De Ferran Closes Out Career
October 12, 2003 | 5:21 P.M. EST
"Closing out with a victory is really incredible," said de Ferran, who announced in August that he would retire after the Chevy 500. "I feel very grateful and very fortunate to be able to do what I do and experience the emotions that I have been able to experience over the years."
"It's really been a wonderful journey, I have to say, and finishing this way, with a pole position and a victory and nearly a championship, is something that I will carry with me for many years to come."
This is de Ferran’s third victory of the season. He also claimed wins at the 87th running of the Indianapolis 500 in May and at the Firestone Indy 200 at Nashville SuperSpeedway in July.
Scott Dixon, in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone, and Dan Wheldon, in the No. 7 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished second and third, respectively. Dixon’s second-place finish was good enough to win the historic five-car battle for the points championship.
"From the start, we had a very good car," Dixon said. "The thing with the team and Team Target this year is we were consistently fast. Every session we were in, we were right at the top and fighting it out for being the fastest and trying to win the races. I think after (winning) Homestead, it gave the team and everybody involved a huge lift. Everybody just kept pushing."
"There's a lot of guys in Team Target that have been in championships before. It's great to be involved with people like that. They know what to do. It's been a strange year. Championships are made to be very difficult to win, and that's the way it played out. I'm extremely happy that it went our way this time."
Dixon entered the race tied with Helio Castroneves for the championship lead. But Castroneves, in the No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone, and Tony Kanaan, in the No. 11 Team 7-Eleven, made contact on lap 179, eliminating both cars from the championship hunt. Castroneves and Kanaan were both in the top five at the time of the incident.
De Ferran's win helped him secure second in points behind Dixon with 489. Castroneves finished third in points (484), Kanaan fourth (476) and Sam Hornish Jr., in the No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, rounded out the top 5 with 461 points. Hornish dominated much of the race before an engine problem on lap 176 ended his day early. He finished 17th.
Wheldon secured the Bombardier Rookie of the Year title with his season-best third-place finish.
"It was a tough race, I have to say," Wheldon said. "It was made a little difficult for us. I'm very happy to have my first podium and looking forward to coming back to the championship next year."
Scheduled for 200 laps, the race ended five laps early after Kenny Brack, in the No. 15 Pioneer/Miller Lite/Dallara/Firestone, and Tomas Scheckter, in the Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone, made contact on the backstretch on lap 188.
Brack's car became airborne and flipped violently in Turn 3. Brack was awake and alert when he was airlifted to Dallas Parkland Hospital. According to Dr. Henry Bock, director of medical services for the IRL, Brack is in serious condition with a concussion and multiple extremity injuries.
"We are all wishing Kenny and (his wife) Anita our best," said Team Rahal Team Manager Steve Dickson. "We spoke with Kenny at the care center, and he joked with us. We are all family at Team Rahal and the IRL, and we hope everyone can wish him the very best."