IRL: Hornish, Castroneves, Giaffone to race in IROC 2003

HOMESTEAD, Fla., Thursday, Jan. 9, 2003 -- Two-time series champion Sam Hornish Jr., two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves and 2001 Bombardier Rookie of the Year Felipe Giaffone will represent the IRL IndyCar Series in the True Value...

HOMESTEAD, Fla., Thursday, Jan. 9, 2003 -- Two-time series champion Sam Hornish Jr., two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves and 2001 Bombardier Rookie of the Year Felipe Giaffone will represent the IRL IndyCar Series in the True Value International Race of Champions Series in 2003.

Hornish and Castroneves each will make their second True Value IROC season appearances, as both debuted in 2002. Giaffone will be a True Value IROC rookie.

The four-race, invitational True Value IROC Series matches 12 drivers from different forms of racing in equally prepared stock cars. The series opens Feb. 14 at Daytona International Speedway, continues April 5 at Talladega Superspeedway and July 12 at Chicagoland Speedway and concludes for the sixth consecutive year with a race Aug. 2 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Hornish finished 11th in his debut True Value IROC season in 2002, with a best finish of second in the opener at Daytona. He won IndyCar Series titles in 2001 and 2002 with Pennzoil Panther Racing, winning eight races over those two seasons.

"I'm excited to be able to run again," Hornish said. "Things went well for the first race, but they didn't go so well after that. I'm kind of interested to see what we can do for this year.

"Hopefully we can do a little bit better as far as the season championship goes. I'm excited about it. It's a chance to go out and put my talent against 11 other drivers from different series."

Castroneves tied for fourth in his first True Value IROC season. His best finish was second at Indianapolis. Castroneves finished second in the IRL IndyCar Series standings behind Hornish after a thrilling, season-long chase for the championship.

The highlight of Castroneves' season was his second straight Indianapolis 500 victory with Marlboro Team Penske. He became the first driver since Al Unser in 1970-71 to win "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing" two years in a row.

"First of all, I had a lot of fun with (series organizers) Jay and Barbara (Signore) and all of the NASCAR guys," Castroneves said. "I think that the opportunity for me to try other cars -- I'd never driven another car other than an open-wheel series car until last year -- I think it's good for my skills. You're always going to learn something, even if it's in another series. So I decided to do it again to improve in my profession.

"Hopefully we can kick those NASCAR guys' butts."

Giaffone will make his True Value IROC debut after a second consecutive strong season in the IRL IndyCar Series. He finished fourth in the 2002 IndyCar Series standings with Hollywood Mo Nunn Racing, earning his first career victory at Kentucky Speedway.

"For me, it's great," Giaffone said. "To be invited to be there -- it's only for 12 drivers. I was very excited to be invited. It's going to be very hard. I'm going to test a lot before the first race. I'm looking forward to it. It's going to be something really, really different. I've never driven something like those cars.

"It's going to be a huge learning year for me. I've never driven at Daytona. I was there when I was 10 years old, and I was amazed at how big the track was with all the banking. I could never imagine -- it's just like the feeling about Indianapolis. When I was a kid, I never thought I'd be driving Indianapolis, and even Daytona now with a stock car."

Other competitors will be defending True Value IROC champion Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Mark Martin and Ryan Newman from the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, Greg Biffle from the NASCAR Busch Series, Mike Bliss from the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, and Indianapolis 500 veteran Steve Kinser and Danny Lasoski from the Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series.

-irl-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Greg Biffle , Kurt Busch , Ryan Newman , Felipe Giaffone , Helio Castroneves , Jimmie Johnson , Danny Lasoski , Steve Kinser , Mike Bliss , Mark Martin , Al Unser , Mo Nunn
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske