IRL: Hornish back in Texas victory lane

Sam Hornish Jr. won the Bombardier LearJet 550 at Texas Motor Speedway, scoring his first IndyCar Series victory this season. The victory is Hornish's third at Texas, breaking the tie for all-time victories at the high banked superspeedway. Helio...

Sam Hornish Jr. won the Bombardier LearJet 550 at Texas Motor Speedway, scoring his first IndyCar Series victory this season. The victory is Hornish's third at Texas, breaking the tie for all-time victories at the high banked superspeedway. Helio Castroneves, Scott Sharp and Scott Goodyear each own two Texas race wins.

"Except for Miami, this is the only track where I've won three times, so I guess this is my favorite track," said Hornish with a smile.

Controlled mayhem is the best way to describe the scrambling that takes place when the IndyCar Series takes the green flag at Texas and this year's start proved to be as chaotic as any in the past.

Although Hornish is credited with leading the first 43 laps, both Hornish and his Team Penske teammate Castroneves drove in a pack along with both Target Ganassi cars of Dan Wheldon and Scott Dixon and three members of Andretti Green Racing: Tony Kanaan, Danica Patrick and Dario Franchitti.

Nose-to-tail is faster than side-by-side at Texas and the drivers soon formed a single file column, opting to battle each other in pairs, rather than a no holds barred, gang-style street fight.

That's not to say Hornish, who led 159 laps, checked out at the front. Officially, Hornish led five times, Wheldon four and Dixon led three times. Hornish waited until the latter stagers of the race to check out, enjoying a lead of over seven seconds on lap 185.

But Hornish's lead was erased on lap 197 when a multi-car accident eliminated the Ganassi cars from contention. Hornish's teammate Castroneves was also eliminated when A.J. Foyt IV lost a wheel in Turn 3. Ed Carpenter slowed to avoid hitting the wheel, as well as the car of Sarah Fisher when he made contact with Dixon. Darren Manning hit the SAFER Barrier in Turn 3 while Carpenter's spinning car collected Castroneves and Wheldon.

Dixon said he was hit from behind. "I saw A.J. Foyt IV lose a wheel ahead, and no one else slowed up, and I got collected."

Wheldon, who led 52 laps, chalked it up to racing luck. "It's just one of those things. It's hard to avoid when you are in the middle of it and there's not too much you can do."

The safety crews worked swiftly to clean up the mess in nine laps, setting up a 23 lap dash to the finish. Hornish pulled alway slowly at the point, with Kanaan and Patrick in tow. They finished second and third, respectively, with Patrick scoring her best career finish. She also led laps (2) for the first time this season.

Franchitti, who was experiencing gearbox problems, restarted fourth but fell back to sixth. After a quick battle with Jeff Simmons, Franchitti ran side by side with Vitor Meira for the final 15 laps. Franchitti stayed the course, crossing the finish line a scant 0.034 seconds ahead of Meira, who finished fifth.

"We were sitting ducks on the restarts," said Franchitti, who continues to lead the championship standings. "A lot of people passed us there so we just kept soldiering on."

Simmons finished sixth, a career best.

Sharp, the pole sitter, finished one lap down in seventh.

Buddy Rice, Kosuke Matsuura and Fisher rounded out the top ten.

The IndyCar Series takes a weekend off before returning to competition June 24 at the Iowa Speedway. The IndyCar Series will be making its debut at the Newton, Iowa speed plant, marking the first race of an unprecedented run of five straight weekends of racing that includes Richmond, Watkins Glen, Nashville and Mid Ohio.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Darren Manning , Sarah Fisher , Scott Sharp , Helio Castroneves , A.J. Foyt IV , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Dan Wheldon , Buddy Rice , Kosuke Matsuura , Jeff Simmons , Sam Hornish Jr. , Danica Patrick , Ed Carpenter , Vitor Meira
Teams Team Penske