Meira brings Chevy home in fourth in IRL season finale FORT WORTH, Texas, Oct. 12, 2003 - The eyes of Texas were on Sam Hornish Jr. as he made his bid for a third straight IRL championship in the Chevy 500 IRL season finale at Texas Motor ...
Meira brings Chevy home in fourth in IRL season finale
FORT WORTH, Texas, Oct. 12, 2003 - The eyes of Texas were on Sam Hornish Jr. as he made his bid for a third straight IRL championship in the Chevy 500 IRL season finale at Texas Motor Speedway. Hornish's comeback was sidelined by a mechanical problem on Lap 176, leaving Vitor Meira to bring the red Bowtie home in fourth place. Gil de Ferran won his last race with Penske Racing in a Toyota Dallara.
The race ended after 195 of a scheduled 200 laps due to an accident involving Kenny Brack and Tomas Scheckter. Brack was transported by helicopter to a nearby hospital, and was reported to be in serious but stable condition.
"We got the lead, came in to pit, and when we came back out we couldn't get back up to speed," said Hornish after his final drive for the Pennzoil Panther Chevrolet team. "We don't know what happened yet. We were leaking a little bit of oil so they wanted us to come off the track.
"We had a really good car today," he continued. "We could move in and out of traffic and pass when we wanted to."
It was a classic Hornish performance as he quickly moved up from 12th on the starting grid to challenge for the lead. He picked off cars on the high line, moving up to fourth in the first 20 laps as all five contenders for the $1 million championship raced wheel to wheel. Hornish passed Helio Castroneves on the inside, Tony Kanaan on the outside, Tomas Scheckter on the inside, and race leader Scott Dixon on the outside, taking the lead on Lap 138. His come-from-behind quest for the title ended 38 laps later.
"We had a great run this year," said Hornish, who finished 17th in the race and fifth in the championship. "We had some ups and some downs, and we never gave up. I would have liked to have won that third straight championship, but that's tough to do. I've been blessed to be able do what I want to do and compete for another championship. This team deserved to get a championship."
Vitor Meira overcame adversity to score his best finish of the season in Team Menard's Johns Manville Chevrolet Dallara. After losing a wheel on his first pit stop due to a faulty air wrench, Meira battled back to the lead lap and ultimately finished fourth. The Brazilian just missed repeating his third-place finish in last year's season-ending race in Texas.
"The team made a really great recovery after we lost a rear wheel nut on the first pit stop, Meira reported. "It's good to be back in the top five. This was a very turbulent year for Team Menard, with driver changes and the Chevrolet engine change. We learned a lot and I think it's starting to show. I'm really glad today for the team and for Chevrolet. We'll be there for sure next year."
Robbie Buhl ran as high as sixth in his Purex/Aventis Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Chevrolet Dallara, finishing 11th at the checkered flag. Buhl's teammate Sarah Fisher finished 12th.
"I think we had as good a car on the high side as anybody," said Buhl. "We didn't get in and out of the pits as fast as we would have liked, so we missed the lead pack and weren't in the draft. We had a fast car, and I'm excited for the next two months. We're going to regroup, evaluate things, and do a lot of testing and development for Chevy as they keep rolling things out."
Alex Barron was involved in an accident with Felipe Giaffone. The driver of Red Bull Cheever Racing's Chevrolet Dallara was credited with a 20th place finish.
"I just got caught up in an incident," said Barron, who was checked and released from the infield care center. "I was just an innocent bystander and unfortunately it caught me out.
"It's really unfortunate that this incident put us out of the race because the Red Bull Cheever Racing team gave me a really strong race car," Barron added. "I just wish we could have finished the season on a positive note."
The Chevy 500 marked the conclusion of Chevrolet's second season in IRL competition since its return to open-wheel racing in 2002. The 2004 IRL IndyCar Series will kick off on Feb. 29 at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Fla.
NEXT EVENT Feb. 29, 2004, Indy 300, Homestead-Miami Speedway, Homestead, Fla.