Chicago: Hornish edges Dixon and Herta

Sam Hornish Jr prevailed in a three-wide, blink-of-an-eye finish Sunday to win the Delphi Indy 300 at Chicagoland Speedway, yet another record-breaking IRL IndyCar Series race

Chicago: Hornish edges Dixon and Herta

Hornish edged Scott Dixon by 0.0099 seconds, the third-closest finish in series history. Hornish, Dixon and Bryan Herta hit the finish line in just 0.0100 seconds, the closest 1-2-3 finish in IRL history. With an average race speed of 184.294mph, it also ranked as the second-fastest IRL history, trailing only the Kentucky mark of 197.897mph set last month.

For the record, Hornish is good at close racing. He has won the three closest 1-2 finishes in IRL history, and has won the two closest 1-2-3 finishes. When informed of his knack for winning close races, Hornish only smiled.

"Not too bad," he said.

The finish capped an intense battle for the lead over the final 30 laps of the race among several drivers. As the white flag waved, Herta and Hornish were side-by-side, with Hornish on the outside. As they approached the finish line, Dixon roared up inside Herta and made it a three-wide finish.

A freeze frame showed that Hornish's Panther Racing Dallara-Chevrolet had just a few inches on the other two cars at the finish line.

"I like to be on the high side," Hornish said. "I can control. I don't like being pinched down in between the apron and that transition point. It would be the worst thing in the world to spin and have about 10 guys run into you afterward.

"It's all about positioning yourself for the last five laps," Hornish said. "Then you can duke it out after that. I like to run up front in those situations because if something happens, you have less of a chance of being collected in it."

Dixon, who bolted up on the inside around the final turns, wasn't sure of his finish as the three cars hit the stripe instantaneously.

"I thought I had come in third," Dixon said. "I wasn't sure because I couldn't see where Sam was. I was expecting to come in third."

Herta, who led nine of the last 11 laps, was expecting to win. When asked why he didn't look as thrilled with Sunday's finish as he did in July when he won at Kansas Speedway, Herta grinned sheepishly.

"I'm relieved," Herta said. "Look at the look on (Dixon's) face. We all have the same look. Obviously, I'm happy with the result. But when you're that close to a victory, it's a little different. I still feel really good about the race, but I still feel like, 'Geez, a hundredth of a second isn't that much.'"

Herta's Andretti Green Racing team-mate, Dan Wheldon, finished fourth - matching his best finish of the season - and led laps for the first time this season. Tomas Scheckter finished fifth, while Tony Kanaan was sixth.

Helio Castroneves dtropped out of the race with gearbox troubles with just 17 laps to go, throwing a wrench into the championship battle. The Penske ace came into the race leading team-mate Gil De Ferran by 25 points. Everyone in the top five in points gained - but didn't pass - Castroneves, who will take a narrow 12-point lead over Dixon heading into the next race Sept. 21 at California Speedway.

Kanaan is third, 14 behind Castroneves, while de Ferran is fourth (17 behind) and Hornish fifth (41 behind). The close points race will be decided by two tracks very similar to Chicagoland - California and Texas.

"It's going to be a heck of a mix-up," Hornish said. "I don't know what the points are, but everybody is stacked together. The big thing about these next two races is staying out of trouble. People are going to take chances they wouldn't have taken at Miami or Phoenix."

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