HORNISH CELEBRATES 27th BIRTHDAY WITH KANSAS WIN KANSAS CITY, Kan., Sunday, July 2, 2006 -- For the IndyCar Series driver who has just about everything, 53 points gleaned from his third victory of the IndyCar Series season was the perfect 27th...
HORNISH CELEBRATES 27th BIRTHDAY WITH KANSAS WIN
KANSAS CITY, Kan., Sunday, July 2, 2006 -- For the IndyCar Series driver who has just about everything, 53 points gleaned from his third victory of the IndyCar Series season was the perfect 27th birthday present. Sam Hornish Jr. won his second consecutive race, breaking free from reigning IndyCar Series champion and pole sitter Dan Wheldon on the final half-lap to win the Kansas Lottery Indy 300 by 0.0793 at Kansas Speedway. "We had a great battle with those guys at the end," said Hornish, who gave Penske Racing its first open-wheel victory at Kansas Speedway and notched his 16th in the series. "We had a good car all day long. The Marlboro Team Penske car was good on the bottom and good on the top. We put on a good show for the fans at the end of the race."
Hornish also passed teammate Helio Castroneves for the series point lead with eight races in the books and a week off before another challenging stretch of three consecutive races (1.33-mile Nashville Superspeedway on July 15; The Milwaukee Mile on July 23 and the 2-mile Michigan International Speedway on July 30).
Panther Racing's Vitor Meira was third for the second consecutive year, with Wheldon's Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate, Scott Dixon, fourth and Andretti Green Racing's Tony Kanaan advancing eight positions to fifth. Castroneves overcame a potentially dangerous early race situation when his car sustained rear wing damage to finish sixth. Vision Racing's Tomas Scheckter posted his fourth consecutive top 10, followed by Kosuke Matsuura. Rookie Marco Andretti was ninth and with fellow rookie Jeff Simmons claiming his first career top 10.
Today is Indianapolis 500 winner Sam Hornish Jr.'s 27th birthday. Hornish was presented with a cake by his crew this morning before final practice. Teammate Helio Castroneves threw a cream pie in Hornish's face as he talked to team owner Roger Penske and Penske Performance Inc. president Tim Cindric.
If the eyes tell the story, then Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius and University of Kansas basketball coach Bill Self had the ride of a lifetime. Both were among the dozens of people who received rides in Indy Racing Experience two-seaters at the 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway before the Kansas Lottery Indy 300. The two-seaters are real IndyCar Series cars stretched to accommodate a passenger. Neither Sebelius, who is entrusted with a state budget of almost $12 billion, and Self, who is entrusted by the university and its alumni with competing for national championships, are used to taking a back seat in anything. But both were willing with veteran IndyCar Series driver Davey Hamilton at the wheel of the Canadian Club drink smart car.
"I have a newer appreciation for these drivers," Sebelius said. "I have a new appreciation for how tight that space is and how much they really are part of the road. You can feel every turn, you can feel the acceleration. I hung on tight and did a little whooping. I was having a good time.
"I can't image doing that for 200 laps; that is a lot of pain and strain. I can't image how Coach Self fit in the car." It was a bit snug for the coach, who compared the experience to a fast break.
"I don't think there are too many people passing and catching accurately going that speed," he said. "That was something. I never expected the rush to be like that."
If Kansas Speedway president Jeff Boerger gets his wish, the IndyCar Series' yearly visit to his track will move from summer to spring. Boerger and Indy Racing League officials announced they are in discussions to move the 2007 event to late April.
"We understand our fans come first," Boerger said. "The heat has become somewhat of an issue. We believe we managed the heat very well, but again, our fans come first. From the surveys we've conducted with our season-ticket holders, we believe a cooler date will be very beneficial for us.
"We're very optimistic that the end of April date will work. It also puts us before the Indy 500 and we believe that will position Kansas Speedway in more value with our fans and help the Indy Racing League generate for excitement for its Indianapolis 500."
IRL President and COO Brian Barnhart said the league is receptive to a spring date, but noted there are many pieces to the puzzle that have to be considered before confirming the move. "We think we have some options that could work for us at the end of April," he said. "We're excited about that as a potential for moving forward in 2007. It would be great to have Kansas as a platform leading into the Indianapolis 500, especially next year with 2007 being our initial season running 100 percent ethanol. We'd have to shuffle some events around from a league standpoint, but we're also conscious of what Jeff's needs are here at the race track.
"It's important to make sure we have support events that can continue to run with us as well. We've always had great doubleheader weekends with the truck series, and ARCA ran with us last night as well. We need to make sure all those puzzle pieces can fit and find a date that can accommodate everyone."
Selected quotes from Brian Barnhart's media availability:
BRIAN BARNHART: (About Motegi changing dates):
"That's one of the pieces we have to look at. That's one the biggest challenges from the league standpoint. We've had two very successful street events in St. Petersburg (Fla.) We've announced that will continue in April of 2007, as well. And then we run into the situation, as well, because of the logistics of moving our equipment to Motegi and getting it back, where we disappear off the domestic radar in April -- the month leading into the Indianapolis 500. Whether Motegi stays there or not, or whether it moves or not. We need to focus we get a Kansas event before the beginning of the Indianapolis 500. We need to get back on the domestic radar of the fans and media, and I think we can do it."
(About possibility of adding Iowa Speedway):
"Iowa is definitely on our calendar screen for 2007. There has not been an announcement or finalization of that. We're going to do a compatibility test with one of our cars depending on track construction schedule. We're hoping to do that between the first and middle of August. If it is going to be a track that we think it's going to be, either drawing-wise and through visitations, it could be a great market for us. If it works out well with our compatibility test, then it's something we give consideration to and look forward to."
(How many pieces are there?):
"I don't think I can count all the pieces. Television is important. All the support series are important. Weather considerations. Putting together a race series schedule and everything involved with that is one of the most pain-staking processes because of all the dominoes. You think one thing happens and then the laws of unintended consequences (occurs). You're like 'Oh man. I didn't see that coming.' You try to plan as best you can, put all the pieces together. You've got to have a little give and take, and we've got great cooperation from all our partners. I think the schedule will look great next year."
(Will you run three races in April?):
"There's a distinct possibility , yes. That could include running Motegi as the middle event if it could be worked out. That is still being explored."
(Do you see more road courses?):
"As part of our expansion, a good number of the events that we're looking at are road and street events, yes."
JEFF BOERGER: (About weather in April):
"The weather is never predictable in April. From the research we've done, the average temperature on the dates we're exploring is 65 degrees. If you look at the 30-year average for rainfall, there's less rain here than in August. We're very confident we can manage those conditions better than heat."
What do you get when you cross Panther Racing with the IUPUI Jaguars? A winning Indy Pro Series program both sides hope. Panther Racing announced plans to partner with Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis to enter a car in the 2007 Indy Pro Series season. The team will be comprised primarily of IUPUI students with management and engineering support provided by Panther Racing.
"This commitment, in addition to our announcement in May to open the Panther Education Center, is going to help young students get an up-close and real-life experience in motorsports," Panther Racing co-owner John Barnes said. "We have a mission at Panther to make a positive difference in people's lives, and IUPUI is helping us do that. "We've geared ourselves for the future to make an impact. The response from students has been overwhelming." Panther won the 2003 Indy Pro Series championship with driver Mark Taylor in the No. 4 car. Brent Harvey, who was Taylor's race engineer, will help oversee the team's engineering department. Harvey is a support engineer on Vitor Meira's No. 4 Panther Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone.
A driver will be announced in the off-season. IUPUI and Panther are in the process of securing sponsors and other funding for the project. "This is a first of a kind opportunity for university students interested in the motorsports industry," said H. Oner Yurtseven, dean of the Purdue School of Engineering & Technology at IUPUI. "Not only will IUPUI's engineering technology students have the opportunity to apply what they are learning in the Motorsports Engineering Technology Certificate program to a real life situation, they will also be involved in day-to-day planning and decision making activities." The race team will consist of internship positions for IUPUI students in engineering, technology, business, communication, tourism, management and other areas of study at the university. "This is going to be an amazing opportunity for IUPUI students to participate in one of the highest levels of motorsports," Barnes said. "These students aren't going to be standing around watching; they're going to be the ones building the race cars. We feel like this is going to be unlike any other internship a college or university can offer. These students are going to be qualified to work in our profession the minute they graduate from IUPUI."
KANSAS LOTTERY INDY 300 POST-RACE NOTES:
This is Sam Hornish Jr.'s 17th career IndyCar Series victory, adding to his IndyCar Series record, and his third victory of the season. His last win came at Richmond last week.
This is the Marlboro Team Penske's 21st win in the IndyCar Series, and its first win at Kansas Speedway. The victory ties Marlboro Team Penske with Andretti Green Racing as the IndyCar Series' winningest team.
Dan Wheldon finished second, his fifth top-five finish of the season and second-consecutive runner-up finish at Kansas.
Vitor Meira finished third, his fourth top-five finish this season, and second-consecutive third-place finish at Kansas.
KANSAS LOTTERY INDY 300 POST-RACE QUOTES:
SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, winner Kansas Lottery Indy 300):
"We had a great battle with those guys at the end. We were strong all day long. The Marlboro Team Penske car was good on the bottom and on the top. We put on a great show for the fans at the end of the race. I have to thank the Team, they did an awesome job for me. It's a great way to celebrate my birthday. We're just so happy right now."
DAN WHELDON (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished second):
"I'm just disappointed in coming up short again. We gave everything we had. We just need to keep working harder and try to win. Sam (Hornish Jr. ) just seemed like he had a little bit more speed. His car was good. He just blew right by me on the backstretch.
VITOR MEIRA (No. 4 Panther Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished third):
"We're moving up in the championship and that's where counts. We improved on our starting position, and I can't say we had any problems. We improved on what we had and that's why we are here in third.
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished fourth):
"Pretty disappointed actually because the Target car was pretty good, and we battled up front the whole race hanging on the back of the those two guys (Wheldon & Hornish) but that last restart, not sure if I got some stuff on my tires but I really loose and sideways a few times and lost a lot of spots. I started picking them off again to finish fourth and got some good points, but I can't help feeling like it should have been a better result."
TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished fifth):
"The #11 Team 7-Eleven car was a good race car today but it wasn't quite fast enough. So I had to make up for it with my start and restarts. Those were really the only opportunities I had to pass people, so I had to take advantage of that and the car worked really well in those situations. It was kind of a crazy finish, but a top-five isn't bad especially today."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished sixth):
"I was just trying to move forward through the field, and I got stuck in a little dirty air. Before I knew it, I was in the wall. It's a little disappointing to lose some points in the championship, but under the circumstances, I'm quite happy with our performance today. The Marlboro Team Penske guys did a great job getting me back out on the track. I thought when I crashed, that was it, but when my guys fixed the car, I was like, 'Wow, I'm still in it.' It took a little while to get back in the groove, but I was able to battle through the field and bring the car home near the top."
TOMAS SCHECKTER (No. 2 Vision Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished seventh):
"I think that's one of the better races we've had. The team has really done a good job. We came to Kansas with a decent setup and maybe ran a little too much downforce at the end, but overall we had a good car. We needed another yellow there right at the end for me to race with the leaders, because with the lapped traffic in between it was really difficult to catch up and battle for position. But overall, it was a really good race weekend for us and hopefully we can keep the momentum going at Nashville."
KOSUKE MATSUURA (No. 55 Panasonica ARTA Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished eighth):
"I think it was a very good race, but I was really unhappy with the last restart. I asked my spotter to see if the two lapped cars in front of me would move down to the inside for the restart, but one of the cars was actually blocking me and that cost us. Overall, my car was really good. At the beginning I had a lot of push but after we added front wing, the balance was really good and the car was fast. After the last pit stop, I was running pretty good and then the yellows came out. The lapped traffic cost us some positions in the end. I think the team did a great job this weekend. We have really good cars on the big ovals, and I am looking forward to Nashville."
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 NYSE Group Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished ninth):
"Today was the best the NYSE car felt all weekend. The car was balanced really well, we just weren't fast enough. We really needed a couple more mile an hour to be able to race with those guys. I don't really know what happened on our last pit stop. After they dropped the car, I counted to at least 'five' or 'six' before they waived me out. They just kept holding me and holding me and holding me before I tried to leave."
JEFF SIMMONS (No. 17 Rahal Letterman Racing Team Ethanol Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished 10th):
"I feel good for the Team Ethanol crew and all of the guests (over 300) that came together. It has been a tough season for Rahal Letterman Racing and Team Ethanol but today was a little brighter. I thought I had a run on Marco at the end to get up to ninth but I couldn't get the car to turn in turns three and four. I am sure that it had something to do with the wind. It was blowing pretty hard at times down the backstraight and into turn three. We had a couple of close calls especially with Buddy's incident. I really had to dive down to the low part of the track. Some of the restarts were pretty wild. There was one time when there were four or five wide and I was trying to find a way by. I had to slip inside and make sure there was just enough room to pass. Overall, we needed another finish and top ten isn't bad right now. We want to continue to make the car better so we can race with the leaders. I think we are getting closer and learning more each race. We can go back to the shop and go through all of the data from the last three races. Then translate that information for the next three races at Nashville, Milwaukee and Michigan."
The next IndyCar Series event is the Firestone Indy 200 at 9 p.m. (EDT) on July 15 at Nashville Superspeedway. The race will be telecast live by ESPN and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network. A Spanish-language telecast of the race will be carried by ESPN Deportes. The IMS Radio Network broadcast also is carried on XM Satellite Radio channel 145 "IndyCar Racing" and www.indycar.com.