Tough day for IndyCar Series drivers at Chicagoland

JOLIET, Ill., Saturday, July 12, 2003 -- IRL IndyCar<sup>TM</sup> Series drivers Sam Hornish Jr., Scott Sharp and Helio Castroneves, endured a tough day at the True Value International Race of Champions event July 12 at Chicagoland ...

JOLIET, Ill., Saturday, July 12, 2003 -- IRL IndyCar<sup>TM</sup> Series drivers Sam Hornish Jr., Scott Sharp and Helio Castroneves, endured a tough day at the True Value International Race of Champions event July 12 at Chicagoland Speedway finishing eighth, ninth and 11th respectively.

The True Value IROC series, in its 27th year of competition, is racing all-star game. Twelve of the best drivers in the world compete in equally prepared stock cars in a four race series.

Mike Bliss, the 2002 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion, won the event, scoring his first career IROC victory. Two-time IndyCar Series champion Sam Hornish Jr. was the highest finishing IndyCar Series driver, finished eighth, 6.007 seconds behind Bliss.

"We would have liked to have done better, but we beat all the other open-wheel guys," Hornish said.

That was no easy feat considering Hornish spun exiting Turn 4 on Lap 8. Hornish slid through the wet grass between pit road and the front stretch, but was able to get his car under control and resume in the race.

"It was loose and it got away from me a little bit," Hornish said. "It just came around me."

Sharp, the 1996 IndyCar Series co-champion, drove in the IROC event as a substitute for Felipe Giaffone who suffered a broken right femur and pelvis in a crash during the Kansas Indy 300 July 6.

After starting second, Sharp was in second place when the caution for Hornish's spin. On the restart, Sharp fell to eighth.

"On the restart my car was really loose," Sharp said. "I had to catch it and get out of the throttle and a bunch of guys got me. The car was really loose (into the turns) and really tight out (of the turns). We struggled with it."

Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves started on the pole for the event and led the first five laps. He fell of the pace with a vibration on Lap 7 and fell to ninth. He then pitted for new tires and was in sixth on Lap 38 before falling out of the race with a mechanical problem on Lap 39. He was credited with 11th place.

"It was a shame, because I had a good spot," Castroneves said. "When Sam spun, I was able to change tires, and it was getting pretty good. Then the car starting getting the same as in the previous run in the beginning. I said, 'You know what? I've got a Nashville (IndyCar Series) race next week.' I didn't want to damage the car and say 'Oh, you know, I should have stopped earlier.'

NASCAR Winston Cup standout Kurt Busch leads the points standings 57-49 over Bliss. Hornish is in eighth place with 26 points while Giaffone/Sharp are in 10th with 15 points. Castroneves is in 12th with 13 points.

Castroneves will start on the pole for the True Value IROC season finale Aug. 2 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as part of the Brickyard 400 weekend.

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Series IROC
Drivers Kurt Busch , Felipe Giaffone , Scott Sharp , Helio Castroneves , Mike Bliss , Sam Hornish Jr.