Notebook: Hornishs Third-Place Finish Surprises Even Himself

LAS VEGAS -- Rookie Sam Hornish Jr. didn't have any great expectations when he qualified to start in the ninth row of Saturday's Indy Vegas 300.

In only his third Indy Racing Northern Light Series event, though, Hornish surprised even himself by finishing third behind Al Unser Jr. and Mark Dismore.

"I never expected this," Hornish said. "We didn't know it would be that good a car."

Hornish completed his rookie test only in December, after finishing seventh in the point standings in the rookie season of the Toyota Atlantic competition last year.

The 20-year-old's finish earned him $68,950.

"It was a great day," Hornish said.

It was a pretty good day for another rookie.

Jeret Schroeder, who has rookie status despite finishing 15th in the Indianapolis 500 last year, finished fourth for his best finish in Indy car racing.

"I can't wait for Indy," Schroeder said.

Also happy was Sarah Fisher, who was running second before spinning out on the 126th lap. Her car collided with one driven by Eliseo Salazar, knocking both out of the race.

"It was a lot of fun," the 19-year-old said.

Salazar wasn't as happy, saying the accident showed that Fisher was too inexperienced to drive at this level.


DAY AT THE TRACK: The Indy Vegas 300 wasn't the only event Saturday at the Las Vegas Speedway.

Following the race, the rock group Smash Mouth performed in concert. Then, stock cars took the track for a NASCAR Winston West race.

The day's events didn't do much to draw a big crowd at the 130,000-seat speedway, where large sections were empty.


HONORARY STARTER: Defending champion Sam Schmidt, paralyzed in a January accident, gave the drivers the call to start their engines.

Schmidt visited drivers on Friday at the racetrack, but did the call from St. Louis, where he returned for more rehabilitation.

Schmidt is paralyzed from his shoulders down.


CALKINS START: Buzz Calkins had reason to smile even though he finished only 45 laps in his Dallara-Oldsmobile Aurora.

Calkins started 19th and climbed to eighth in the opening 34 laps before running into mechanical difficulties.

"It's not going to show in the results, but we had a dominant car," Calkins said. "Everybody was struggling big-time because the track was slick. It was slick for us too, but we were better than everybody we raced against."

Calkins was in 10th place when his engine suddenly shut off because of a failure in the electronic control unit.

"It's really a disappointment because it's not very often you have a car that worked like that one," he said.


MORE MONEY: Al Unser Jr. won the race, but Mark Dismore got the bigger payday.

Dismore earned $128,250 to $112,600 for Unser, mainly because he led 90 laps.

Unser averaged 136.691 mph for the 312-mile race.

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Auto Club 500

@ Auto Club Speedway
Saturday, October 19, 2013
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