Chicagoland: Hornish wins closest finish

Sam Hornish Jr put himself in a great position to claim a second straight Indy Racing League title by winning the closest ever finish in the series' history at Chicagoland and take the points lead from Penske duo Helio Castroneves and Gil de Ferran

Chicagoland: Hornish wins closest finish

The last green-flag segment of the race was a 36-lap-long traffic jam. Hornish came out of the final round of pit stops fourth after being beaten out by Castroneves, Al Unser Jr and Vitor Meira. Yet at the green, the Pennzoil Panther driver quickly brushed this trio aside and seemed poised to run away.

Not so. Once Hornish was ahead, things evened out as Unser fought back, the two cars going side-by-side all the way around the 1.5-mile tri-oval lap after lap while the rest formed a jostling pack NASCAR-style behind them, seeking a decisive move.

A decisive move requires either a mistake or a clear advantage, though, and none of that occurred, so the laps ran out in high-speed pace lap fashion. Hornish appeared to have a slight advantage down the straights, which meant that his nose was slightly ahead as they crossed the start/finish line each time - including the last time.

Unser's strategy, since a clean pass was impossible, was to yield Hornish a slight advantage down the back straight in order to draft by at the critical point, but his bid missed by a matter of inches. He ended up just 0.0024sec behind, the closest finish in IRL history.

Potentially making Hornish's victory all the more decisive was a frightening accident involving title rival de Ferran early in the race. The two-time CART champ had moved up to fourth from his 11th starting spot, but then made hard contact with the wall in Turn Two, after taking avoiding action when rookie Tony Renna slowed suddenly after losing fuel pressure.

De Ferran, who briefly lost consciousness in the impact, was taken to the infield care center and subsequently airlifted to a nearby hospital as a precautionary measure, where he was reported in satisfactory condition. However, his status for next week's season finale in Texas remains questionable.

Briton Daniel Wheldon finished a very respectable 10th on his IRL debut for Panther Racing.

Hornish takes a 12-point lead over Castroneves (who finished fourth after losing his own side-by-side run to the line with Buddy Lazier) heading into the season finale at Texas next week.

Sam Hornish Jr Dallara-Chevrolet
Al Unser Jr Dallara-Chevrolet +0.0024s
Buddy Lazier Dallara-Chevrolet +0.0596s
Helio Castroneves Dallara-Chevrolet 200
Eddie Cheever Dallara-Infiniti 200
Felipe Giaffone G-Force-Chevrolet 200
Scott Sharp Dallara-Chevrolet 200
Vitor Meira Dallara-Chevrolet 200
Buddy Rice Dallara-Infiniti 200
Dan Wheldon Dallara-Chevrolet 200

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Qualifying: Hornish Jr on pole

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