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Hornish by nine thousandths in Chicagoland epic.

Panther Racing's Sam Hornish Jr beat Bryan Herta and Scott Dixon to the finish line by less than the length of a nose in what can only be described as a heart-stopping conclusion to Sunday's Delphi Indy 300.

After 199 laps of the 1.5-mile Chicagoland oval, Herta and Hornish Jr entered the final lap side by side, Hornish on his usual high line, the yellow Dallara-Chevrolet inches ahead of the multi-coloured Dallara-Honda.

Half way around the last lap, Herta had fought back and actually drew half a car length ahead of his adversary as the pair powered out of turn four, the shift in air flow at more than 220mph momentarily causing the two cars to interlock. A couple of centimetres either way and wheels would touch and the consequences would be unthinkable, but they judged it just right and the yellow car kept the momentum off turn and towards the flag stand and nearly 70,000 gasping fans.

But then, yards from the line, here was Scott Dixon's red and white Target G Force-Toyota, darting half a car's width below the white line after gaining a tremendous draft behind the leading pair. With Hornish already pinning Herta to the bottom of the racetrack and Dixon travelling faster than both of them, now all three cars interlocked as they crossed the line, centimetres away from disaster once again. But, once again, they judged it just right.

John Barnes and the rest of the Panther crew celebrated, with perhaps a little tinge of anger at their heroes decision to defect to Penske for next season. After all Gil de Ferran had only finished 12th and Helio Castroneves had suffered a gearbox failure 17 laps from home.

Dixon and the rest of the Target crew also celebrated, as their man had come within 0.0099-seconds of beating Hornish, and exactly one 0.0001 ahead of Herta, whose post race emotions were slightly less jovial after being the meat in a 220mph sandwich at the end.

Herta's Andretti-Green Racing teammate Dan Wheldon finished fourth and was the only other driver apart from Hornish who was able to stretch his fuel mileage long enough to allow him to pit under the third and final caution flag of the day on lap 186. Herta and Roger Yasukawa managed to scrape off pit road just as the final caution flag, to retrieve Castroneves' stopped car, flew. This elevated the American duo into the top two positions for the final restart of the day on lap 195 with Hornish and Wheldon third and fourth.

Dixon, and a host of others who pitted under green flag conditions, benefited from IRL series rules that insist the leader must be the first car to take the restart and were able to regain their lost lap, and this rule allowed the top 13 finishers to be covered by just 1.5-seconds at the fall of the chequered flag.

Behind Wheldon, Tomas Scheckter finished fifth after leading a bunch of laps with Tony Kanaan sixth, Alex Barron seventh for Eddie Cheever's Red Bull sponsored outfit, Yasukawa eighth, Tora Takagi ninth and Robbie Buhl tenth.



Related Pictures

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AJ Foyt IV - AJ Foyt Enterprises G-Force-Toyota
Scott Dixon suring pre-season testing at Homestead. [IMS Photo Ron McQueeny]
Bryan Herta was named as Dario Franchitti`s replacement for the IRL events at Texas and Pikes Peak. [IMS Photo Ron McQueeny]
Sebastien Bourdais with his son after winning Race 1 of the Honda Indy Toronto. (Photo by: Shawn Gritzmacher for IndyCar Media)
The red flag is waived halting attempts to start Race 1 of the Honda Indy Toronto on Saturday. (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Mike Conway and Team Owner Ed Carpenter celebrate victory in Race 2 of the Honda Indy Toronto (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Sebastien Bourdais gets a congratulatory hug from team co-owner Kevin Kalkhoven after winning Race 1 of the Honda Indy Toronto (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Chevrolet sweeps the podium with winner Mike Conway (center), driver of the #20 Fuzzy`s Ultra Premium Vodka / Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet IndyCar V6, celebrating his victory Sunday, July 20, 2014 during the second of two IndyCar Series races through the streets of Exhibition Place, in Toronto, Canada. Tony Kanaan (left), driver of the #10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet celebrates his second-place finish. Will Power, driver of the #12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet celebrates his third-place finish. (Photo by Phillip Abbott/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Mike Conway, driver of the #20 Fuzzy`s Ultra Premium Vodka / Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet IndyCar V6, celebrates his victory Sunday, July 20, 2014 during the second of two IndyCar Series races through the streets of Exhibition Place, in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Phillip Abbott/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Mike Conway, driver of the #20 Fuzzy`s Ultra Premium Vodka / Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet IndyCar V6, takes the chequered flag while racing to victory Sunday, July 20, 2014 during the second of two IndyCar Series races through the streets of Exhibition Place, in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Michael L. Levitt/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Mike Conway, driver of the #20 Fuzzy`s Ultra Premium Vodka / Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet IndyCar V6, races to victory Sunday, July 20, 2014 during the second of two IndyCar Series races through the streets of Exhibition Place, in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Phillip Abbott/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Mike Conway on his way to victory in the second round of the Honda Indy Toronto doubleheader on Sunday July 20 2014. (Photo by: Joe Skibinski for IndyCar Media)
Mike Conway jumps for joy after the second round of the Honda Indy Toronto doubleheader on Sunday July 20 2014. (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Mike Conway with the winner`s flag after the second round of the Honda Indy Toronto doubleheader on Sunday July 20 2014. (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Mike Conway, Tony Kanaan and Will Power celebrate on the podium after the second round of the Honda Indy Toronto doubleheader on Sunday July 20 2014. (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Mike Conway receives the winner`s trophy after the second round of the Honda Indy Toronto doubleheader on Sunday July 20 2014. (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Mike Conway, Tony Kanaan and Will Power pose for a selfie on the podium after the second round of the Honda Indy Toronto doubleheader on Sunday July 20 2014. (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Tony Kanaan and Will Power pose for a selfie on the podium after the second round of the Honda Indy Toronto doubleheader on Sunday July 20 2014. (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)

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