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Hornish pounds field to win in Kentucky
17 August 2003
Defending IRL IndyCar Series Champion Sam Hornish Jr gave the new Chevy/Cosworth Gen IV engine a stunning maiden victory as he simply annihilated the rest of the field in Sunday's Belterra Casino Indy 300 at the Kentucky Speedway.
Chevrolet announced their return to form in dominant fashion as Hornish Jr led all but 19 laps of the 200-lap blast around Kentucky's bumpy 1.5-mile tri oval, creating a new IRL record for the fastest race run in series history as he lapped all but two other drivers.
The Panther Racing driver's eventual 1.7-second margin of victory over Scott Dixon was wholly unrepresentative of the kind of beating he administered to his rivals right from the drop of the green flag but more it was a testament to Dixon's ability to stay in touch with the yellow Pennzoil sponsored bullet during the final 44 lap green flag run to the chequered flag.
The afternoon's sole caution flag came out on lap 147 when Kenny Brack suffered an oil fire in his Team Rahal Dallara-Honda but by that point Hornish had lapped everyone bar Dixon, with Bryan Herta sneaking back onto the lead lap courtesy of a cunning late fuel strategy. However even though Dixon managed to stay in touch with Hornish, as he had done for the first 100 laps before Hornish finally established his lead at more than ten seconds, Herta posed no threat and crossed the line a staggering 15 seconds behind the winner in third place.
Fourth place, and the first man off the lead lap was Al Unser Jr while Helio Castroneves held off an almost race long challenge from Tony Kanaan to claim fifth spot.
Seventh behind Kanaan was Dreyer & Reinbold Racing's Robbie Buhl who enjoyed his most competitive outing for more than a year in the Purex sponsored #24 Dallara-Chevrolet.
Rookie Dan Wheldon finished eighth with a rather shell-shocked Gil de Ferran and Tomas Scheckter tenth.
With Vitor Meira not starting, attrition was remarkably low as 18 of the 20 starters made it to the end with Alex Barron joining Brack on the DNF list when he suffered a rare Toyota engine failure on lap 104. However the relative lack of incident and accident didn't matter to those who spent a mere 90 minutes in awe watching Hornish Jr turn everyone else into an also ran.
With four races remaining on the 2003 schedule Tony Kanaan still holds the points lead with a 385-377 advantage over Castroneves with Dixon third on 373, de Ferran fourth on 372 and Hornish fifth with 308. After Gateway Hornish still felt he could make it three IRL titles in a row and after winning the fastest race in IRL history (197.897mph) at a canter, who is to argue?
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