Hornish loses perfect grip but keeps points lead; Tough day for Cheever PHOENIX, Monday, March 18, 2002 - Defending Indy Racing League champion Sam Hornish Jr. started the 2001 season with a perfect score, with two wins in two races. This year...
Hornish loses perfect grip but keeps points lead; Tough day for Cheever
PHOENIX, Monday, March 18, 2002 - Defending Indy Racing League champion Sam Hornish Jr. started the 2001 season with a perfect score, with two wins in two races. This year after two races he's a little shy of perfect but still retains the same position - first - in the standings as he did at this time last season.
Hornish won at Phoenix International Raceway and Homestead-Miami Speedway in 2001 to accumulate the maximum 104 points available.
He finished third in the Bombardier ATV Copper World Indy 200 last Sunday at Phoenix, hindered by a balky gearbox and fast Marlboro Team Penske teammates Helio Castroneves and Gil de Ferran. But Hornish led the most laps, 67, and heads into the Yamaha Indy 400 on March 24 at California Speedway with an 89-85 lead over Phoenix winner Castroneves in the season point standings. de Ferran is third with 80.
Hornish extended his streak of top-six finishes to nine consecutive races.
de Ferran has now driven in four races with Hornish and finished behind him twice. de Ferran is impressed with Hornish, 22, from Defiance, Ohio.
"Sam is a great driver," de Ferran said. "I saw him drive on TV. Ultimately, we were here (at Phoenix) to witness (his) victory last year. You know, certainly we've been watching him through winter testing, so he's as good a driver as I ever raced against."
Another tough day for Cheever: Eddie Cheever Jr.'s day ended against the retaining wall for the second consecutive race as he was collected in a three-car accident with Anthony Lazzaro and Scott Sharp on Lap 104. He was credited with 15th place.
Cheever was eliminated from the 20th Anniversary Grand Prix of Miami on March 2 at Homestead-Miami Speedway when he was hit by his teammate, rookie Tomas Scheckter. Cheever was credited with 25th place in the No. 51 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone.
Every driver must pay a visit to Dr. Henry Bock, Indy Racing League director of medical services, for evaluation at the track's infield medical center after an accident. That's a trip Cheever would like to avoid in the future.
"I am getting tired of talking to Dr. Bock," Cheever said slyly. "If I don't see him again for a while, I will be more than pleased."
Penske power: The last time teammates finished one-two in an Indy Racing League event before the Bombardier ATV Copper World Indy 200 was last May when Helio Castroneves and Gil de Ferran put Penske Racing across the line first in the Indianapolis 500.
The Marlboro Team Penske teammates repeated that finish Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway.
Al Jr. still seeking Phoenix win: Al Unser Jr. has scored 33 victories in his illustrious Indy-style racing career but still hasn't taken the checkered flag at Phoenix International Raceway.
He led 29 laps in his No. 7 Corteco/Bryant Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone in the Bombardier ATV Copper World Indy 200 at Phoenix, but he finished fifth behind winner Helio Castroneves, Gil de Ferran, Sam Hornish Jr. and Eliseo Salazar.
Since 1983, Unser has finished 11 times in the top 10 at PIR, including second four times. He finished second to his father, six-time Phoenix winner Al Unser, in 1985, second to Mario Andretti in 1987, second to Rick Mears in 1989 and second to Emerson Fittipaldi in 1994. Al Unser Jr. also finished third in 1990.
Facts and figures: A few facts and figures from the Bombardier ATV Copper World Indy 200:
*Helio Castroneves earned his second Indy Racing League victory in . just his fourth career start, a league record. The previous record was . two wins in eight starts, set by Arie Luyendyk Castroneves' first IRL . victory came in the 2001 Indianapolis 500 .
*Sam Hornish Jr. became the fourth Indy Racing driver to surpass 1,000 laps led in Indy Racing competition. He is third on the list with 1,036 laps led. He joins Tony Stewart (1,515), Greg Ray (1,149) and Buddy Lazier (1,020) in the 1,000 laps led club.
*This is the fourth consecutive Indy Racing event that the driver who started on the MBNA Pole has won the race. Jaques Lazier won from pole last September at Chicagoland Speedway, Sam Hornish Jr. won at the 2001 season finale at Texas Motor Speedway and the 2002 season opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway from the MBNA pole.
*Sam Hornish Jr. extended his Indy Racing League record of consecutive times running at the finish. He has been running at the finish in 15 consecutive races.