Sam Hornish Jr takes the flag at the Texas Motor Speedway to win his third race and end the season as he begun, showing what a true champion he is.
The race was full of excitement up to the very end, where only 0.0188s separated Hornish from second place man Scott Sharp. This is the closest finish in the history of the IRNLS. The lead was exchanged consistently between a handful of drivers throughout the 500km race, with no-one heading the pack for more than 30 laps.
The caution flag was out before the end of lap one following an accident involving the Dallara-Aurora of Sarah Fisher, who spun and hit an outside wall, ending her race prematurely. By the end of lap two Sam Hornish Jr. had taken the lead from Buddy Lazier, but the two battled for over ten laps swapping positions continuously. Jacques Lazier had crept up the field and was in a position to challenge for the lead by lap 19. He was successful, and so began another succession of lead changing.
Another contender was given a look in on lap 55 when the caution flag was shown for the second time. Felipe Giaffone took the lead for over ten laps until he retired due to his Aurora engine packing in. Jacques Lazier followed him out on lap 80 with suspension problems, leaving the race lead once again to Hornish. His next challenger was Scott Sharp. With Buddy Lazier out of the race on lap 112 due to engine problems, Robbie Buhl now had some space to move. He used this very effectively and joined the chase at the front, taking the lead on lap 117. While the three drivers exchanged positions at the front, more and more cars were retiring in the closing stages of the race. Anthony Lazzaro, Laurent Redon and Robbie McGehee all suffered engine problems, leaving a question about Aurora's reliability.
The final twenty laps were driven on a knifes edge and the crowd were on their feet. I was anyone's guess as to who would take the checkered flag. It was only fitting that the IRNLS Champion for 2001 ended his season on a high by clinching the last available win with just meters to spare. He could hardly believe it himself; ''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.''
Hornish's racing techniques are even admired by his closest competitors, with Sharp and Buhl having only positive remarks to make: ''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.'' Buhl added to this; ''You know, that's what the Indy Racing League is all about,'' 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.''
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