FORT WORTH, Texas, Saturday, Oct. 6, 2001 - Sam Hornish Jr. capped his Indy Racing Northern Light Series championship season in style today at Texas Motor Speedway, edging Scott Sharp for victory in the Chevy 500 by .0188 of a second, the closest...
FORT WORTH, Texas, Saturday, Oct. 6, 2001 - Sam Hornish Jr. capped his Indy Racing Northern Light Series championship season in style today at Texas Motor Speedway, edging Scott Sharp for victory in the Chevy 500 by .0188 of a second, the closest finish in series history.
Robbie Buhl was third in nearly a three-way photo finish at the checkered, just .0468 of a second behind Hornish in the final race of the season.
Pole sitter Hornish took the lead from Sharp on the final straightaway, just yards from the finish line of the 300-mile race, earning his third victory of the season in the No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone. He averaged 168.523 mph and recorded his 10th top-three finish in 13 races this year.
"Unbelievable," Hornish said. "I didn't think I had enough, I just went down another gear and thought I might have enough rpm to get by him. I did, and we won."
Eliseo Salazar finished fourth in the No. 14 Harrah's A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone, while rookie Rick Treadway finished a career-best fifth in the No. 5 Big Tex Trailers G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone.
1996 Indy Racing co-champion Sharp passed Hornish with an outside move in the No. 8 Delphi Automotive Systems Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone on Lap 193 of the 200-lap race. He then hugged the inside line of the 1.5-mile, high-banked oval, parrying all attempts by Hornish and Buhl to pass.
On the final lap, Hornish moved outside of Sharp's draft in Turns 3 and 4 and stayed in the middle of the track exiting Turn 4. Buhl moved into the top groove, setting up a three-wide finish.
Hornish, running in the middle, pulled alongside Sharp on the inside just before the checkered and won the race by about a yard. Buhl fell just short of Sharp on the outside of the track in his No. 24 Team Purex Dreyer & Reinbold Racing G Force/Infiniti/Firestone.
Just .0468 of a second separated the top three at the finish in a breathtaking race that featured a league-record 32 lead changes. The previous closest finish in Indy Racing history was .059 of a second in the June 2000 race at Texas, as Sharp edged Robby McGehee for victory in a two-car dash. The previous record for lead changes, 31, also was set in that race.
"You know, that's what the Indy Racing League is all about," Buhl said. "That's what this series has been building to. What a way to end the year and then going into next year with everything that's going on for the Indy Racing League."
Sharp climbed from his car in the pits after the race and said, "I'm sorry, guys," to his Kelley Racing pit crew. But there really was nothing to apologize for after a scintillating race, as Sharp fell just short of sweeping both Indy Racing events this season at Texas Motor Speedway.
"It's awesome," Sharp said. "It's some unbelievable racing. You know Sam is one of the cleanest guys out here. He races you real well, has raced, I think, most everybody all year real well. We all three raced as hard as you can race, but very cleanly."
With 50 laps to go, it appeared that fuel economy would be the deciding factor of the race. Buhl, Hornish and Sharp each pitted with approximately 60 laps to go, about the limit of one fuel run at this track. But two late cautions allowed Buhl to pit for fuel, and Hornish and Sharp to conserve fuel, letting the trio unleash their engines at full power in wild sprint for victory after the final caution from Laps 168-171.
Justice was served with Hornish, Sharp and Buhl chasing for the victory. They combined to lead 167 of the 200 laps. One member of the trio led every lap after Lap 68, swapping the lead among themselves an amazing 16 times during the last 132 laps.
Brothers Buddy and Jaques Lazier showed strength early in the race, each leading laps. But mechanical problems slowed Buddy in the No. 91 Tae-Bo/Coors Light/Delta Faucet Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone and younger brother Jaques in the No. 2 Johns Manville/Menards Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone. Buddy finished 17th; Jaques 20th.