Track: Kansas Speedway
Date: Sunday, July 8, 2001
Start time: 12:04 PM MDT
Weather: Sunny, warm, windy
IRL historical: #8 of 13 in 2001 season, IRL race #51 overall
Track historical: IRL race #1, Indy car race #1 at this track
Track configuration: 1.52-mile D-oval, flat track
Wing package: Speedway
The IRNLS inagurated Indy racing at the new Kansas Speedway with a thrilling race. In qualifying and practice, e xtremely hot weather with temperatures exceeding 100 degrees F caused concern for the health of the participants and spectators, but fortunately race day was somewhat cooler with temps in the 80s at race start. Scott Sharp won the pole, but Eddie Cheever served notice that the Infinti 35A would have to be reckoned with by qualifying second, the best starting position ever for both the driver and the engine.
The day went bad for Greg Ray even before the race started; he pulled in after the first parade lap with an engine miss, which turned out to be caused by a faulty fuel injector. The laps it cost to replace it put Ray out of contention, even though he was one of the fastest cars in the race after finally joining the action. On the start, Sharp initially held off Cheever, but Eliseo Salazar got a good jump from his third starting positon and passed both of the for the lead on the back stretch, which Cheever following him around Sharp to reclaim second. The draft was felt immedately and Salazar initially was unable to pull away. Meanwhile Mark Dismore, who had started seventh, was back to 18th by lap 5 with poor handling. Robbie Buhl was working his way up and by lap 10 had passed Sam Hornish for fourth; on that lap Salazar had started finally to stretch a bit of a lead on Cheever and Sharp, followed by Buhl and Hornish, with Donnie Beechler, Billy Boat, and rookie Felipe Giaffone following and the Lazier brothers, Buddy and Jaques, finishing up the top-10. On lap 16, a caution flew for Billy Roe's blown engine on the back stretch. During this caution the leaders stayed out, but some cars that were near the end of the lead lap pitted. Dismore needed news tires, and Airton Dare, Robby McGehee (just back from his Texas accident and still sporting a steel rod in his right leg), and Sarah Fisher all pitted for adjustments; Fisher pitted again for a fuel top-off just before the green on lap 26. On the restart, Cheever got the jump and moved up outside of Salazar but couldn't complete the pass; the two engaged in a wheel to wheel duel while the field stacked up behind them. On lap 33 Cheever dropped back and then made an inside move in turn 3 to take the lead. Then Hornish went on the move; he passed Sharp for third on lap 40, and took second from Salazar a lap later. Meanwhile B. Lazier was reporting being stuck in fourth gear. Hornish made the draft work for him and he slingshotted Cheever exiting turn 2 on lap 47, as Cheever momentarily got hung up behind Fisher who was trying to stay on the lead lap. However, like Cheever had found earlier, Hornish couldn't pull away and the two remained engaged with Cheever retaking the lead on lap 51, only to have Hornish stay alongside and edge Cheever at the line on lpa 53.
Green flag pit stops began. Buhl pitted on lap 58 along with B. Lazer and rookie Didier Andre. Howver, it wasn't a normal stop for Buhl: Inexplicably, his engine blew in the pit lane. Salazar pitted on lap 59, followed by Cheever and Boat a lap later, handing the lead to Hornish. Then, on the next lap Hornish and Sharp pitted, momentarily giving the lead to Giaffone. He pitted on the next lap, giving the lead to Dismore who was off sequence due to his early handling problems. Dare, who had also pitted early, held second. As the leaders lapped with full tanks, Dismore stretched out a 5-second lead over Dare, and with some of the earlier leaders a lap down, he was looking for a yellow.
No such luck, though. Dare had to pit on lap 70 and Dismore on the next lap. It went bad for Dismore at this point; he spun exiting the pits and stopped with his nose pointed at with the pit wall, unable to move lacking a reverse gear. His team had to rush down and push the car off, and Dismore rejoined the race a lap down. Right after that, a yellow was thrown for debris in turn 1. Dismore's bad fortune was good fortune for McGehee, who had not yet pitted and now found himself with the lead having made up the time he lost early in the race thanks to the pit strategy. Under this yellow, Mcgehee pitted, handing the lead to Hornish. The green flew on lap 80, and two laps later Cheever moved up alongside to retake the lead. The two ran alongside with Sharp in tow, trying to figure out which draft he wanted, while the two Foyt cars of Salazar and Beechler dueled for fourth with Beechler emerging with the position on lap 86.
On lap 87, a yellow waved for debris on the front stretch. Again, the leaders stayed out but some cars at the tail end of the lead lap pitted, including B. Lazier, McGehee, and Fisher who took fuel only. The green waved on lap 90, and this time it was Sharp's turn to get the jump on the restart and pull off a three-wide pass going into turn 1 for the lead. But on the back stretch Hornish took it back. Beechler was on the move and he passed Sharp for second, and then on lap 94 ducked under Hornish in turn 1 for the lead. Cheever then took second and moved up outside of Beechler, and they went at it. Cheever edged Beechler at the line on lap 97 and gradually pulled ahead. At the halfway mark Cheever led Hornish, Beechler, Boat, and Sharp, with Gaffone, J. Lazier, Shigeaki Hattori, Dare, and Salazar making up the top-10.
On lap 104 a yellow flew for Jon Herb's blown engine in turn 4. All of the leaders pitted; B. Lazier and McGehee stayed out, taking the first two postions, and Cheever won the race out of the pits to take third. Hornish stalled in the pits and dropped back to the end of theline. At the restart on lap 110, Cheever quickly disposed of McGehee and went to work on Lazier. Lacking fifth or sixth gear, Lazier did a fine job of holding off Cheever but the outcome was inevtable, and Cheever took the lead on lap 119. Hornish, trying to get back towards the front, made a great save after getting into the marbles and nearly hitting the wall in turn 2 on lap 122. Meanwhile Sharp and Lazier were side by side for second. Misfortune found Jaques Lazier, who had been running consistently in the top-10, when his engine failed on lap 125, leaving eleven cars on the lead lap. Dare had worked his way up and challenged Lazier for third on lap 134. Meanwhile, Sharp was trying to run down the flying Cheever. And that was when it happened...
As a national TV audience watched live on Sharp's in-car camera, as he traversed turn 4 they saw his hands jerk to the right a bit, back to the left, and suddenly the car was pointed at the infield. The car spun around and hit hard on the left side. TV replays appeared to show something, perhaps the right rear air deflector, flying off of the car as the spin started; it was never adequetely explained but the car spun so abruptly that even Sharp himself, in a later interview (after being released from the infield hospital, fortunately without injury) expressed surprise. Most of the leaders pitted but McGehee again stayed out; Cheever had the fastest stop followed by Hornish. Buzz Calkins had to make two pit stops when he got a flat tire driving through the accident area after his first stop. Giaffone's crew found some damage apparently from his having struct debris during the accident, and he had to pit a second time for right front suspension repairs. The Treadway team did a bang-up job of changing a bent toe link and got Giaffone back out without losing a lap. The cleanup took some time, and McGehee, Fisher, and Giaffone pitted again at the end of the caution. McGehee took on tires, but they didn't get the right rear on properly and it fell off as McGehee exited the pits, costing him time while the crew ran down to push the car back to the pit while the green flag waved on the track. The green didn't last long as Jaret Schroeder spun and backed into the inside wall in turn 2 after the restart. Only Dare took advantage of this caution, for a fuel top-off and a tire pressure adjustment.
Finally on lap 157 the race was under way again, with cheever leading Hornish, Beechler, B. Lazier, and Boat. Hornish challenged on the restart but Cheever held him off as the order shuffled behind them; Giaffone got a good start and was temporarily up to third, but Beechler soon reclaimed that position. Cheever was able to pull away a bit, and it appeared that Hornish was holding up the show as the rest of the top-10 piled up behind him: Beecher, Giaffone, B. Lazer, Dare, Salazar, Hattori, Boat, and McGehee. But by lap 185 Cheever was in traffic and Hornsh began closing the gap. Cheever led by a second on lap 185; by lap 188 it was four-tenths, and by lap 190 Hornish was on his tail. Going into turn 3 on lap 191 Hornish ducked under Cheever and edged him at the line, moving ahead in turn 1.
Two laps later Cheever moved up on the outside but couldn't complete the pass. He had to back off in order to defend his postion from Beechler. On lap 196 it looked like Hornish's race, but the draft with Beechler was working to Cheever's advantage. On lap 198 they attempted to split Hornish coming out of turn 4; Beechler appeared to have the advantage for a moment but had to back out, and Cheever swept by on the low side to take thelead. He held off Hornish to win by a car length, with Beecher right behind. It was the first win for the much-anticipated Infiniti 35A engine. Shortly after the race Infiniti announced that they were finished with the developmental phase of the engine and, for the first time in two years, were seeking new customers. Hornish posted his third straight second-place finish to retain his points lead.
Fin St Qual Car C/E/T Driver Entrant Laps Status Laps Pts Spd # Led 1 2 216.085 51 D/I/F Eddie Cheever Cheever 200 Running 104 52 2 5 213.226 4 D/A/F Sam Hornish Panther 200 Running 25 40 3 11 212.222 11 D/A/F Donnie Beechler Foyt 200 Running 3 35 4 6 212.732 21 G/A/F Felipe Giaffone Treadway 200 Running 2 32 5 12 212.008 91 D/A/F Buddy Lazier Hemelgarn 200 Running 13 30 6 22 No Spd. 88 G/A/F Airton Dare Xtreme 200 Running 28 7 3 215.197 14 D/A/F Eliseo Salazar Foyt 200 Running 32 26 8 9 212.563 55 D/A/F Shigeaki Hattori Cunningham 200 Running 24 9 8 212.621 98 D/A/F Billy Boat Beck 200 Running 22 10 14 211.850 10 D/A/F Robby McGehee Cahill 200 Running 11 20 11 7 212.625 8 D/A/F Mark Dismore Kelley 199 Running 10 19 12 17 210.115 15 D/A/F Sarah Fisher Walker 197 Running 18 13 18 209.838 12 D/A/F Buzz Calkins Bradley 191 Running 17 14 10 212.249 2 D/A/F Greg Ray Menard 180 Running 16 15 20 206.654 9 D/A/F Jeret Schroeder PDM 147 Crash T2 15 16 16 210.255 32 G/A/F Didier Andre Galles 138 Clutch 14 17 1 216.175 8 D/A/F Scott Sharp Kelley 136 Crash T4 13 18 13 211.804 99 D/A/F Jaques Lazier Schmidt 123 Engine 12 19 19 208.614 6 D/A/F Jon Herb Tristar 101 Engine 11 20 15 210.691 3 G/A/F Al Unser Galles 82 Electrical 10 21 4 214.951 24 G/I/F Robbie Buhl D&R 54 Engine 9 22 21 205.426 81 G/A/F Billy Roe Zali 14 Engine 8
Laps under green: 156 of 200 laps (78.0%)
Caution flags: 6 for 55 laps (22.0%)
#1: lap 16, blown engine (Roe), T2, 11 laps
#2: lap 75, debris, FS, 5 laps
#3: lap 87, debris, T1, 3 laps
#4: lap 104, blown engine (Herb), T4, 6 laps
#5: lap 137, crash (Sharp), T4, 11 laps
#6: lap 149, crash (Schroeder), T2, 6 laps
Red flags: 0 for 0 minutes
Lead changes: 20; number of race leaders: 8
St: Salazar 1-32
#1: Cheever 33-46
#2: Hornish 47-49
#3: Cheever 50-52
#4: Hornish 53-59
#5: Giaffone 60-61
#6: Dismore 62-71
#7: McGehee 72-77
#8: Hornish 78-81
#9: Cheever 82-90
#10: Hornish 91-93
#11: Beechler 94-96
#12: Cheever 97-105
#13: Hornish 106
#14: B. Lazier 107-118
#15: Cheever 119-139
#16: B. Lazier 140
#17: McGehee 141-145
#18: Cheever 146-190
#19: Hornish 191-197
#20: Cheever 198-200
C/E/T finish averages (# started / avg finish):
Dallara: 16 / 10.3
G-Force: 6 / 14.8
Aurora: 20 / 11.6
Infiniti: 2 / 11.0
Firestone: 22 / 11.5