IRL: Kentucky: GM Racing race report

Hornish has the horses in runaway Kentucky victory SPARTA, Ky., Aug. 17, 2003 - Sam Hornish Jr. put Chevy back in the IRL winner's circle today with a dominant performance in the Belterra Casino Indy 300 at Kentucky Speedway. Starting from the...

Hornish has the horses in runaway Kentucky victory

SPARTA, Ky., Aug. 17, 2003 - Sam Hornish Jr. put Chevy back in the IRL winner's circle today with a dominant performance in the Belterra Casino Indy 300 at Kentucky Speedway. Starting from the pole, Hornish and his Pennzoil Panther Racing Chevrolet Dallara led 181 of 200 laps, lapped 17 of his 19 rivals, set the IndyCar Series average speed record at 197.897 mph, and scored his record-setting ninth career victory. Powered by the new Gen IV Chevy Indy V8, Hornish notched Chevy's first victory of the season and the red Bowtie's 15th IRL win.

Hornish and his Chevy checked out as soon as the green flag flew, surrendering the lead only during three green-flag pit stops. The race pace was fast and furious, interrupted only by ten laps under caution (an IRL record) beginning on Lap 147. Hornish had opened up a 14-second lead - half a lap on this 1.5-mile track - when the race's only yellow came out. Runner-up Scott Dixon was unable to mount a challenge on the restart, and Hornish finished 1.1712 seconds ahead of his pursuer.

Hornish's victory was a giant step on Chevy's road to redemption in the IndyCar series. Chevy returned to the IRL winner's circle four weeks after IRL officials approved the Gen IV Chevy Indy V8 for competition.

"I never lost faith in Chevrolet, and I knew they would get the job done one way or another," said Hornish. "They took a big chance and it worked out for us. I'm glad that Chevy had the commitment to put us back in front. It's a world-class organization as far as I'm concerned.

"Not only does this engine have more horsepower than the previous generation, but it also has better fuel consumption," Hornish noted. "We're right on pace with the competition, and that's great for the series and the fans."

In the first race in which all Chevrolet teams were eligible to use the Gen IV engine, the new powerplant had a perfect reliability record. Robbie Buhl finished seventh in his Purex/Aventis Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Chevrolet Dallara, giving Chevy two top-10 finishers. Among other Chevy racers, Buddy Rice finished 11th for Red Bull Cheever Racing, Sarah Fisher was 14th in the AOL/GMAC Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Dallara, and Buddy Lazier was 16th in Hemelgarn Racing's Metabolife/Delta Faucet Dallara.

"We're part of the game now, and that's what we all want," said Buhl after his best finish of the year. "The moves Chevy made to make us competitive are pretty exciting. We're just at a different level now. In some ways it's almost like being at the beginning of the season again, with a steep learning curve. We were flat out for the last 30 laps, and working our way back up passing cars. Passing cars . . . man, what a great feeling!"

Buhl's teammate Sarah Fisher ran the fastest lap of the race at 219.413 mph.

"Chevy's back! Now let's go racing," exclaimed GM Racing IRL program manager Joe Negri. "Sam and the Pennzoil Panther Racing team put on an awesome display, and we congratulate Robbie Buhl on scoring Chevy's second top-10 finish today.

"Our GM Racing engineers and our technology partners at Cosworth Racing did an outstanding job to prepare all of the Chevrolet teams for this event," said Negri. "It was an incredible debut for the new Gen IV Chevy Indy V8, with an absolutely flawless performance."

Hornish's victory moved him from seventh to fifth in the championship standings with four races remaining. With his run for the roses today in Kentucky, he served notice that he will be a contender for a third straight title.

"I'm looking forward to the four races left this season," said Hornish. "We're 77 points back in the championship - it's a long way to go, but we'll see what we can do."

Next Sunday's Firestone Indy 225 at Nazareth Speedway will be the third of three races on consecutive weekends and the IRL series' final race of the season on a short track. The Firestone Indy 225 will be televised live on ESPN at 3 p.m. and broadcast on the IMS Radio Network.

RACE SUMMARY Track: Kentucky Speedway, 1.5-mile oval
Winner: Sam Hornish Jr./Pennzoil Panther Racing Chevrolet Dallara
Margin of Victory: 1.1712 seconds
Average Speed: 197.897 mph (series record)
Pole: Sam Hornish Jr./Chevrolet, 219.614 mph
Fastest Lap: Sarah Fisher/Chevrolet, 219.413 mph

1. Sam Hornish Jr./Chevrolet, 200
2. Scott Dixon/Toyota, 200
3. Bryan Herta/Honda, 200
4. Al Unser Jr./Toyota, 199
5. Helio Castroneves/Toyota, 199

7. Robbie Buhl/Chevrolet, 199
11. Buddy Rice/Chevrolet, 198
14. Sarah Fisher/Chevrolet, 198
16. Buddy Lazier/Chevrolet, 196

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS (after 12 of 16 events)
Driver/Engine/Points (victories in parentheses)

1. Tony Kanaan/Honda, 385 (1)
2. Helio Castroneves/Toyota, 377 (1)
3. Scott Dixon/Toyota, 373 (3)
4. Gil de Ferran/Toyota, 372 (2)
5. Sam Hornish Jr./Chevrolet, 308 (1)

Manufacturer/Points (victories in parentheses)
1. Toyota, 111 (9)
2. Honda, 84 (2)
3. Chevrolet, 69 (1)

NEXT EVENT Aug. 23, Firestone Indy 225, Nazareth Speedway, Nazareth, Pa. TV: ESPN, 3 p.m. Eastern


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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Sarah Fisher , Al Unser Jr. , Robbie Buhl , Buddy Lazier , Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Bryan Herta , Buddy Rice , Sam Hornish Jr.
Teams Panther Racing , Dreyer & Reinbold Racing