Hornish gives Gen III Chevy final send-off with sixth in St. Louis MADISON, Ill., Aug. 10, 2003 - With a sixth-place finish in his final race with the Gen III Chevy Indy V8, Sam Hornish Jr. was the highest finishing Chevrolet driver in today's...
Hornish gives Gen III Chevy final send-off with sixth in St. Louis
MADISON, Ill., Aug. 10, 2003 - With a sixth-place finish in his final race with the Gen III Chevy Indy V8, Sam Hornish Jr. was the highest finishing Chevrolet driver in today's Emerson Indy 250 at Gateway International Raceway. Hornish completed all 200 laps on the challenging 1.25-mile oval with the Pennzoil Panther Racing Chevrolet Dallara, crossing the stripe 5.086 seconds behind race winner Helio Castroneves, who drove a Penske Racing Toyota Dallara. Vitor Meira was Chevy's second top-10 driver, finishing ninth in Team Menard's Johns Manville Chevrolet Dallara.
The Emerson Indy 500 was also the final test of the new Gen IV Chevy Indy V8 prior to its introduction by all Chevrolet IRL teams at Kentucky Speedway on Aug. 17. Buddy Rice had the lone Gen IV Chevy Indy V8 in the field today in Red Bull Cheever Racing's Dallara, but he had a dearth of racing luck. Twice he lost laps when the yellow flag flew immediately following a green-flag pit stop. Rice fought handling problems throughout the 250-mile race, finishing 14th in the 21-car field.
"We didn't get the result today that we were looking for," Rice said. "Chevy gave us a great engine to work with all weekend and we were very impressed with its performance. It proved to be a reliable engine that has the capacity to be very competitive.
"Unfortunately for the Red Bull Cheever Racing Team, it was a disappointing day," Rice conceded. "We didn't get the car setup like we wanted to and it showed in our performance. We hope that next weekend in Kentucky will prove to be a better race for us and give us the chance to show what the Gen IV Chevy Indy V8 can do."
The Gen IV Chevy Indy V8 passed its final test with flying colors as Rice's engine ran flawlessly in practice, qualifying and the race.
"We now have two durability runs under racing conditions behind us with no engine-related issues," said GM Racing IRL program manager Joe Negri. "We realize we have a major task ahead of us to get all of our teams up and running this week, and we're looking forward to the first event with every Chevrolet team running the Gen IV Chevy Indy V8."
Hornish started his Gen III-powered car 14th on the grid and ran as high as fifth before losing a position on the final restart on Lap 166.
"Our goal was get a top-five finish in our last race with the Gen III engine," said Hornish reported. "With the introduction of the Gen IV next weekend, we'll have a shot at winning races. I'm looking forward to going to a track we like and where we've done well in the last two years."
After Hornish's sixth-place finish today, the two-time champion is seventh in the championship standings with five races remaining.
"We still think we have a good shot at the championship," Hornish declared. "I have a positive attitude; I can't wait to get back out there. After winning two championships, this is more exciting for me now to see if we can come back and get it done."
Vitor Meira scored his first top-10 finish of the season in Team Menard's Chevrolet Dallara, ending a string of four straight DNFs.
"We didn't finish the last four races, so it feels good to finish the race and carry on the work," said the Brazilian. "We have to learn more on short ovals; we're struggling on these tracks. But we've been really good on 1.5-mile and 2-mile ovals, so I hope that with the Gen IV Chevrolet and the Team Menard Dallara, we're going to start a new season right now."
Robbie Buhl echoed Meira's words after finishing 12th in the Purex/Aventis Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Chevrolet Dallara: "We're ready for the second half of our racing season to really begin next week with the Gen IV," said Buhl. "We had some good laps today, and the guys did a great job with our stops. We just need a little more power to keep us up there with the rest of the field. There's a lot of racing left and we just need to get into a rhythm to show people what we're capable of."
Sarah Fisher, who drove the GMAC Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Chevrolet Dallara to a 13th-place finish today, is also eagerly anticipating her return to Kentucky Speedway, where she won her first pole position last August.
"Kentucky's been good to me and I'm really looking forward to getting back there," said Fisher. "We'll test the new Gen IV this week just to shake it down, and we'll be ready when we hit the track for real."
The "second season" for Chevy IRL teams begins on Aug. 17 at Kentucky Speedway when the Belterra Casino Indy 300 signals the series' return to a superspeedway oval. The 12th round of the 16-race IRL IndyCar Series will be televised live on ABC at 2 p.m. EDT.