IRL Bombardier Learjet 550KFinal
Hornish, Jr. wins LearJet 550; Patrick thirdJun 10, 2007 - 5:31 AM By Bruce Martin PA SportsTicker Contributing Editor
FORT WORTH, Texas (Ticker) - By scoring his first victory of the season in Saturday night's IndyCar Bombardier LearJet 550 at Texas Motor Speedway, Sam Hornish Jr. is closing in on an impressive plateau.
His next victory will be his 20th IndyCar win, increasing his all-time record in the 12-year-old series.
"It will be pretty big," Hornish said. "For a while last year I thought that I might have an opportunity to get there before my 100th race and that would make it 20 percent. But this is unbelievable. If you had told me I would have won one IndyCar race rather than 19 of them including the Indianapolis 500, I would have thought you were crazy.
"I've been very blessed and I look forward to my next race because I have the opportunity to get No. 20. It would be great to get it pretty soon so I don't have to think about it much longer."
Hornish scored his 19th career win when he survived a thrilling 15-lap dash to the finish that included Tony Kanaan and Danica Patrick. Hornish used the low line to stay ahead of the Andretti Green Racing duo.
With one lap to go, Kanaan went to the outside of Hornish in the first turn. The two went down the backstretch but Hornish was able to win by 0.0786 seconds.
"I thought we might get one of those side-by-side finishes because Tony was pretty strong," Hornish said. "We had just a great car and the gears that my engineer picked out were exactly what they needed to be. I knew if he got beside me, I could beat him to the line."
Patrick's third-place finish was the best of her career. The estimated crowd of 80,000 fans were on their feet for the final portion of the race as Patrick had a legitimate shot at her first career IndyCar win.
Hornish led by as much as nine seconds before a huge crash late in the race erased his advantage. When the green flag waved on lap 206, Hornish was barely in front of Kanaan and Patrick.
Kanaan closed the gap on the leader, but once Patrick got around Scott Sharp's lapped car, she closed up on Kanaan to tighten the battle as the fastest car on the race track.
"I was pushing," Patrick said. "But I was also trying to put myself in a position where I could get up behind Tony and try to pass him. When you're trying to do that the car is not comfortable. It's moving around a lot; it was understeering and I was going wide.
"I was doing low 213s (miles per hour) catching him. I was flying."
With five laps to go, though, Patrick lost touch with the front two cars and began to drop back as Kanaan closed in on Hornish, who went on to become the first three-time winner at Texas Motor Speedway.
He led five times for 159 laps.
Patrick, who was embroiled in controversy after she was involved in a post-race confrontation with Dan Wheldon following last Sunday's race at Milwaukee, drove a great race to get into the top three with a chance to win in the closing laps.
"I was happy going into the race," Patrick said. "We didn't have the qualifying we wanted and it showed. The closer to the front the better you were. It's a shame that Tony and I didn't have enough time to get by Sam."
Patrick had one problem with Wheldon in the race, when he was chopping down in the turns.
"He was going really high in the corner and then chopping down at the exit of the corner," Patrick said of Wheldon. "Dan or anybody else, I would have called my spotter to report the same thing."
A massive crash on lap 197 on the backstretch took out six cars, including race favorites Scott Dixon, Helio Castroneves and Wheldon, who led four times for 52 laps. Also involved were Ed Carpenter, Darren Manning and A.J. Foyt IV, whose wheel came off causing the crash.
Kanaan miraculously drove through the crash without any contact with Darren Manning or the tire that had come off.
"I felt like 'Days of Thunder,'" Kanaan said, referring to the NASCAR movie of the early 1990s. "I just saw smoke, closed my eyes and drove through."
Wheldon did not have the same fortune.
"A little bit of bad luck for the guys on the team and me," Wheldon said. "It's unfortunate but we didn't quite have the speed today. It's unfortunate. I've had worse happen to me, we just have to bounce back."
Castroneves did not have any better luck than Wheldon.
"I saw smoke, I was behind Wheldon and all of a sudden my spotter said go low and I missed everything but suddenly, boom," Castroneves said. "The bad luck, it has snowballed since Milwaukee. There's a lot left in the championship so we can improve."
Earlier, Marco Andretti sent Tomas Scheckter into a spin when he cut down on Scheckter's car on the frontstretch on lap 88, sending him across the infield.
"It's just Marco," Scheckter said. "He swerved at me on the straight. It's really stupid. I don't know if the guys are mad that a Vision car is in front of them or not. It's just a waste to go off on the front straight because of someone else. It's just stupid.
"He just swerved into me on the front straight because he's irritated. He's a good friend of mine but what a waste."
Andretti overshot his pit when he came in for fuel and tires. Andretti was penalized by IndyCar Series president of competition Brian Barnhart for the Scheckter incident, making him serve a drive-through penalty and putting him one lap down.
"I have to apologize to Tomas," Andretti said. "I thought he had enough room. I didn't think it was my fault but if it is I have to apologize. I thought he had enough room. I'm sorry, it wasn't intentional."
The green flag waved on lap 97 with Wheldon ahead of Dixon, but Andretti was in the way of the leaders, making them furious.
Scheckter did return to the track, 29 laps down.
Andretti slowed on the track on lap 133 when his car would not stay in fifth gear. He climbed out of the car on lap 146 for his sixth "DNF" this season.
"We lost fifth gear," Andretti said. "I tried to go to sixth gear but we were running too slow.
"Here we go again."
The battle resumed with Hornish, Wheldon, Dixon, Kanaan and Castroneves battling it out. But after the six-car pileup at the end, none of them could catch Hornish, who may have been aided by the extra 28 laps added to the race this season to make it a 550-kilometer race instead of 500k.
"I was pretty upset at lap 200 when the yellow came out and I knew that Tony was going to have a shot to catch back up to me when we had a nine-second lead," Hornish said. "I think seeing it end under green was a lot better than seeing it end under yellow, which is what would have happened tonight."
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