IRL: Phoenix: Chevy race report

Barron Posts Fourth-Place Finish For Chevy In Phoenix PHOENIX, March 21, 2004 - On a scorching afternoon in the Valley of the Sun, Alex Barron shined as Chevy's top finisher in the IRL Copper World Indy 200 at Phoenix International Raceway....

Barron Posts Fourth-Place Finish For Chevy In Phoenix

PHOENIX, March 21, 2004 - On a scorching afternoon in the Valley of the Sun, Alex Barron shined as Chevy's top finisher in the IRL Copper World Indy 200 at Phoenix International Raceway. Barron brought his Red Bull Cheever Racing Chevrolet Dallara across the stripe in fourth place, 7.32 seconds behind the leader. Starting 17th in the 20-car field, Barron gained 13 spots in the course of 200 laps. Rookie Mark Taylor finished 12th in the Menards/Johns Manville Chevrolet Dallara. Accidents eliminated Chevrolet drivers Tomas Scheckter, Robbie Buhl and Ed Carpenter; none were injured.

Tony Kanaan won the IRL IndyCar Series' Phoenix round for the second consecutive year in Andretti Green Racing's Honda Dallara.

Conditions at PIR were difficult, with 96-degree heat and a wilting desert wind. Barron overcame the obstacles of a slippery racing surface and heavy traffic to post his best finish since he joined Cheever Racing.

"Right away my car was really good and I didn't have to make many adjustments," Barron reported. "We were a little conservative at the end with the rubber pickup on the tires, and I thought maybe I could get third. Overall we're real happy with the result.

"The Chevy power ran great in the race," Barron continued. "I struggled a bit this weekend in qualifying. We concentrated in the warm-up on having a good car. The engineering staff and the crew put together a good car for me. We came back, and that's what counts."

Tomas Scheckter appeared to be headed for a podium finish in Panther Racing's Chevrolet Dallara. Running third with 20 laps to go, Scheckter was hit from behind by Dario Franchitti under the yellow flag brought out by Robbie Buhl's accident in Turn 4.

"I slowed for the yellow and was hit from behind," said Scheckter. "I heard my spotter call 'Yellow, yellow, yellow!' It was a crash that shouldn't have happened."

Scheckter's misfortune elevated his teammate Mark Taylor in the final standings. Taylor finished 12th, the best result of his young IndyCar Series career.

"Being a rookie, I struggled in the first 50 laps to gain confidence and really push the car," Taylor said. "I could have done better if I'd pushed a bit harder in the beginning, but when the car's twitching like that, I'm not going to take any risks after what happened in Homestead.

"The engine was great all the way through," Taylor continued. "We only did two pit stops so fuel wasn't a problem. I was able to overtake on the outside when I needed to.

"I was a tough day, with the heat and the rubber on the track at the beginning of the race," he declared. "It was hard work out there, and I'm happy to have finished with that result. It would have been nice to get a top 10, but at least we finished, and that's the most important thing."

Rookie driver Ed Carpenter was not so fortunate in Cheever Racing's second entry. He encountered the SAFER barrier "soft wall" on the 133rd lap.

"I was going into Turn 1 with Takagi and Ray and we were all trying to pass Sharp," Carpenter recalled. "I got impatient and lost my head for just a minute. I tried to turn in a little too hard and just pinched it off and spun out. It's a shame. The guys gave me a really good car to work with and I just made a mistake and lost it."

Buhl also tested the SAFER barrier after he lost a portion of his rear wing on the backstretch. With the sudden loss of downforce, Buhl crashed in the next corner, but emerged from the wreckage without injury.

"It's unfortunate because the guys had worked hard on the car, and gave me a good car for what we had to work with," said Buhl. "We kept running hard, and I think we would've gained a couple of more spots by the end of the race."

The IndyCar Series will journey to Japan for the Indy Japan 300 at Twin Ring Motegi on April 17. The third round of the 16-race series will be televised live on ESPN2 at 12 a.m. EDT.

-gm-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Mark Taylor , Robbie Buhl , Dario Franchitti , Tony Kanaan , Alex Barron , Ed Carpenter