By finishing second behind Gil de Ferran at the Chevy 500 on Sunday, New Zealander Scott Dixon was crowned the 2003 Indy Racing League champion. The race was a closely contested and was stopped early because of a devastating accident.
By finishing second behind Gil de Ferran at the Chevy 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday, New Zealander Scott Dixon was crowned the 2003 Indy Racing League champion. The race was closely contested and was stopped early because of a devastating accident.
Victory Lane was sombre after the race, as the racing community waited to learn the condition of Kenny Brack, who was severely injured in a crash with 23-year-old Capetonian Tomas Scheckter on lap 187 of 200.
The Indy Racing League chose to halt the race short of the scheduled distance after debris lined the entire back straight from just beyond the exit of turn 2 into turn 3, flying yellow and checkered flags on lap 195. As such, the order of running at the end of that lap became the order of finish and it was an emotional moment for De Ferran, who had made his final appearance in the IRL.
"Winning the championship might have made the weekend better," De Ferran said. "After my four years with Marlboro Team Penske and these eight or nine years racing in America, to close out with this victory is incredible”.
By winning the race and with Dixon finishing second after nearly 300 miles of close running, de Ferran - who claimed two points for leading the most laps in his final contest - ended his career as runner-up in the championship. It was his fifth win in the IRL, but it wasn't without a few close calls, as the Brazilian fell to 18th after caution was called for contact between Felipe Giaffone and Alex Barron.
"I had a few close calls today," the Brazilian said. "One was with Tora when he swerved in front of me and we nearly touched and the other occurred when Scott and Felipe touched. I was trying to avoid him and I think his nose touched my left rear and nearly spun me around. So I was going down the grass at 200mph thinking, 'Okay, this is not much fun'."
Two stops under caution to assess any damage revealed none, and De Ferran was back on the pace. "So it all worked out great and I think it was another great strategy by (team boss Roger) Penske, certainly triggered by the accident." De Ferran's final stop for fuel on lap 167 lasted 7,9 seconds and enabled him to take a lead he wouldn't relinquish.
For Dixon, whose second place gave him the championship, it was another eventful day of driving to stay ahead of the four other competitors for the 2003 Indy Racing League IndyCar Series title. The Kiwi "knew Gil was very fast. It was hard to pass today on the high line, even with our very good car, which was so very balanced. We saved fuel much of the race, leaned back and waited until the last 20 laps.
"We couldn't really keep the car down low and I was running up high, especially on 2. I think everybody was sort of just saving fuel," as they ran in a pack for nearly all of the race, It was Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Helio Castroneves, De Ferran and Sam Hornish who were on top of the race nearly the whole way, trading positions back and forth as they've done all season.
That was, until the final 30 laps came into play. Then the championship swayed. Hornish - as he has since the Gen IV Chevy Indy V8 became available - moved through the ranks and would lead as the laps were winding down, trading the point with Dixon. Pitting on lap 152, Hornish came out and began to make his way to the front again, only to have difficulty getting back to speed.
"We just didn't make it to the end," Hornish said. "We had a really good car today and could move in and out of traffic. We're not really sure what happened, but we were spraying a little bit of oil so they made us come in." He would be classified 17th and end up fifth in the standings for Pennzoil Panther Racing.
Castroneves and Kanaan made contact on lap 179 after the fifth caution (out of six) for Richie Hearn's clout of the turn 3 wall. Kanaan would pit for a flat left-rear tyre on lap 181; Castroneves called at the pits on lap 183 and the duo would finish 13th (Castroneves) and 14th giving them third and fourth places, respectively, in the title chase.
With this duo's demise, British rookie Dan Wheldon, running Team 7-Eleven colors of Andretti Green Racing co-owner Michael Andretti, fulfilled his destiny to take Bombardier Rookie of the Year and third place in the final race of the year. Wheldon's closest competitor for rookie honors, Roger Yasukawa finished tenth after running mid-pack much of the day.
Vitor Meira finished fourth after losing a wheel in the first round of pit stops and Bryan Herta, who first joined Andretti Green Racing's team at the June Texas race, was fifth. Scott Sharp took sixth in a gutsy drive from 20th on the grid, while Tora Takagi earned seventh. Greg Ray finished eighth and Al Unser, who mixed it with the leaders during the middle of the race, finished ninth.
Original article from Car