Monday, August 18, 2003

Chevy's new engine viewed as an equalizer

Belterra Casino Indy 300 notebook

By Colleen Kane
The Cincinnati Enquirer

SPARTA, Ky. - Sam Hornish, Jr. won the Belterra Casino Indy 300 with a new Chevrolet engine, and the change didn't leave the Toyota and Honda drivers in the IndyCar Series very happy.

"Who's the giant, Sam or Chevy?" said second place Scott Dixon, who drives with a Toyota engine. "There's no way his car was that superior in handling. That thing definitely had a lot of horsepower."

Sunday's race was the first time in which all Chevrolet drivers were allowed to use the new Gen IV Chevy V-8 engine. Chevrolet submitted a special request to make revisions to their engine in mid-season.

For the first time in League history, IRL officials allowed Chevrolet to make those revisions to the package mid-term (which is three years long), and the new engine was approved July 19. Toyota and Honda had their packages ready to go at the beginning of the IRL season.

"Obviously, Chevy dropped the ball. I don't see why Honda and Toyota should be disadvantaged," Dixon said. "I think it's good for competition, but it's just unfair."

Other drivers shared similar thoughts.

"It doesn't sit real well," said third-place Bryan Herta, who drives a Honda engine.

Chevy drivers have a different opinion.

"We're part of the game now, and that's all we want," said seventh-place Robbie Buhl. "We were flat out for the last 30 laps and working our way back up passing cars. Passing cars. Man, what a great feeling."

Of the six Chevrolet drivers, only Hornish and Buhl finished in the top 10.

Hornish had tested the engine at Michigan.

"I didn't sit and whine when we were 60 horsepower down at the beginning of the year, so I don't know what their problem is," Hornish said. "And we were running about equal to them when we were 60 horsepower down at six races this year. They've got to expect when we get that extra horsepower we're gonna be a little quicker than they are."

Chevrolet didn't release how much more horsepower it has gained with its new engine.

QUICK CAUTION: An IndyCar Series record one caution flag for 10 laps slowed Sunday's race.

On lap 147, Kenny Brack's car sprung an oil leak that caused the back of his car to catch fire for the only caution of the race. Leader Hornish was averaging nearly 211.5 mph before the caution.

"I heard, 'Go low on the track.' I thought someone hit the wall on the outside. I didn't know the yellow was for me," Brack said. "Wow, I couldn't believe it. So, I went to the pits pretty fast and jumped out. I'm OK ... Boy, our season has gone bad these last three races."

Brack got off to a bad start Sunday morning, spinning while he was exiting the pits in the final practice session.

The car was towed back to the pits, and he was ready to go for the start. Brack moved up six spots to ninth in the first five laps but dropped back to 12th, 100 laps into the race before the problems.

The previous mark for the least number of cautions was two at Walt Disney World in 1997. It was also the longest a race has gone without caution.

TRACK CONDITIONS: Despite many efforts to repair the Kentucky Speedway track, drivers still complained of bumps in turns 2 and 3 of the track.

"This track is bumpy. It lends itself to move the car around a bit," Hornish said. "You have to have a good handle on it."

BAD DAY: Sunday wasn't the day to relive former successes at Kentucky Speedway.

While defending champion Felipe Giaffone watched the race from the pits because of injury, his Mo Nunn Racing replacement driver Alex Barron left the race with a faulty fuel pump on lap 100.

"The car was running real good. We had a good balance for the race," Barron said. "Unfortunately, our fuel pump let go and put us out of the race. That's the way it goes."

It was the third race Barron has yet to finish this season. Barron has raced for Giaffone since he was injured in a crash at Kansas Speedway July 6.

Meanwhile, last year's pole-sitter, Sarah Fisher, and two-time champion Buddy Lazier struggled.

Fisher eventually finished in 14th and Lazier moved to 16th. 2001 Belterra pole-sitter Scott Sharp finished 13th.



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