Sam Hornish Jr became the youngest race-winner in Indy Racing League history when the 21-year-old from Defiance, Ohio blew away the field at the end to win Sunday's Pennzoil Copper World Indy 200 at Phoenix.
He also became the youngest-ever winner in North American open-wheel racing. The late Greg Moore was 22 when he won the CART race at Milwaukee on June 1, 1997 and Troy Ruttman was 22 when he won the 1952 Indianapolis 500.
The second-year driver won his first race for Pennzoil Panther Racing as he finished 1.378 second ahead of Chile's Eliseo Salazar. He led the race twice for 140 of the 200 laps in the race, including the final 72 laps, in just his ninth ever IRL start.
"They did a great job putting the car underneath me today, I could drive it anywhere I wanted," Hornish said. "All I have to do is maintain my patience and my cool, get the car and bring it home. It was perfect all day long."
Defending IRL champion Buddy Lazier was third, despite losing fifth and sixth gears, followed by Scott Sharp and Billy Boat.
Hornish showed his dominance early in the race when he passed the pole winner, Greg Ray, in the first turn at the start. He led the first 68 laps of the race. Ray led twice for 43 laps before his engine blew up on lap 121.
After several cautions, Salazar was able to catch Hornish in traffic on lap 150. The final caution of the race came on lap 159 when Stan Wattles backed his car into the second turn wall. When the green flag waved to restart the race on lap 168, Hornish had a huge lead on the field and was able to drive to victory.
Penske: Promise but no points
CART's Penske Racing competed in its first-ever IRL race in preparation for its Indy 500 assault and suffered bad luck. First, Gil de Ferran crashed while leading when he was attempting to make his first pit stop on lap 77. Jeret Schroeder ran into the back of de Ferran's Dallara-Oldsmobile sending both cars into the fourth turn wall. Mark Dismore had nowhere to go and ran into the two crashed cars to bring out the second caution flag of the race.
Ironically, that crash allowed his CART team mate, Helio Castroneves, a chance to pit under the yellow. Castroneves had started 17th and was second at the time. Castroneves led the race on one occasion for four laps, but had a car that could keep up with Hornish's fast Dallara-Aurora.
In the latter half of the race on a restart after caution on lap 132, Hornish and Castroneves took off from the field in a two-car battle. But just 11 laps later, the Ilmor-prepared Oldsmobile Aurora engine in Castroneves' Dallara blew up, knocking the talented Brazilian out of the race. De Ferran was classified 24th and Castroneves 18th.
Defending champ impressed by new kid on block
Lazier had gearbox problems on lap 132 during a restart, which caused a crash Stephan Gregoire, the second-place car at the time, slowed and Robbie Buhl ran into the back of him sending that car into the second turn wall. Buhl was able to continue.
Lazier was able to keep the car running to the end, even though he couldn't get past fourth gear to finish third. The defending IRL champion was impressed with the winner's brilliant display on the race track.
"Sam was hooked up, there was no doubt," Lazier said. "If you take a look at it, that team has been strong every year. That is a stout effort, a good effort in general. Sam is a driver who has developed very quickly and he will be a tough, good winning race driver for a long time to come.
"Personally, I think there won't be a team that dominates this year. There will be a lot of guys and it will be a battle for the points title."
Click here for the race result.
Abu Dhabi / Results
Standings / After 17 races
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Berlin / Results
|2||Nyck de Vries||47m23.447s|
Standings / After 11 races
|1||Antonio Felix da Costa||158|
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|Diriyah||Diriyah||26 Feb 2021|
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