Chevrolet clinches IRL championship as Hornish Wins Richmond with late-race charge. RICHMOND, Va., June 29, 2002 -- Sam Hornish Jr. practiced his night moves at Richmond International Raceway, passing Gil de Ferran on the next-to-last lap and ...
Chevrolet clinches IRL championship as Hornish Wins Richmond with late-race charge.
RICHMOND, Va., June 29, 2002 -- Sam Hornish Jr. practiced his night moves at Richmond International Raceway, passing Gil de Ferran on the next-to-last lap and scoring his third victory of the season by 1.8323 seconds. The first championship of the season was also decided tonight as Hornish's victory mathematically clinched the IRL Manufacturer's Championship for Chevrolet.
"We worked on the car all day long and did it as a team," said Hornish. "The best 50 laps that the car handled were the last 50 laps. I didn't know until the very end if we'd be able to catch up. It was a stressful day all around."
Sam's stress level was raised when he crashed during practice on Friday, damaging his Pennzoil Chevrolet Dallara. The Panther Racing team rebuilt the car and Hornish qualified it third on the grid.
"They work awesome together," said Hornish. "They overcame adversity yesterday and did all the right things."
With eight victories in eight races, Chevrolet now has an insurmountable lead over Infiniti in the Manufacturer's Championship. Chevy Indy V8 engines have raced to a perfect record in 2002, winning on circuits from the .75-mile Richmond bullring to the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This is the sixth consecutive year that a General Motors engine has won the IRL manufacturer's title.
"Chevrolet returned to open-wheel racing with two goals -- to win the Indianapolis 500 and to win the IRL Manufacturer's Championship," said Chevrolet General Manager Kurt Ritter. "We've now achieved both objectives through the exceptional efforts of GM Racing engineers, our affiliated engine builders and the teams and drivers who have made the Chevy Indy V8 the dominant engine in the IRL series.
"Chevrolet has won more championships in NASCAR, NHRA, road racing and off-road racing than any other manufacturer," Ritter noted. "Today's victory continued that winning tradition. Wherever there is a winner's circle, Chevy will be there."
De Ferran started Penske Racing's Chevrolet Dallara on the pole and led 168 of the 250 laps. He took the lead for the last time on lap 165 with a quick pit stop, and held it until Hornish made his decisive inside move in turn 1.
"The car was handling well in the beginning, but as the race wore on the car just kept getting looser and looser," said de Ferran. "We kept making adjustments on the pit stops, but it kept going more and more loose. I had a few pretty big moments.
"Sam had a good run off turn 4 with two laps to go," he recalled. "There was nothing I could do apart from throwing him in the grass, which I shouldn't do as a professional driver. I was sad to lose the lead so late in the race, but at that point I didn't feel there was much else I could have done. I would have liked to have come home with a win, but second place is a good day in difficult circumstances."
Felipe Giaffone extended his string of consistent performances, finishing third in Mo Nunn Racing's Hollywood G-Force and completing Chevy's sweep of the podium.
"We were just trying to save fuel for the first part of the race," Giaffone explained. "I had no issues at all with the engine -- it was good."
The 3/4-mile Richmond oval is the shortest on the IRL circuit, creating heavy traffic and frequent accidents. The race was slowed by eight caution periods. The most serious incident was a fire in the Hemelgarn pits; fortunately there were no injuries. Six cars made contact with the wall, including points leader Helio Castroneves who crashed his Penske Racing Chevrolet Dallara on lap 7. The team repaired the car and Castroneves returned to competition 149 laps later. He finished 17th and retained his lead in the championship race by three points (280-277) over his teammate de Ferran. Sam Hornish Jr. is third with 256 points.
After the frantic action on the Richmond bullring, IRL teams will return to the more familiar territory of a 1.5-mile superspeedway next weekend. The next event is the Ameristar Ameristar Casino Indy 200 at Kansas Speedway near Kansas City, Kan., on July 7.
July 7, Ameristar Casino Indy 200, Kansas Speedway, Kansas City, Kan.; 1.5-mile oval, 200 laps TV: ABC, 1 p.m. Eastern