Bombardier Learjet 550K
Lone Star Jr.
by Esteban Morales
June 9 , 2007
Despite several strong showings in 2007, last year’s Indianapolis 500 champ Sam Hornish Jr. arrived at Texas Motor Speedway looking for his first victory of the season. Prior to the start of the Bombardier Learjet 550k Hornish and his Penske Racing crew were surprised to see Team Rahal’s Scott Sharp snatch pole position in the closing stages of qualifying. Though Sharp recorded his first pole this year Hornish easily took the lead down the front straight once the green flag dropped. Sharp was shuffled down to fifth during the first ten laps as Tony Kanaan, Danica Patrick, and Dan Wheldon fought to join Hornish at the front. Wheldon continued his forward momentum by moving around Patrick for third and challenging Kanaan for second in the opening stages.
Wheldon took second from Kanaan on lap 29 but had to wait until the first set of pit stops to lead the event. The British driver dove into pit lane on lap 46 just before Jon Herb, who was making his second appearance this year, collided while slowing to enter the pits. Once the stops cycled through Wheldon emerged in the lead with teammate Scott Dixon in second followed by Kanaan, Dario Franchitti, and Sam Hornish Jr. With the green flag out on lap 58 Hornish began to carve his way back to the front and engaged in a wheel to wheel battle with Wheldon on lap 76. Wheldon held off Hornish’s bid until a second yellow flew on lap 87 after Marco Andretti and Tomas Scheckter made light contact that sent Scheckter sliding down the front straight and infield; a frustrated Scheckter climbed out of his cockpit and tossed his gloves at Andretti’s car during the yellow.
Wheldon entered the pits during the caution and kept his lead while Hornish fell one spot to third. Hornish drove back to the front just two laps after the restart and continued to dominate the event while a persistent Danica Patrick kept the leaders within striking distance. Further back in the pack Marco Andretti’s abysmal season continued; the youngest racer of the Andretti clan slowed on lap 133 due to gearbox woes. Less than ten laps after Andretti’s retirement Hornish was the first of the leaders to pit. With the sequence completed Hornish emerged a crushing 4.8 seconds ahead of his closest competitor Scott Dixon. Hornish continued to extend his lead while the Target Chip Ganassi Racing cars of Dixon and Wheldon lost valuable time by fighting for second. Though Wheldon ultimately took over second Hornish’s lead grew to over 7 seconds just before he entered the pits for his final stop under the lights on lap 188.
One lap after Hornish emerged in the lead the yellow flew a final time for a collision involving six cars. The melee began when A.J. Foyt IV’s Dallara lost a wheel on lap 197 in turns 3 and 4. Darren Manning avoided the bouncing tire by grazing the SAFER Barrier in turns 3 and 4 while Ed Carpenter and Scott Dixon touched, spun, and collected Dan Wheldon and Helio Castroneves in the process. Hornish led Kanaan, Patrick, Franchitti, Vitor Meira, and the rest to the final restart of the night. With ten laps left Hornish, Kanaan, and Patrick broke away from the pack and looked set to deliver another classic TMS finish. Though Kanaan and Patrick bobbed in and out of Hornish’s draft neither driver was able to earnestly challenge Hornish who recorded his third Texas win. Patrick crossed the line in third and picked up her first career podium while teammate Dario Franchitti’s fourth kept him atop the championship standings.