BROOKLYN, Mich. - When eventual Firestone 400 winner Alex Barron and third-place finisher Tomas Scheckter got into a little shunt with 36 laps remaining yesterday, emotions ran high as Barron went low, spinning 180 degrees before somehow saving his car from going full circle.
“I wasn't really scared because we were spinning away from the wall,” Barron said. “I was more worried about the fact that we could damage the car and then such a great day could turn into a disaster. But the car took off, the race went yellow, we pitted, and we were right back in the ball game.”
Barron was eighth on the restart, but quickly back in the hunt for the lead.
Barron's car owner, Mo Nunn, said that when he saw a car going off to the wall he muttered, “`Oh, here we go again.' The little hair I got left went from silver to white. He collected it very well.”
Scheckter held on as his car wiggled a little and he had to slow momentarily, but suffered no damage.
“I didn't even know what my spotter was saying,” Scheckter stated. “He was like, `Low, high, low, behind, looking.' I felt like switching it [the radio] off after a while.”
It was not the first time a driver brought out a yellow with a spin and then went on to win. The most famous incident was in 1985 when Danny Sullivan spun on Lap 120 of the Indy 500 but went on to victory. In the 1998 Indy 500, Eddie Cheever did a quarter-spin on the first lap to avoid another driver and won. And Danny Ongais spun in Turn4 but went on to win the second of the Norton Twin 200 Indy-car races at MIS in 1977.
HELIO'S HOPES LEAK AWAY: Former two-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves exited yesterday's race after just 70 laps when he developed a problem many race fans have likely experienced - a leaky radiator. Castroneves had been running with the leaders for the early portions of the race after starting in the third position. “We were running very strong and I was having a lot of fun, but unfortunately we developed a little leak and it turned out to be a big problem,” Castroneves said.
YANKS FINISH 1-2: American drivers were first and second in yesterday's race, accomplishing one of the elusive goals of the Indy Racing League, which was to put more Yanks in the cars. Runner-up Sam Hornish, Jr., said the people complaining about there being too many foreign drivers on the circuit need to take a look at the sport first.
“We always do the best that we can, but people need to understand that there's not a lot of opportunities out here,'' Hornish said. “A lot of people say `how come there aren't more Americans?' - well, you're trying to narrow down the world, and yeah, there's a lot of foreign guys, but we've also got a lot of foreign sponsors. It's just tough to narrow it down to just a question of what country the driver is from. You have to get the right opportunity, and I am just proud that things have worked out so well for me, and that I've had the opportunities that I've had.''
PENSKE SAYS NO: Team owner Roger Penske dispelled rumors that he would run a third car next season with Sam Hornish of Defiance as the driver.
“Everyone asks me if I'm going to run three cars next year and I said I'm only going to run two,” Penske said. “He [Hornish] obviously is as good a driver as there is out there, but I've got two pretty good guys myself [Helio Castroneves and Gil de Ferran].”
TAYLOR WINS: Mark Taylor of London, England, won a series record fifth IRL Infiniti Pro Series race yesterday at MIS.
DOKKEN RELEASED: Michael Dokken was released from an Ann Arbor hospital last night. The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver had been hospitalized since breaking a bone at the base of his skull Friday during a practice session at MIS.