Hornish hustles to runner-up finish at Nazareth Speedway. NAZARETH, Pa., Aug. 24, 2003 - Sam Hornish Jr. continued his comeback in the race for the IRL IndyCar Series championship with a runner-up finish in today's Firestone Indy 225 at Nazareth...
Hornish hustles to runner-up finish at Nazareth Speedway.
NAZARETH, Pa., Aug. 24, 2003 - Sam Hornish Jr. continued his comeback in the race for the IRL IndyCar Series championship with a runner-up finish in today's Firestone Indy 225 at Nazareth Speedway. In his three starts with the new Gen IV Chevy Indy V8, Hornish has scored one win and two runner-up finishes. He is now 81 points behind race winner and points leader Helio Castroneves with three races to go. Robbie Buhl and Buddy Rice finished ninth and 10th respectively at Nazareth Speedway, placing three Chevy Indy V8s in the top-10.
Hornish hounded Castroneves in the last half of the 225-lap race, closing to within inches of the leader but unable to complete the pass on this narrow 1-mile track. After the final restart on Lap 211, Hornish pressured his rival relentlessly, running the fastest lap of the race at 162.717 mph on Lap 218 and finishing .1697 seconds behind Castroneves at the checkered flag.
"I was pushing as hard as I could without putting it in the wall," said Hornish. "That's what everybody had to do today. It was a constant battle to find the right setup on the car. This is a tough track to get around but being able to drive it on the edge helps you."
Starting seventh on the grid, Hornish gained two positions in the first 10 laps. He continued his climb in the running order as accidents and attrition took their toll.
"The two times I thought I had him (Castroneves) in traffic, the yellow flag came out as soon as I got a run on him," Hornish recalled. "The team did an awesome job since we weren't able to test here while we working on the Gen IV Chevy. We're happy to come out of here with a second-place finish. Now we go to three tracks where we really like to run. We have good speedway cars and know what it takes to run fast."
The Panther Racing team gambled on fuel mileage in the home stretch, keeping Hornish on track for the final 102 circuits around the 1-mile oval.
"I got a good run on Helio on the last lap, then about three-quarters of the way down the back straight the engine sputtered and the fuel pressure light came on," Hornish said. "We stretched it as far as we could, but we started running it pretty rich at the end to get some more speed.
"We're playing the catch-up game right now, so you have to take some risks and gamble a little bit. It paid off."
The Gen IV Chevy Indy V8 again had a perfect reliability record.
"Sam had another good run, and the finish was as close as it could be," said GM Racing IRL program manager Joe Negri. "We had three Chevrolet drivers finish in the top-10, which is an excellent result on this track. I'm looking forward to the next three races on superspeedways. The Chevy teams have shown they can run well on the big ovals and they'll have more testing experience running the Gen IV engine on superspeedways."
Buhl posted his second straight top-10 finish with the Gen IV engine in his Purex/Aventis Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Chevrolet Dallara.
"In clean air toward the end, we ran our fastest laps of the race," said Buhl. "I got through Turn 2 better than ever and was better than some of those guys.
"We'll just have to take the info we've gathered when we go testing and learn from it," Buhl added. "We did what we wanted here today and we'll continue to aim higher."
Chevy racer Buddy Rice was also pleased with a top-10 finish.
"The Red Bull Cheever Racing Team is happy about that," said Rice. "We had a good handling car all day for a track that's so difficult and with so many downshifts.
"We had a good run going until we got the front wing taken off in an incident with A.J. Foyt IV," Rice reported. "Later on in the race, I had a problem with fifth gear. I had to run in sixth gear and it was fine, but I didn't have the pull coming off of Turn 3 and 4 that I wanted. It wasn't a bad day."
Chevrolet's ranks in the Firestone Indy 225 were reduced to four starters in the 19-car field when two teams withdrew cars from competition following accidents in practice. Team Menard elected not to run after Jaques Lazier, substituting for the injured Vitor Meira, crashed in practice on Friday morning. Lazier was examined and cleared to drive.
Sarah Fisher crashed in the final practice session on Saturday. Fisher spun in Turn 3 and hit the outside retaining wall. She was transported to Lehigh Valley Hospital in Allentown, Pa. for evaluation of back pain. She was released on Sunday afternoon with a severe back contusion.
IRL teams will have a welcome break on Labor Day weekend before racing resumes on Sept. 7 at the Delphi Indy 300 at Chicagoland Speedway, although testing will continue for several Chevy teams in the interim. The Chicago event will be the first of three races on superspeedways as the 2003 IRL season concludes. The Delphi Indy 300 will be televised live on ABC at 1 p.m. Eastern and broadcast on the IMS Radio Network.