Hornish New IRL Leader
July 2, 2006 | 3:20 P.M. EST
Wheldon took the lead on an exchange of pit stops with 45 laps remaining, but Hornish regained the point seconds after a lap 184 restart. The two raced side by side for three thrilling laps down the stretch – with Wheldon nosing out at times – but Hornish pulled clear with two laps remaining and won by .0793 seconds. Hornish celebrated his 27th birthday with his league-leading 17th career triumph.
It was the third victory of the campaign for Hornish, the Indianapolis 500 winner who also captured last weekend’s SunTrust Indy Challenge at Richmond. It was the sixth top-five finish for Wheldon, who has been shut out of victory lane since winning the season opener at Homestead.
Again, Marlboro Team Penske and Target Chip Ganassi dominated the event. Helio Castroneves, Hornish’s partner with Penske, ran in contention before backing his Honda Dallara into the wall on lap 38. Amazingly, Castroneves continued without losing a lap. The team replaced the rear wing and he came back to finish sixth.
Scott Dixon, Wheldon’s teammate with Ganassi, led in the early going and ran third much of the race before losing several places on the final restart. He battled back to finish fourth behind Panther’s Vitor Meira.
While Hornish and Wheldon dominated the point – stalked by Dixon – positions fourth through eighth featured a spirited battle much of the event. Tony Kanaan shot from 13th starting position to fourth in the early laps, spending the race fighting off the challenges of Meira, Kosuke Matsuura, Tomas Sheckter and Castroneves.
Kanaan finished fifth for Andretti Green Racing, followed by Castroneves, Vision’s Scheckter and Super Aguri Fernandez Racing’s Matsuura. Marco Andretti ran with that pack before losing a lap in a pit miscue, coming back to take ninth, followed by Rahal Letterman’s Jeff Simmons and Danica Patrick.
The race was slowed by a pair of late-race incidents. Scott Shart hit the turn four wall on lap 167, with Buddy Rice crashing in the same location 10 laps later. Both drivers were uninjured but were forced to retire.
The victory allows Hornish to pass Castroneves for the IndyCar Series points lead.
Six races remain in the 2006 campaign, which resumes July 15 at Nashville Superspeedway.