Hornish has soft spot for Chicagoland

Updated: September 11, 2004, 11:49 PM ET
Associated Press

JOLIET, Ill. -- Looking at the stats, Sam Hornish Jr. appears to be struggling.

The two-time Indy Racing League champion hasn't won since Homestead, the first race of the year. He's finished out of the top 10 in his last three races, and has dropped to sixth in the championship race, 189 points behind Tony Kanaan.

But don't bet against Hornish this week.

"Chicagoland is a good track for me,'' Hornish said after qualifying seventh for Sunday's Delphi Indy 300.

Good? That's a bit of an understatement. Hornish has won the last two races at the Chicagoland Speedway, and was runner-up to Jaques Lazier in 2001. He also won the pole in 2002.

Hornish's victories were two of the most exciting in open-wheel history, too. In 2002, he nosed ahead of Al Unser Jr. in the final turn and held on to win by .0024 seconds, the closest Indy car finish ever.

Last year, Hornish won by .0099 seconds, edging Scott Dixon and Bryan Herta in the IRL's closest 1-2-3 finish.

"It's all about the draft, being patient and making the right move at the right time,'' Hornish said. "You never know what is going to happen on race day. But hopefully, things will work out for us, we'll have good pit stops and bring home a strong finish.''

Still trying
Buddy Rice's quest for a record came up short again.

Rice has won five poles this year, one shy of the IRL single-season mark set in 1998 by Billy Boat. Rice had the fastest qualifying lap at the Delphi Indy 300 for about five minutes Saturday, only to get bumped by points leader Tony Kanaan and pole winner Helio Castroneves.

Rice wound up qualifying third, at 213.843 mph.

"It was a pretty good number for us,'' said Rice, the Indianapolis 500 winner. "We have a very good race car, and that is what we are looking for on Sunday.''

Back of the pack
Tomas Scheckter will start last in the 22-car field in Sunday's Delphi Indy 300 after sitting out qualifying.

Scheckter's crew discovered a problem with his engine during Saturday morning's practice session. Rather than take a chance with it in qualifying, his crew decided to switch engines.

"That way we can run the race motor in the last practice session (Saturday), and we can be a lot stronger tomorrow,'' Scheckter said. "The car will be great tomorrow, and we'll work our way to the front again.''

Eye of the storm
Scott Sharp has more on his mind this week than Sunday's race.

Sharp lives in Jupiter, Fla., and his family has been evacuated twice because of hurricanes that have wreaked havoc throughout the state. He and his family went to Naples for three days to get out of the way of Hurricane Frances, which hit last week. Now his family is in Orlando bracing for Ivan, which could hit Florida as early as Monday.

"It's been rough,'' Sharp said Saturday. "We're still without power. We have a lot of vegetation damage, a lot of trees down and bushes ripped up. Luckily, the structure of the house is fine.''

Wire to wire
Thiago Medeiros finished the Infiniti Pro Series' Chicagoland 100 right where he started: in first place.

Medeiros led all 67 laps of the race, edging Jeff Simmons by .0586 seconds to earn his fifth win of the season in the IRL's developmental series. Al Unser was third and Arie Luyendyk Jr. finished fourth.

The victory extended Medeiros' lead in the championship standings to 98 points with two races to go.

"It means a lot,'' he said. "If you want to be great, you have to be good. I made a few mistakes and I've learned from that. I'm just trying to do my best and learn from my mistakes.''

Kyle Krisiloff has the driving down. Now he needs to work on his victory celebration.

Krisiloff fell out of his window as he tried to climb out of the car after winning ARCA's ReadyHosting.com 200 on Saturday afternoon. His crew members had to rush forward to catch him and keep him from falling to the ground.

"I'd fall every day if I could win a race every day,'' Krisiloff, nephew of IRL founder Tony George, said with a smile.

The victory was extra special because Krisiloff's entire family was on hand to see it. George was in town for Sunday's IRL race, the Delphi Indy 300, and grandmother Meri Hulman George was there, too.

"We signed up this deal to do three races, and for sure this was the one we were focusing on,'' Krisiloff said. "It means so much to win here in front of all my family. It's just so great.''

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press