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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

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
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]
Dallara, IndyCar, [Credit: IndyCar]
Ed Jones, Dale Coyne Racing, IndyCar [Credit: Ed Jones PR]
Alexander Rossi - Andretti Autosport   [pic credit: Indycar Media/Joe Skibinski]
Simon Pagenaud (Team Penske) celebrates winning the 2016 IndyCar title with victory at Sonoma   [pic credit: Chris Owens]
Simon Pagenaud - Team Penske   [pic credit: IndyCar Media/Chris Owens]
Ed Jones celebrates winning the 2016 Indy Lights championship
Kyle Kaiser (Juncos Racing) celebrates at Laguna Seca
Kyle Kaiser - Juncos Racing
Ed Carpenter Racing crew working on the boss` car   [pic credit: IndyCar Media/Chris Owens]
Indy Lights action
Indy Lights title contender Santiago Urrutia, Ed Jones, Dean Stoneman, Felix Serralles, Kyle Kaiser and Zach Veach   [pic credit: IndyCar Media]
Santiago Urrutia - Schmidt Petersen Motorsport
Will Power - Team Penske
Scott Dixon (Target Chip Ganassi Racing) on his way to victory at Watkins Glen   [pic credit: Indycar media/Chris Owens]
Scott Dixon (Target Chip Ganassi Racing) on his way to pole at Watkins Glen   [pic credit: Indycar media/Chris Owens]

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