Hornish, Jr. Wins "Belterra Casino Indy 300" In Record Speed
Pole sitter Sam Hornish, Jr.'s foot rarely left the accelerator of his No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone at Kentucky Speedway as he scorched the 20-car "Belterra Casino Indy 300" field to take his first win of the season. His average lap speed of 197.897 mph sets a new league and speedway record.
Hornish, Jr., led 181 of 200 laps to register his first win and his third straight top-three performance at Kentucky Speedway. The 24-year-old Defiance, Ohio, native takes the ninth win of his career and his second top-five finish in his past three starts. Hornish, Jr., now leads the series in all-time wins.
"We have what it takes to win these races," Hornish, Jr. said. "We've worked so hard this year and we've been in contention a lot. One of the things that I had was that I could run on the bottom. It was a faster line."
Hornish, Jr. moves from seventh to fifth in the series standings and trails leader Tony Kanaan by 77 points. Hornish, Jr., has four races remaining in the 2003 season to reduce the deficit and take his third straight series championship.
"We are focused on what it is going to take to win this championship," Hornish, Jr. said. "We have worked so hard on making sure that our setups are where they need to be. It is about as equal as it can get right now."
Hornish, Jr.'s winning drive went a league record 147 consecutive laps without incident before being slowed by a 10-lap caution period when the engine of Kenny Brack's No. 15 Pioneer/Miller Lite Dallara/Honda/Firestone caught fire and proceeded to pit road. Hornish, Jr. led the race a total of three times and registered his largest leading margin of 14.4257 seconds on Lap 139.
Scott Dixon, who qualified on the outside pole and led both practice sessions leading up to the race, finished 1.1712 seconds behind Hornish, Jr., in his No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi G-Force/Toyota/Firestone to register his second top-two finish in his past four starts.
"It was a great day for us," Dixon said. "Obviously, we want to win races, but it's more important to win championships. Sam had a great car today and we just didn't have enough to catch him. Team Target did a great job all weekend, and we gained ground on Tony (Kanaan) in the championship. We need to concentrate on the championship and keep our eye on the prize."
Andretti-Green driver Tony Kanaan retains the series points lead after finishing sixth and registering his second straight top-10 finish. Kanaan leads the second-place Marlboro Team Penske driver Helio Castroneves by eight points. Castroneves improves one spot to second in the series standings after finishing fifth.
"It was a long day for us," Kanaan said. "We worked hard, but we got some points to extend our lead by one, so let's take it one race at a time. It is so competitive (in the league) right now that it's very hard to pass."
Andretti-Green driver Bryan Herta finished third and Kelley Racing veteran Al Unser, Jr. closed out the race fourth to round out the top event performers.
The "Belterra Casino Indy 300" concludes the 2003 race season at Kentucky Speedway. Visit www.kentuckyspeedway.com for the latest track news.
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