Felipe Giaffone and the ...
Felipe Giaffone and the #21 Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Chevrolet G-Force won today's Belterra Casino Indy 300 Indy Racing League event at Kentucky Speedway. It was the first win in 25 career IRL starts for last year's series Rookie of the Year, and the first win in the 2-1/2-year history of Mo Nunn Racing, which came to life just prior to the 2000 CART FedEx Championship Series season and added Giaffone and the Hollywood IRL program to its stable for the first time this year. He started a season-high third on the grid, moved into the lead on Lap 27 of today's 200-lap event around the 1.5-mile Kentucky Speedway tri-oval, and went on to lead a race-high 124 laps altogether. The win came despite a botched pit stop early in the race, when Giaffone overshot his pit stall and had to circle the track again before finally pitting. That dropped him back from second to 21st position. But, opting to stay on track while most of the leaders pitted on Lap 60 under green, Giaffone was back in the lead and then was able to take advantage of a yellow to make his second stop on Lap 94. He beat defending series champion Sam Hornish, Jr., across the finish line by .0932 of a second, holding off his dramatic charge on the final lap.
Giaffone became the sixth first-time winner in the IRL this season. First-timers have won six of the last seven races. And there hasn't been a repeat winner in the last nine races.
Hornish moved into the driver points lead with his second-place finish today. His 399 points is only a 17-point margin over Giaffone, who has 382 points and is within site of the season championship with just three races remaining. Helio Castroneves is second with 395 points after today's fifth-place finish. Gil de Ferran, who finished 28 laps down today in 21st position after mechanical problems, is third in the points with 386.
The next race on the 2002 Indy Racing League schedule is in two weeks (Aug. 25), the Gateway Indy 250 at Madison, Ill., just across the river from St. Louis.
"It was like a perfect weekend because our car was good since the first practice even though we didn't test here. Morris was saying to me after the race that we aren't going to test anymore because this is one of the only tracks where we didn't test. The only problem we had all weekend was the mistake I made on my first pit stop today. I got a little confused and just missed our pit stall. That set us back, but I just put my head down and thanks to all the good work by the guys on my car, I was able to drive to the front without any problems. My car was as good during the whole race as it's been all year. I knew Sam Hornish was going to be a tough guy to beat. It was tough, but we did it. We were so close to getting our first victory, and we finally got it today. Now we are in position for the championship. Today, I knew I had to be aggressive because I had a good car that I knew was capable of winning a race. That hasn't always been the case, so I always did just what I had to to bring the car home and get the maximum points. It's funny because my wife Alice told me this morning that she had a dream that I would win the race today. And Morris (Nunn's) other driver, Tony Kanaan, called me telling me he had the same dream. But he said it was a nightmare because Tony's been wanting so bad to be the one to give Morris his first win. Now we got the first win, and we hope we can use the momentum for a legitimate shot at the championship. I think that would make Morris very happy, too."