IRL: Nashville: Chevy race report

Hornish's Chevy shows the way in Nashville NASHVILLE, Tenn., July 19, 2003 - Sam Hornish Jr. and his Chevy Indy V8 made beautiful music tonight in Music City as his Pennzoil Panther Chevrolet Dallara went from 20th on the grid to the lead on...

Hornish's Chevy shows the way in Nashville

NASHVILLE, Tenn., July 19, 2003 - Sam Hornish Jr. and his Chevy Indy V8 made beautiful music tonight in Music City as his Pennzoil Panther Chevrolet Dallara went from 20th on the grid to the lead on Lap 97 of the Firestone Indy 200 at Nashville Superspeedway. Hornish led four of the 200 laps, putting Chevy on the point for the first time in 2003. He relinquished the lead with a green-flag pit stop on Lap 101, but ran the fastest lap of the race at 203.757 mph on the 190th circuit and finished 11th. Gil de Ferran won the 200-lap race in Penske Racing's Toyota Dallara. The race finished under caution.

"Our pattern this year is to pit under green and then lose two laps because of it," Hornish laughed. "Hopefully when we get the new Chevy engine we'll get some good luck to go along with it.

Hornish will debut the new Gen IV Chevy Indy V8 in the upcoming Firestone Indy 400 at Michigan International Speedway on July 27. The Panther team has conducted three track tests with the new powerplant.

"From what we've seen in testing, I think the new Chevy engine will put us real close," Hornish predicted. "We've been very happy with the way everything is going, and real proud that Chevrolet did what they had to do to put us in a position to be competitive and win races."

Hornish displayed the driving form that has made him the talk of the IndyCar Series, passing cars on inside and outside lines. Starting from the 20th spot on the grid, he was 10th on Lap 60, fifth on Lap 66, and third on Lap 90. On Lap 97, he passed Tora Takagi for second in Turn 2 and Tony Kanaan in Turn 3 to take the lead.

"I knew it was a pass for the lead, but I didn't really think about it," Hornish recalled. "I'm glad that we had an opportunity to get up there. We've worked real hard this year making sure that we had good handling cars because we knew that when Chevrolet got us the horsepower we had to have the car to be able to win races. We know what it takes to make this car fast, and hopefully we'll prove that next week in Michigan."

Buddy Lazier also showed the form that took him to the Nashville winner's circle and the IRL championship in 2001. After starting last on the grid, Lazier steadily worked his way through the field to second on Lap 132. He spun in Turn 4 without damage six laps from the finish, then made contact with the outside wall on Lap 198.

"We really, really pushed it this weekend, and we ran really good," said Lazier, who was credited with a 14th place finish. "I know that is really encouraging for everybody. That is the good part about it. I just hate to crash and end a race that way."

Buddy Rice and his Red Bull Cheever Racing Chevrolet Dallara were slowed by a cracked water pipe that required a lengthy pit stop to repair. The crew pushed the car behind the pit wall on Lap 82, and rejoined the contest on Lap 121. Their perseverance was rewarded with an 18th place finish.

"The problem we had when we came in on our second pit stop was a minor water leak," Rice reported. "As soon as I could start smelling hot water, I radioed in to let the crew know that something was wrong. We decided to go another 15 to 20 laps before it started getting really bad, which explains why our car was so loose.

"The crew did a great job fixing the water leak and we were able to get back out into the race. At that point we had lost about 40 laps so it killed the strategy we had planned in the beginning. We went back out on the track to see how many points we could get and were also able to gain a few positions."

The Firestone Indy 200 was a short race for Chevy drivers Robbie Buhl, Sarah Fisher and Vitor Meira. Buhl made contact with Scott Sharp on the third lap and crashed in Turn 4. Fisher fought handling problems and retired on Lap 50, and Meira crashed on Lap 111. Both Buhl and Meira were examined and cleared to drive.

"We had a good car coming out, but we quickly had to contend with the car being too loose," said Fisher. "We came in and made a turn and half correction with the front wing, but then after a couple of laps had almost the opposite problem with a serious push. As hard as we tried, I couldn't keep a low line to let the faster drivers go around high.

"We're regrouping to find out what we're dealing with, given that we started out behind the eight ball by not being able to test earlier this week," she continued. "The good news is Chevy's got some help coming and we've got some important testing coming up that will put us back on track and up front."

"We had a pretty good qualifying car, but we had a lot of problems in the race," said Meira. "The car was really inconsistent, sometimes oversteer, but not as good a car as I had in qualifying. It was a lot of work. A crash is never a good end to a weekend, but sometimes it happens."

The next event on the IRL calendar, the Firestone Indy 400 at Michigan International Speedway on July 27, will mark the competition debut of the Gen IV Chevy Indy V8. The tenth round of the 16-race IRL IndyCar Series will be televised live on ABC at 3 p.m. EDT.

CHEVY RESULTS 11. Sam Hornish Jr./Chevrolet, 200
14. Buddy Lazier/Chevrolet, 197
18. Buddy Rice/Chevrolet, 161
19. Vitor Meira/Chevrolet, 108
20. Sarah Fisher/Chevrolet, 44
21. Robbie Buhl/Chevrolet, 2

Manufacturer/Points (victories in parentheses)
1. Toyota, 84 (7)
2. Honda, 67 (2)
3. Chevrolet, 47

July 27, Firestone Indy 400, Michigan International Speedway, Brooklyn, Mich.
TV: ABC, 3 p.m. Eastern

-gm racing-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Sarah Fisher , Robbie Buhl , Buddy Lazier , Scott Sharp , Gil de Ferran , Tony Kanaan , Tora Takagi , Buddy Rice , Sam Hornish Jr. , Vitor Meira
Teams Team Penske