Green calls weekend a success
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Former team owner Barry Green could not have been much happier after his first experience as a race promoter.
Green, who used to employ Michael Andretti as a driver in the CART series, came out of retirement to work with the Andretti Green Racing, co-owned by Andretti, his brother Kim Green and Kevin Savoree, to promote the first street race in the history of the Indy Racing League.
The three-day Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg was apparently an artistic and financial success.
"We've been working on this a long time and we projected 40,000 to 50,000 people for the three days,'' Green said. "Then, as it got closer and the excitement here began to build, we raised that to 50,000 to 60,000.
"Then, this week, we thought 60,000 to 70,000 for the three days and I think we easily surpassed that. We were still selling (general admission) tickets an hour after the race started today.''
The weather for Sunday was perfect, with temperatures in the 70s, sunny skies and little humidity. Green wouldn't say how big the crowd was, but it was estimated by local officials that it exceeded 30,000.
"And the racing was fantastic, about as good as you're going to get on a street course,'' Green said. "We've already been working on 2006 and we're going to make it even better.''
Sam Hornish Jr., a two-time IndyCar Series champion coming off a victory two weeks ago in Phoenix, didn't have the kind of experience he'd hope for in the first big league street race of his career.
"Our plan was to be patient, conservative and make it to the end,'' said Hornish, who crashed out 15 laps from the end and wound up 15th in the 20-car field. "We had a good start and all was going well in the first couple of stints. It was looking like we were going to have a top-10 finish.''
But Hornish tried to pass Kosuke Matsuura on lap 86 of the 100-lap event and realized he wasn't going to make it.
"I went to brake and get in line to make the turn and I got hit from behind by the No. 2 car,'' he said, referring to rookie Tomas Enge. "His nose went through my suspension and the two cars were hooked together.
"I tried to turn but the tire was flat and there was nothing I could do. Unfortunately, it was one of those days. It's too bad. I was having a lot of fun out there.''
His Marlboro Team Penske teammate didn't have any better luck.
After starting second behind pole winner Bryan Herta, Helio Castroneves was running with a group of leaders as they tried to pass the lapped car of A.J. Foyt IV on lap 13. Foyt and Castroneves came together, knocking both out of the race.
The poor showings knocked Hornish from first to third in the season points and left Castroneves fourth behind new leader Dan Wheldon, the race winner.
Experience no help
Experience didn't do much for Darren Manning and Patrick Carpentier, the only drivers in Sunday's IndyCar Series race who also ran here in the CART event in 2003, the only other race on this circuit.
Manning did run among the leaders, but wound up ninth after a late-race bump with eventual runner-up Tony Kanaan. Carpentier, in his first season in the IRL, finished just ahead of the Englishman in eighth.
"I feel like I saved too much of the car, but we made a lot of progress this weekend,'' Carpentier said. "We ran with the leaders consistently, which was the first time this year that we have done that. It was a good show.''
Dario Franchitti finished third Sunday and his wife, actor Ashley Judd, also had a good day. She got to spend time in the pits with sister Wynonna Judd, who sang the National Anthem. ... Wheldon averaged 83.140 mph on the way to the victory. He also had the fast lap in the race at 101.882. ... The winner led only the final 10 laps. ... Buddy Rice, last year's Indianapolis 500 winner and a preseason favorite to win the IndyCar title, finished seventh Sunday, the first time he has completed a race this season. His Team Rahal teammate, Danica Patrick, the only woman in the field, finished 12th despite having a gearbox replaced during the race.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
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