Hornish Not An A Student
July 2, 2002 | 12:00 A.M. EST
But Hornish, who won the SunTrust Indy Challenge on June 29 at Richmond International Raceway, was willing to give out a midseason report card for himself regarding the 2002 season.
"Three wins, two thirds and three bad finishes," Hornish said. "Hopefully we'll keep going in the win direction. But as a grade, I probably give myself a B. I am not where I need to be. I need to be at an A."
Hornish won the season-opener March 2 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, held off Jaques Lazier by .0118 of a second in March at California Speedway for victory number two this year and captured last Saturday's event. He took third in March at Phoenix International Raceway and on June 16 at Pikes Peak, but also struggled during a three-race stretch between late April and early June.
Defending series champion Hornish was involved in an accident with Buddy Lazier on April 21 at Nazareth Speedway and came home 17th after the Pennzoil Panther team fixed his No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara. At the 86th Indianapolis 500, Hornish was running at the finish but was 14 laps down after he brushed the wall on Lap 74 while running third, forcing lengthy repairs.
His bad-luck streak continued June 8 at Texas Motor Speedway when Hornish and Eddie Cheever Jr. tangled on Lap 126, and Hornish was relegated to 18th.
"I made some mistakes," said Hornish. "Hopefully I will do good on my finals, I guess."
With the "finals" consisting of the final seven races of the season, Hornish is capable of passing with flying colors. The series moves July 7 to Kansas Speedway for the Ameristar Casino Indy 200, in which Hornish finished second to Cheever last year. On July 20, the series shifts to Nashville Superspeedway for the Firestone Indy 200, in which Hornish finished sixth in 2001.
On July 28, the inaugural Indy Racing League event at Michigan International Speedway is set to take place. Although the track will be new to Hornish and other drivers, Hornish won at California Speedway, which is very similar to Michigan. Both tracks are high-banked, 2-mile, D-shaped ovals.
Following Michigan, there is Kentucky Speedway on Aug. 11, Gateway International Raceway on Aug. 25 and Chicagoland Speedway on Sept. 8. Hornish finished third, third and second, respectively, in those races in 2001.
Finally, there is the season finale Sept. 15 at Texas, where Hornish won last year's closing event over Scott Sharp and Robbie Buhl in the closest 1-2-3 finish in Indy Racing history.
"It just seems like I keep learning and trying to do it when it's my day," Hornish said. "I try to make sure that I take advantage of every opportunity I can and don't throw it away by having any problems early in the race. I have done that too many times this year."
Long streak: Gil de Ferran led the final 186 laps on his way to winning the Radisson Indy 225 in the No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara on June 16 at Pikes Peak International Raceway. He also led the first 83 laps of the SunTrust Indy Challenge for a total of 269 consecutive laps led between the two races, an Indy Racing League record.
de Ferran broke Buddy Lazier's record for consecutive laps led, set in 2001, while earning the Marlboro Lap Leader Award at both races. Lazier also set his mark at Pikes Peak and Richmond, leading the final 44 laps at Pikes Peak and the first 187 at Richmond for a total of 231 consecutive laps led.
Carpenter finishes second in USAC race: Ed Carpenter, driver of the No. 2 Menards/Jack K. Elrod Co./Futaba/Delphi Dallara in the Indy Racing Infiniti Pro Series, came home second in the Weld Racing USAC Silver Crown race June 29 at Richmond International Raceway. Carpenter closed in and eventually took the lead from Dave Steele late in the race only to have Steele regain the lead from him on the final lap.
"The way I ran him (Dave Steele) down, I really thought when I got past him, I was going to be able to leave him, but my car just kept getting tighter and tighter," Carpenter said. "I didn't want to block him. I just wanted to race him clean.
"On the last two laps, my car just kind of faded. I was hanging on, hanging on, and then I took the white flag, and I pushed all the way to the fence coming off (Turn) 2. My right-front tire was used up, but I can't complain. It was a fun race."
Facts and figures: Facts and figures from the SunTrust Indy Challenge:
·This was the third victory of the season in eight starts for Sam Hornish Jr., equaling his win total from his championship season in 2001. He also won the season opener in March at Homestead-Miami Speedway and in March at California Speedway. Hornish earned three victories in 13 starts last season.
·Gil de Ferran led 168 laps in the SunTrust Indy Challenge, the most ever by a driver not to win the race. de Ferran has now led 538 total laps led in his IRL career and is eighth on the all-time lap leader list.
·Gil de Ferran, Helio Castroneves and Al Unser Jr. are the only drivers who have been running at the finish of every Indy Racing League event this year.
·Sam Hornish Jr. earned his sixth career Indy Racing League victory, moving him to third on the all-time IRL list behind Buddy Lazier, who has eight, and Scott Sharp, who has seven.
·Sam Hornish Jr. is the quickest driver to obtain six IRL career wins, doing so in 29 starts. Scott Sharp was previously the quickest driver to earn six wins, in 43 starts.
·Laurent Redon led 39 laps, the first laps he has led in Indy Racing competition. He finished 15th after an accident with Eddie Cheever Jr. on Lap 182.
·Tomas Scheckter finished a career-best fourth. His previous best finish was sixth at the season-opening event March 2 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
·Gil de Ferran earned his third MBNA Pole of the season and his Indy Racing League career. His other poles came in June at Pikes Peak, where he won, and in April at Nazareth Speedway.
·This was the fourth MBNA Pole of the season for Marlboro Team Penske. Gil de Ferran has recorded three poles, while Helio Castroneves won the pole in March at Phoenix.
·Gil de Ferran shattered the track record by more than 8 mph at Richmond International Raceway with his MBNA Pole lap of 168.705. The track record was 160.417 set by Jaques Lazier during MBNA Pole Qualifying last year at this event.
·This was the third time this season that Marlboro Team Penske has swept the front row in MBNA Pole Qualifying, setting an Indy Racing League record. de Ferran won the pole and Castroneves started second earlier this month at Pikes Peak and in April at Nazareth, Pa. No other team has swept the front row more than twice in an IRL season.
·This was the 139th career pole for Penske Racing in Indy-style racing.