Hornish Scores Final Oldsmobile Victory in Chevy 500 FORT WORTH, Texas, Saturday, October 6, 2001 - Oldsmobile brought down the curtain on its motorsports program in winning style today at Texas Motor Speedway. Sam Hornish Jr., the youngest ...
Hornish Scores Final Oldsmobile Victory in Chevy 500
FORT WORTH, Texas, Saturday, October 6, 2001 - Oldsmobile brought down the curtain on its motorsports program in winning style today at Texas Motor Speedway. Sam Hornish Jr., the youngest champion in open-wheel racing, gave America's oldest car company its final Indy Racing League victory in the Chevy 500, the season finale of the Indy Racing Northern Light Series. The "Oldsmobile Era" in the IRL ended with 49 victories in 51 races, 51 consecutive pole starts and a sweep of the engine manufacturer, driver, team and rookie championships for five straight years.
It was a historic day for Hornish and Oldsmobile. The 22-year-old driver posted his third victory of the year in Pennzoil Panther Racing's Oldsmobile Dallara to put an exclamation point on his championship season. He beat Oldsmobile driver Scott Sharp to the finish line by .0188 seconds, the closest margin of victory in league history. Hornish led 114 of 200 laps in a breathtaking race that featured a record 32 official lead changes among six drivers - and dozens of unofficial lead changes on the high-banked 1.5-mile oval.
"It was great to win the Chevy 500 because we're going to be running a Chevy engine next year," said Hornish, who sealed the victory with a last-lap pass of Sharp. "I tried just about everything to get around him so I thought I'd try something different. I thought if I shifted down to fourth gear I'd get enough momentum to pass him. I'm glad I figured that out on Lap 199 and not Lap 200!"
The season-ending event featured the side-by-side competition that has become the trademark of IRL events at Texas Motor Speedway. Hornish dueled with Jaques Lazier for the first 50 laps until a miscue in the pits took Lazier out of contention. Packs of cars raced within inches of each other throughout the 300-mile race, while Hornish, Sharp, third-palce finisher Robbie Buhl and fourth-ranked Eliseo Salazar ran wheel-to-wheel in the closing stages.
"It was an unbelievable race," said Sharp, who won two of the last four races at TMS. "The last 30 laps went by in a blur. We drove as close as we could without touching. Once I got in the lead, I wasn't going to budge off the bottom. When I saw the white flag, I thought I had it - but sure enough Sam came smokin' by me."
Hornish and the Pennzoil Panther team again showcased the consistency that propelled them to the $1 million championship. Hornish was running at the finish of all 13 races, completing all but seven of 2,650 laps. He posted ten podium finishes and 12 Top Ten finishes.
"Speedway Engines is as much a part of winning this championship as we are," said team co-owner John Barnes. "They've done a tremendous job for us this year. Every time we were a little bit down they worked 20 hour days, seven days a week, to get us back on top."
The Chevy 500 marked the conclusion of Oldsmobile's long-running motorsports program, a heritage that began with company founder Ransom E. Olds. Oldsmobile powered 21 of the 25 starters and nine of the 10 finishers in today's race. Oldsmobile drivers led 169 of 200 laps, and Rookie of the Year Felipe Giaffone turned the fastest lap at 221.540 mph in Treadway-Hubbard Racing's Oldsmobile G-Force.
"Oldsmobile could not be more pleased with its very beneficial relationship with the Indy Racing League," said Oldsmobile General Manager Debra Kelly-Ennis. "We are proud of our longstanding relationship with the IRL series and our partnership with the teams, drivers, engine builders and sponsors.
"Competing in this demanding arena has greatly enhanced awareness of the world-class Aurora V8 production engine," Kelly-Ennis added. "The success that Oldsmobile has enjoyed is very rewarding, and we expect that Chevrolet will extend GM's winning record in the years ahead. Tony George had a vision for open-wheel racing, and we are very proud to have played a part in seeing it become reality."
Twenty drivers have won IRL races with Oldsmobile engines since the GM division entered the series in January 1997 with a naturally aspirated 4.0-liter engine based on the design of the production Aurora V8.
"I drove an Oldsmobile in the Trans Am series back in 1989," recalled Sharp, who scored five IRL victories with Oldsmobile power. "It's been exciting to be part of the domination that Oldsmobile has enjoyed in the IRL. Olds won a huge percentage of races, something that no one thought at the beginning would happen. They put together an unbelievable product and it has taken years for Nissan to catch up. We appreciate everything that Oldsmobile has done and the support they have given the league and the teams. It's also nice to see that it will all stay in the GM family."
With the 2001 season now in the record book, GM Racing engineers are focusing on the competition debut of the new Chevy Indy V8 at the start of the 2002 season on March 2 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.