Johnson wins IROC at Indy Race; Busch clinches series title. INDIANAPOLIS, Saturday, Aug. 2, 2003 -- It was a day for first-timers during the IROC at Indy event Aug. 2 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, as Jimmie Johnson won the race for his ...
Johnson wins IROC at Indy Race; Busch clinches series title.
INDIANAPOLIS, Saturday, Aug. 2, 2003 -- It was a day for first-timers during the IROC at Indy event Aug. 2 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, as Jimmie Johnson won the race for his first career True Value IROC victory while Kurt Busch earned his first title in the "all-star" series.
NASCAR Winston Cup Series star Johnson passed pole sitter Helio Castroneves on a restart on Lap 21 and led the final 20 laps for the victory, holding off second place Kevin Harvick by .697 of a second at the finish. Winston Cup standout Ryan Newman finished third.
Winston Cup star Busch finished fourth to clinch his first True Value IROC season title and a purse of $250,000.
"It's an honor to be here and win at the Brickyard," Johnson said. "It's something I've dreamed of doing."
Busch finished the four-race series with 69 points. NASCAR Winston Cup standout Mark Martin, who finished fifth today, ended up second in the standings with 58 points, while Johnson climbed to third at 56.
The True Value IROC Series features 12 top drivers from different series competing in identically prepared stock cars.
"It's just an honor to drive in this series, for one thing, but to compete against the best of the best and beat them one day -- I just dreamed about this day, and it came true," Busch said.
IRL IndyCarTM Series star Castroneves pulled away from the field at the start of the 40-lap race, increasing his lead to 1.2 seconds after just three laps around the historic 2.5-mile oval.
But the rest of the field began drafting in single file, gaining ground on two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Castroneves over the next 17 laps.
Johnson, who started sixth, closed to within .151 of a second of Castroneves on Lap 19. On Lap 21, the only caution period of the race was called due to debris on the track.
Caution laps do not count in IROC, and Castroneves and Johnson dove . into Turn 1 side by side on the restart on Lap 21. They dragged down . the back straightaway, but Harvick pulled behind fellow Winston Cup . driver Johnson to provide drafting help, and Johnson and Harvick drove . past Castroneves in Turn 3 Johnson never trailed thereafter .
"I knew it was going to be my only opportunity to get a pass done," Johnson said. "I worked by everybody and got to Helio. He was doing a great job. I didn't think I had anything for him, but when the caution came out, I knew I would have about a lap to get something done.
"Harvick helped me down the straightaway and helped me get by, and it helped him into second place, so that was it from there."
Castroneves finished eighth. He said he wore out his right-front tire trying to stay ahead of Johnson and Harvick, affecting his car's handling late in the race.
"I just need to know how to find the draft," Castroneves said. "Those guys, side by side, I don't know how they do it. Harvick was just pushing Jimmie like crazy, and I was thinking, 'How is this possible?'
"It was fun. I was feeling like a pro for a moment, thinking, 'Hey, I'm not doing that bad,' but those guys have a lot of experience. I'd like to learn more."
The top finisher outside the stock-car ranks was 1996 IndyCar Series co-champion Scott Sharp, who finished sixth.