Youth calls the shots in the IRL

If the Indy Racing League was created to showcase fresh-faced talent, then it couldn't have done any better than in Sunday's Infiniti Grand Prix of Miami. Sam Hornish, Jr, a 21-year-old from Defiance, Ohio, won his second IRL race in a row when he defeated 20-year-old Sarah Fisher from Columbus, Ohio, in a fantastic finish.

Youth calls the shots in the IRL

The battling Buckeyes, who grew up competing against one another in national and regional karting, chased each other to the chequered flag, with Hornish defeating Fisher by 1.87 seconds.

This came after Hornish made a bold, wheel-to-wheel pass of Eliseo Salazar with 14 laps remaining. Salazar was in front when Hornish pulled even in the third turn. The two cars remained side-by-side through Turns 3 and 4, down the frontstretch and into the first turn before Hornish was able to pull ahead.

Fisher passed Salazar for second place with 11 laps remaining. Fisher's race car was faster than Hornish's and she was able to reel in the driver with eight laps left. But Hornish was able to maintain his lead in the closing stages to win his second race in as many events for Pennzoil Panther Racing.

After running in go-karts from the ages of 10 and 11 until they turned 16, Hornish and Fisher took different paths to Indy car racing. Fisher ran in midgets and sprints while Hornish competed in road course racing in Formula Ford 2000 and Formula Atlantic.

Their paths crossed once again when both joined the IRL as rookies in 2000.

"I think it's great to have both Sam and I up front racing together again," Fisher said. "We started racing as little kids together and took different routes and I think that illustrates there is not just one single way to get to a higher level of racing. People ask me, what is the one specific way to get there? There isn't really one specific way. Sam and I really demonstrate that.

"I don't really remember the first time I raced against him," she added. "Sam and I were both under four feet tall, that's for sure. But I do remember it was a big family thing. Sam traveled down with his parents and I traveled down with mine. We raced quite a bit everywhere over the Eastern United States. It was very competitive. There is a lot of respect for Sam and it's really neat to be racing against him now after so many years. We are out there every weekend pushing it to the limit and we have the talent it takes to really do well."

Now that Hornish has established himself as one of the sport's youngest and best drivers, his next goal could be the youngest winner in Indy 500 history. That honor belongs to the late Troy Ruttman, who was just a shade over 22 when he won the 1952 Indianapolis 500.

"I've been thinking about that for a long time now," Hornish said. "It gives me a little more confidence going in. This race today is going to be a lot like how Indy will be. It's going to be warm, it's going to be windy and gusty at times and it will be a race of patience. That is why the guys tell me to focus, focus, focus.

"I heard the name Troy Ruttman. I knew that he was young. I didn't assume that I ever had the chance. Hopefully, we can go back there and run competitive and hopefully today is a stepping stone to get to Indy. I know a lot of people will start thinking that I have a good chance to win Indy, but knowing that I should win Indy, I don't want to put that much pressure on myself going into it. I know I should be competitive there and if I run clean all day long and don't make any mistakes, we will be running up towards the front again."

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