Barron Holds Off De Ferran
July 20, 2002 | 12:00 A.M. EST
Alex Barron became the fourth first-time winner this season in the Indy Racing League, capturing the Firestone Indy 200 with smooth, savvy driving over the last 10 laps July 20 at Nashville Superspeedway.
Barron, from San Diego, passed Scott Sharp on Lap 190 of the 200-lap race and held off runner-up Gil de Ferran by .4234 of a second at the finish in the No. 44 Rayovac Blair Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone. Barron also survived the pressure of a restart on Lap 198, as de Ferran passed Sharp for second on the restart but couldn't catch Barron.
"I got a good run on Scott (Sharp) on the restart," Barron said. "I was going to go around him on the high side, but you can't really run up high at the end of the race here. I tried it once, but you lose the front end of the car. I kind of backed off, let him drift up, and then I swung back underneath him, punched off hard. I got a good run on him and got underneath him. Once I got out front, my car was perfect and I just had the pedal down flat out until the end of the race.
"The last restart, it's kind of hard when you're leading because they can gauge off of you. Scott and Gil got a good run, but fortunately I had some good momentum going into (Turn) 1. I knew that's all it would take. I just ran strong until the end while they were battling."
Barron averaged 127.997 mph and earned $113,800 for his first win in 11 career IRL starts. Barron joined the IRL full time this season with Blair Racing, as they moved together from CART.
"This has been a long time coming," Barron said. "We've had a good time all year. To do what we did just now it feels really, really good. It just shows what kind of team Rayovac Blair Racing has."
de Ferran took the IRL points lead from teammate Helio Castroneves with his runner-up finish in the No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone. de Ferran holds a 347-337 lead over Castroneves, who finished ninth.
Reigning series champion Sam Hornish Jr. was credited with third in the No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone despite overcoming a late-race incident with rookie George Mack. Hornish is third in series points at 333.
"I was fortunate enough to get the timing just right with Barron so I was able to squeeze by Sharp," de Ferran said of the Lap 198 restart. "But I have to give it to Barron, he really stood on it on that last lap and gave me no chance."
1996 IRL co-champion Sharp crossed the finish line in third place but was moved to eighth place after being penalized one lap after the race by IRL officials for on-track blocking in the No. 8 Delphi Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone.
Richie Hearn placed fourth in the No. 20 BG Products/Sam Schmidt Motorsports Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, while Raul Boesel rounded out the top five in the No. 12 Bradley Motorsports Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone.
Hornish appeared to be the driver to beat during the second half of the race. He took the lead for the third time on the night on Lap 128 and pulled to a lead of 7.5 seconds over Castroneves by Lap 161.
But then trouble arrived for Hornish while leading on Lap 171. He slowed for a caution period triggered by Tomas Scheckter and Billy Boat's separate accidents in Turn 2. But rookie George Mack hit the left rear tire of Hornish's car with the right front of his No. 31 310 Racing G Force/Chevrolet/Firestone, flattening Hornish's left rear tire and causing significant damage to the left-rear bodywork and left sidepod of Hornish's car.
Hornish needed to pit on Lap 173 for four tires and fuel and re-entered the track in fifth. He led 95 of the first 173 laps.
Sharp inherited the lead when Hornish was forced to pit and kept it through Lap 190, when Barron made his decisive low pass for the lead in Turn 3.
Barron began to pull away toward victory when Jeff Ward triggered the last of eight caution periods for the race by spinning his No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing G Force/Chevrolet/Firestone on Lap 195. Ward's car made no contact with the wall, allowing the race to be restarted at the end of Lap 198.
MBNA Pole winner Boat was one of six drivers whose events ended early due to accidents on the tricky 1.33-mile concrete oval. None of the drivers in crashes - Boat, Airton Daré, Buddy Lazier, Greg Ray, Eliseo Salazar and Tomas Scheckter - was hurt.
The next Indy Racing League event is the Michigan Indy 400 on July 28, the debut of the IRL at the 2-mile Michigan International Speedway.