Hornish puts Gen IV Chevy Indy V8 on Pole SPARTA, Ky., Aug. 16, 2003 - Happy days are here again for Sam Hornish Jr. and Chevrolet. The two-time Imdy Racing League champion put the new Gen IV Chevy Indy V8 on the pole for Sunday's Belterra...
Hornish puts Gen IV Chevy Indy V8 on Pole
SPARTA, Ky., Aug. 16, 2003 - Happy days are here again for Sam Hornish Jr. and Chevrolet. The two-time Imdy Racing League champion put the new Gen IV Chevy Indy V8 on the pole for Sunday's Belterra Casino Indy 300 at Kentucky Speedway. Hornish won the top starting spot for the third time in his career with a fast lap at 219.614 mph on the 1.5-mile oval. He set the pace in the tightest qualifying field in IRL history, with just .5367 seconds separating the 20 qualifiers.
Hornish led a revitalized Chevrolet contingent that saw four of the top-10 qualifiers powered by Chevy Indy V8 engines. Robbie Buhl qualified his Purex/Aventis Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Chevrolet Dallara sixth at 218.461 mph, his teammate Sarah Fisher was ninth at 217.911 mph in her AOL/GMAC Dreyer & Reinbold Chevrolet Dallara, and Buddy Rice was tenth in Red Bull Cheever Racing's Chevrolet Dallara at 217.765 mph. Hornish, Buhl, Rice and Chevrolet all turned in their best qualifying performances of the season.
"We thought we had a setup that would be fast enough for the top five, but didn't know if it would be fast enough for the pole," said Hornish, who won in both of his previous pole starts in 2002. "It was a good day for me and the Pennzoil Panther team, and also a good day for Chevrolet with the first pole of the year. I'm looking forward to making up the four feet we lost by in Michigan.
"It feels great to be on the pole," Hornish added. "I just hope we didn't come in first on the wrong day."
Hornish practiced at a 217 mph pace that left him 15th on the speed chart. He turned it up in qualifying when it counted, picking up more than 2 mph.
"We were working on our race setup in practice, and then we took downforce off the car for qualifying," he revealed. "We know the race car is more important than the qualifying car. That's what we work on in practice."
Robbie Buhl turned just 90 practice laps with the new Gen IV Chevy engine before making his qualifying run. The Belterra Casino Indy 300 is the first event in which all Chevrolet drivers are using the new version of Chevy's IndyCar engine.
"I'm just excited to be able to go racing and have some fun," said Buhl. "We've got some steep learning curves and variables that we'll have to deal with, but we can be a part of the game."
Sarah Fisher won the pole last year at Kentucky Speedway, and turned in a solid performance in her first outing with the Gen IV Chevy package today.
"It feels great!" said the series' most popular driver. "We are still working on the race car. Chevy can give us all of the horsepower they want to, be we have to have a car that can match that."
Buddy Lazier has won twice with Hemelgarn Racing at Kentucky Speedway, and he is optimistic about his chances for a third victory in the team's Delta/Life Fitness Chevrolet Dallara. His qualifying speed was slower than expected, but he knew why.
"We had a miscommunication on the radio and I couldn't hear the crew tell me to change the fuel setting to the qualifying map," Lazier reported. "We know that's worth a couple of miles an hour, so it would have been a solid 217.
"You feel the power everywhere," he noted. "Power is enormous, it changes all the setups. The engine has tremendous potential. Everything is set very conservative now because we're just rolling out the new engine, but you can feel its awesome potential. It's pretty exciting."
One of Chevy's front-running drivers was sidelined when Vitor Meira, whose 219.449 mph lap was the third fastest speed during practice, spun and hit the wall in Team Menard's Johns Manville Chevrolet Dallara. Meira suffered a fracture to his right wrist. The Brazilian was not cleared to drive and he will be re-examined when he returns to Indianapolis. Team Menard has decided not to run the car in tomorrow's race with a replacement driver.
"It's kind of bittersweet because we were good and we were quick," said Meira. "The crew did a great job putting everything together for the Gen IV Chevy V8 engine. We were doing our final qualifying simulation. I was trying hard and just spun."
The Belterra Casino Indy 300 will start at 2 p.m. EDT on Sunday, Aug. 17. The 200-lap, 300-mile race will be televised live on ABC and broadcast on the IMS Radio Network.
BELTERRA CASINO INDY 300 QUALIFYING SUMMARY:
1. Sam Hornish Jr., Chevrolet, 219.614 mph
2. Scott Dixon, Toyota, 219.358
3. Helio Castroneves, Toyota, 219.309
4. Gil de Ferran, Toyota, 219.297
5. Greg Ray, Honda, 218.622
6. Robbie Buhl, Chevrolet, 218.461
9. Sarah Fisher, Chevrolet, 217.911
10. Buddy Rice, Chevrolet, 217.765
20. Buddy Lazier, Chevrolet, 214.860