Hornish and Chevy Finish Fourth in Rain-Shortened Richmond IRL Race RICHMOND, Va., June 28, 2003 - If the measure of a racer is the ability to overcome adversity, Chevrolet driver Sam Hornish Jr. again proved his standing as an open-wheel ...
Hornish and Chevy Finish Fourth in Rain-Shortened Richmond IRL Race
RICHMOND, Va., June 28, 2003 - If the measure of a racer is the ability to overcome adversity, Chevrolet driver Sam Hornish Jr. again proved his standing as an open-wheel master in tonight's SunTrust Indy Challenge at Richmond International Raceway. Reprising his come-from-behind performance in the preceding event in Colorado, Hornish overcame a pit lane collision, a damaged front end and a power outage that temporarily darkened portions of the challenging .75-mile oval. The one thing that Hornish and the Pennzoil Panther team could not overcome was the rain that brought the race to a premature conclusion. When the red and checkered flags flew after 206 of the 250 scheduled laps, Hornish was running in fourth place, posting his and Chevrolet's best finish of the year. Scott Dixon scored his third victory of the season in Ganassi Racing's Toyota G Force.
"We would have liked to finish under green and see if we could have caught him," said Hornish, last year's Richmond winner. "It was going to be hard because Scott had a good car tonight, but I think maybe we had a little bit for him."
Hornish started third on the 22-car grid, moving up from his fourth qualifying spot when No. 3 qualifier Tora Takagi started at the back in his spare car. Hornish was running third when he made his first pit stop on Lap 63 following a crash in Turn 2 by Vitor Meira. Contact with Felipe Giaffone in the pit lane and several subsequent stops to inspect for damage dropped Hornish to 14th, the last driver on the lead lap.
"I couldn't see Giaffone until it was too late," Hornish explained. "I hit the brakes, we bumped wheel to wheel and bent the right-front tie rod and broke the wing. We figured we'd just go out there and keep pushing hard. It took a little of the balance away, but we were still running fast.
"We haven't had the best of luck in the pits this year, but the team will keep rallying and keep trying to win races," Hornish noted. "Sooner or later we're going to get to the winner's circle.
Hornish was characteristically modest after his second virtuoso performance in as many races.
"I never thought I'd be able to race Indy cars," he revealed. "I never thought that I had the talent or would get the opportunity to do it. The fact that I get to do it, even if it's a bad day it's better than working in a fast-food restaurant."
Buddy Rice was the second Chevy driver to finish on the lead lap, bringing Red Bull Cheever Racing's Chevrolet Dallara home in ninth place. He notched his third top-10 finish of the season and maintained his perfect finishing record in 2003.
"It's too bad the race got stopped early because of the rain," said Rice after his first race on the Richmond bullring. "You know it's a bad sign when you see spray coming off the tires of the cars on an oval track. If it hadn't started raining, I think we could have gained a couple more positions."
Quick pit stops by the Cheever Racing team gained valuable track position for Rice. "The crew couldn't have been any better today," he declared. "When we came in we picked up spots each time. The pit stops were just superb, that's what helped us move up. We brought it home again in one piece, so that's a big help."
Sarah Fisher started her GMAC/AOL Dreyer & Reinbold Chevrolet Dallara on the outside of the front row, but fell back with handling problems.
"We are obviously disappointed with our performance tonight," Fisher said. "Once the race started, our tire pressures went away, and it made the car real loose. We chased it the whole race and just could not find the solution. We've got to go back to the shop, evaluate it and see what happened so next week we will be ready to race again."
Vitor Meira's race ended early after a close encounter with the concrete wall on Lap 56 in Team Menard's Chevrolet Dallara.
"There was traffic inside of me, but it was my mistake," Meira conceded. "This track is tough because it very intensive here."
IRL teams will celebrate the Fourth of July weekend in Kansas City, Kan., where they will contest the Kansas Indy 500 at the 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway 1.5-mile oval on July 6. The race will be televised on ABC at 1 p.m. EDT.