.S. F2000 race of the weekend at Homestead Miami Speedway. On Saturday Asaro finished second to his Key Motorosports teammate Marc-Antoine Camarind. Memo Rojas leads the US F2000 point standings followed by Peter Gray and Billy Asaro in third.