IRL: Kentucky: Chevy race report

Chevy powers Giaffone to breakthrough victory. SPARTA, Ky., August 11, 2002 -- In a state that is famous for horsepower of the four-legged variety, Felipe Giaffone relied on his Chevy Indy V8's horsepower and stamina to carry him to his first ...

Chevy powers Giaffone to breakthrough victory.

SPARTA, Ky., August 11, 2002 -- In a state that is famous for horsepower of the four-legged variety, Felipe Giaffone relied on his Chevy Indy V8's horsepower and stamina to carry him to his first career IRL victory today in the Belterra Casino Indy 300 at Kentucky Speedway. Giaffone averaged 149.024 mph in Mo Nunn Racing's Hollywood Chevrolet G-Force and finished .0932 seconds ahead of Sam Hornish Jr.

Chevrolet engines dominated the 300-mile contest on the 1.5-mile speedway, sweeping the first seven finishing positions and leading 143 of 200 laps. Giaffone notched Chevy's 11th victory in 12 races.

Sam Hornish Jr.'s runner-up finish in Pennzoil Panther Racing's Chevrolet Dallara vaulted him into the lead in the championship race by four points (399-395) over Helio Castroneves. Buddy Lazier's bid for a third straight victory at Kentucky Speedway came up .35-seconds short as he finished third, his first podium finish of the season.

"The power was great," said Giaffone, who led five times for a total of 124 laps, the most of any driver. "I was surprised how fast I could go by myself. I thought we had the gear ratios a little too short to run alone, but when Sam and Buddy were behind me and struggling to get by, I said, 'Man, this engine is good!'"

Today's methanol-fueled Kentucky Derby turned into a two-horse race in the final four laps as Hornish, running the outside line, applied relentless pressure to Giaffone. Felipe held the bottom line tenaciously and held off Hornish for the victory.

"We had a lot of power today with our Chevrolet," said Hornish. "We passed almost everybody on the outside. I think we had enough for Felipe at the end, but just ran out of time. We'll get him next time. Chevrolet has done such a good job for us this year making sure we have the right equipment to run up front and to win three times. Hopefully we'll continue that."

Buddy Lazier displayed the form that carried him to the 2000 IRL championship and back-to-back victories at Kentucky Speedway in 2000 and 2001. He took the lead for the first time this season on a Lap 103 restart, and he raced wheel-to-wheel with Giaffone and Hornish througout the second half of the race.

"It was a hot, humid day and the Chevy motor ran great," Lazier reported. "From restarts to flat-out running, the engine had a lot of power and endurance."

"Today's results showed that success in the Indy Racing League is measured by more than one quick lap in qualifying," said Dick Amacher, GM Racing project engineer. "To be successful over an entire season, you need an engine package that is capable of running reliably at a very high level of performance.

"Reliability has a been a focus of the Chevrolet engine program since its inception, and that is reflected in the Chevy Indy V8's exceptional finishing record and 11 victories," Amacher added. "Of course you need performance to finish up front, but you also need dependability to be there in the winner's circle at the end."

The race was slowed by seven caution periods for a total of 50 laps. Driver Richie Hearn sustained a broken right foot in a crash on Lap 24, and three Kelley Racing crew men were injured in a pit-lane accident. Jeff Horton was examined and released, Rusty Hurford was transported by ambulance complaining of back pain, and Bernie Hallisky suffered a broken right leg.

Gil de Ferran, the points leader coming into this event, finished 21st after his car was damaged in Hearn's accident. He fell to third in the standings, 13 points behind Hornish and nine points behind his teammate Helio Castroneves, who finished fifth today.

Consistency has been the hallmark of Giaffone's campaign as he posted his tenth consecutive top-10 finish. After his qualifying run, Giaffone had observed, "You can't win a championship without winning a race." Today he took a giant step toward the title with his breakthrough victory in the bluegrass hills of Kentucky.

With three races remaining, Chevrolet drivers hold the top 10 spots in the drivers' championship standings. After a one-week break, the championship chase will resume on Aug. 25 at the Gateway Indy 250 at Gateway International Raceway in Madison, Ill. The 200-lap race on the 1.25-mile GIR oval will be televised live on ESPN at 3 p.m. EDT.

-gm racing-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Felipe Giaffone , Buddy Lazier , Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Richie Hearn , Sam Hornish Jr. , Mo Nunn
Teams Panther Racing