Giaffone Earns First Career Win At Kentucky
Felipe Giaffone celebrated his first career Indy Racing League win by jumping out of his Hollywood Mo Nunn Racing G-Force Chevrolet, pumping his fists and grabbing a Brazilian flag.
"I think it was one of those weekends, you know, that everything works great," Giaffone said. "We had a great car. I knew it in warm up."
Giaffone took the lead in the pits on Lap 162, then, held off a furious charge from Sam Hornish, Jr., to claim the third "Belterra Casino Indy 300" title in front of 49,264 fans at Kentucky Speedway on Sunday.
"I think we had some good pit stops," Giaffone said. "You know, the guys did a great job."
The 200-lap classic saw six different leaders and 12 lead changes, but Giaffone persevered to lead 124 of the 200 laps in the race. That's a pretty good afternoon for a driver who had led just 92 laps in his two-year career entering this weekend at Kentucky Speedway.
Giaffone's advantage was tested fiercely late in the race by Hornish, Jr. (No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara Chevrolet). Hornish, Jr. pushed his way into second place past two-time Kentucky Speedway champion Buddy Lazier in Turn 2 with four laps to go.
"We got separated at the beginning of the last run, it seemed like it took forever to catch back up, so we knew we had a fast race car if we got the right opportunity," Hornish, Jr. said. "It's so tough to pass on the outside. Felipe's car worked well on the bottom line, but it wouldn't work on the high line. We had two opposite handling cars."
Hornish would pull along side Giaffone, and even got a nose ahead of him, several times during the closing laps, but Giaffone held on to beat Hornish at the line by 0.0932 seconds.
"When I saw one lap to go, I said, 'One lap to go?' That much?'" Giaffone said following the race. "Sam was all over the place."
"We got him once, couldn't get him again," Hornish said.
With a new surface that was laid down in April, Kentucky Speedway was a very fast track for the IRL. Rookie Tomas Scheckter (No. 52 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara Infiniti) set a track record with the fastest lap of the race at 221.109 mph on Lap 56. That speed was more than five miles an hour quicker than the previous record, and was just 0.281 mph off the speed that won Sarah Fisher the pole for Sunday's race.
"Kentucky is one circuit where it looks like some of the other tracks we run on, but it is definitely unique," driver Helio Castroneves said.
With his second place finish, Hornish, Jr. overtook Gil de Ferran for the series points lead. De Ferran had difficulty all day, and finished the race 28 laps off the pace. He fell to third in points as Marlboro Team Penske teammate Castroneves jumped to second in points with a fifth place finish.
Lazier finished third and last year's Kentucky Speedway pole sitter Scott Sharp took fourth after starting 21st. Fisher led 26 laps and finished eighth.
"The Belterra Casino Indy 300" was the finale of Kentucky Speedway's successful third race season. The speedway will announce its 2003 schedule this fall and begin selling 2003 season tickets in September. Visit www.kentuckyspeedway.com for the latest news and information from the speedway.