By David Reininger - motorsport.com FORT WORTH, Texas (October 6, 2001) - Sam Hornish capped his championship season by winning the Chevy 500 at Texas Motor Speedway in the closest finish in Indy Racing history. The lead changed 32 times in the...
By David Reininger - motorsport.com
FORT WORTH, Texas (October 6, 2001) - Sam Hornish capped his championship season by winning the Chevy 500 at Texas Motor Speedway in the closest finish in Indy Racing history. The lead changed 32 times in the 200-lap race with the last change coming as Hornish, Scott Sharp and Robbie Buhl all raced off the final turn.
Hornish and Sharp swapped the lead six times in the last 40 laps with Sharp taking the point seven laps from the end. Once in the lead, Sharp drove his Delphi Automotive Systems Oldsmobile-powered Dallara around the bottom of the track, guarding the inside line. Hornish tried several times to dive under Sharp on the backstretch in an attempt to force his way into the lead.
Noticing the Oldsmobile engine in the Pennzoil Panther Dallara still had a few rpms to spare while in Sharp's draft, Hornish dropped down a gear, using the extra momentum to attempt an outside move for the lead. Hornish edged alongside the Delphi car as they rounded the final turn, nudging Sharp at the finish line by .0188 seconds.
"I didn't know if I had enough to get by him on that last lap," said Hornish, who clinched the championship September 2 at the Chicagoland Speedway. "I thought I'd try something different. I tried just about everything to get around him. I thought maybe if I shifted down to fourth gear I could get enough momentum to get around him. I was lucky I figured that out 199 laps into the race instead of 200."
Sharp, who won the last race at Texas Motor Speedway, thought the race was his by protecting the bottom line. "I didn't think Sam could pull off the outside move," said Sharp. "We chose the bottom, which obviously was where you wanted to be, but if a guy times it just right, and somehow gets the right momentum, you can do it."
Robbie Buhl led three times and was poised to capitalize on a mistake by either Hornish or Sharp, but that never happened. On the last lap, Buhl made his bid to the outside of Hornish, crossing the finish line .0468 seconds after the leader. Buhl's front wing drew even with the rear of Sharp's car in the closest 1-2-3 finish in the history of Indy racing.
"I knew we had a shot," said Buhl. "I was going to do everything I could. When they take the inside lane away, I was just waiting up there on the high side. Maybe the difference was that I was carrying more fuel than these guys. My car, on the high side, coming off of (turn) two and (turn) four was really free, it was really turning, so I thought I could slingshot past."
Eliseo Salazar managed to stay with the front runners all day finishing fourth. "A.J.'s setup was really good," said Salazar. "I really think we had the best car out there, we just needed more power."
The surprise of the day was rookie driver Rick Treadway. In his third career race, Treadway finished fifth, a tenth of a second behind the veteran Salazar. "This sure feels like a win," Treadway said. "We started almost last and at one point were almost two laps down. "We're really looking forward to next year."
The 2002 Indy Racing League season starts March 2 at the Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Notes: Two Galles Racing crew members were injured when Didier Andre pulled away from his pit with the fuel hose still connected to the car, toppling the fuel rig and setting fire to Andre's car. Both crew members and Andre were treated and released from the track's infield care center.
Conquest Racing, which prepares cars for rookie driver Laurent Redon, also races in the Indy Lights series. Part of the team competed in the season ending Indy Lights race at Road Atlanta on Friday. All crew members were at Fort Worth for this afternoon's Chevy 500.
When the field pulled away for the start of the Chevy 500 they were paced by an Oldsmobile Aurora and a Chevrolet Corvette. After the parade lap, the Oldsmobile pulled to the infield "passing the torch" to Chevrolet. Chevrolet unveiled their new Indy Racing engine at Texas Motor Speedway on Friday.