Ready For Texas Shootout

There have been 11 IRL IndyCarTM Series events at Texas Motor Speedway, more than any other track. And of those 11, seven races have had a margin of victory of less than a second.

That’s right: A stunning 64 percent of the IndyCar Series races at TMS have featured finishes tighter than one second.

Number eight could very easily take place in the Bombardier 500 at 7 p.m. (CDT) June 7 at TMS. ESPN will televise the race live.

The last three IndyCar Series races at Texas have featured the second-, third- and fourth-closest finishes in IndyCar Series history, including the September 2002 season-ending Chevy 500 in which Sam Hornish Jr. defeated Helio Castroneves by .0096 of a second, the second-tightest finish in IndyCar Series history.

The close, competitive racing that has become a hallmark for IndyCar Series competition, mixed with the deep, talented fields that the IndyCar Series boasts in 2003, makes it difficult to pick a favorite at TMS in the first three night races this season.

Is Indianapolis 500 winner Gil de Ferran considered a favorite heading into the Bombardier 500?

Unlikely, if history is any indication.

De Ferran won the 87th Indianapolis 500 in his No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Panoz G Force on May 25. Since this event was added as the first race after the Indianapolis 500 in 1997, only Arie Luyendyk has pulled off the Indy-Texas double, in 1997.

If de Ferran hopes to win two consecutive races, he may have to overcome a little inexperience at Texas. In this event last year, he finished 16th, 39 laps down, after his crew had to change a gearbox during the race. He then missed the season-ending Chevy 500 in September at Texas after suffering a concussion in an accident at Chicagoland Speedway earlier that month.

De Ferran also will have to overcome a deep, talented field that includes his teammate, two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves, driver of the No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara. Castroneves has enjoyed success on the high-banked, 1.5-mile oval at TMS, finishing fourth in this race last June and second to Hornish in September.

Hornish, driver of the No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara, has won the last two fall races at Texas en route to winning his 2001 and 2002 IndyCar Series championships.

1996 series co-champion Scott Sharp, driver of the No. 8 Delphi Dallara, won June races at Texas in 2000 and 2001. His teammate, two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr., finished second to Jeff Ward in last year’s Bombardier 500 in the third-closest finish in IndyCar Series history. He was just .0111 of a second behind at the finish. Unser drives the No. 31 Corteco Dallara.

1999 series champion Greg Ray, a native of nearby Plano, Texas, will come home on a hot streak to race in the Bombardier 500 in the No. 13 TrimSpa Special Panoz G Force. Ray, who is coming of a strong eighth-place finish in the Indianapolis 500, has won the MBNA Pole at Texas three times and finished second there in the June races in 1998 and 1999.

Another Texan, A.J. Foyt IV, grandson of four-time Indianapolis 500 winner A.J. Foyt, is expected to make his first home start in the IndyCar Series. Foyt, driver of the No. 14 Conseco/A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara, hails from Hockley, Texas, and clinched the 2002 IRL Infiniti Pro Series championship with a victory at TMS last September. This will be Foyt’s first IndyCar Series event at night.

Another driver who will compete under the lights for the first time is Tony Kanaan, the 2003 IndyCar Series points leader. He will also make his first start at Texas, driving the No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara. He leads Castroneves in the standings, 137-123.

Kanaan’s Andretti Green Racing teammates at Texas will be rookie Dan Wheldon, driver of the No. 26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara, and Bryan Herta, driver of the No. 27 Archipelago/Motorola Dallara.

Wheldon competed at Texas last September and finished 15th driving for Panther Racing. Herta will be making his first IndyCar Series start, substituting for the injured Dario Franchitti. Each will be driving in their first night race in the IndyCar Series.

Target Chip Ganassi Racing won the Bombardier 500 last year with Ward and returns this year with Scott Dixon, driver of the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force, and Tomas Scheckter, driver of the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force. Dixon will make his first start at Texas and his first night race start, while Scheckter captured the MBNA Pole for last year’s race before finishing 17th due to clutch problems.

Sarah Fisher, the only woman driver in the IndyCar Series, will compete in the No. 23 Dallara fielded by Dreyer & Reinbold Racing along with her teammate and team co-owner, Robbie Buhl, driver of the No. 24 Purex/Aventis/Dreyer & Reinbold Dallara.

Tora Takagi, the 2003 Bank One Rookie of the Year at the Indianapolis 500, will make his first Texas start and his first start under the lights driving the No. 12 Pioneer Mo Nunn Racing Panoz G Force. His teammate, Felipe Giaffone, driver of the No. 21 Hollywood Mo Nunn Racing Panoz G Force, finished second in June 2001 at TMS.

Kenny Brack, 1999 Indianapolis 500 winner and 1998 IndyCar Series champion, will return to TMS for the first time since 1999. Brack, driver of the No. 15 Pioneer/Miller Lite Dallara, finished third in June 1998 at Texas.

One driver who has competed in all 11 IndyCar Series events at Texas is Buddy Lazier, driver of the No. 91 Delta Faucet/Life Fitness Dallara. Lazier’s best finish at Texas is fourth in the fall race of 2000, which clinched the IndyCar Series championship.

Buddy Rice and rookie Roger Yasukawa will make their first start under lights at Texas. Rice, driver of the No. 52 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara, finished sixth at Texas last September and has been running at the finish of all nine of his career IndyCar Series starts. He has finished in the top 10 in five of those races.

Yasukawa, driver of the No. 55 Panasonic ARTA Dallara, will make his first start at Texas and leads the Bombardier Rookie of the Year standings, 58-49, over Foyt.

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