Sunday, October 12, 2003

IRL's finale may be its best

Five drivers have shot at series title

The Associated Press

FORT WORTH, Texas - The Indy Racing League season is down to this: five drivers within 30 points of each other in a one-race, wheel-to-wheel shootout for the championship.

Gil de Ferran will be out front for the start of the season-ending Chevy 500 at Texas Motor Speedway today after winning the pole for the final start of his career.

"If I started to think about what it would take for me to win the championship, my head would start hurting," said de Ferran, who trails co-leaders Scott Dixon and Helio Castroneves by 30 points. "I'm actually trying not to think too much about the championship and retirement anyway."

Dixon will start on the outside of the front row, with Castroneves fifth, Tony Kanaan - seven points out of the lead - ninth and two-time defending series champion Sam Hornish Jr. - 19 points behind - 12th.

The 1 1/2-mile Texas oval lends itself to side-by-side racing and plenty of passing, minimizing starting position.

"The biggest thing about starting up front is you can stay out of the mess," said Dixon. "But, if you have a good car, you can get up front anyway."

Dixon and Castroneves - tied with 467 points after 15 races - and Kanaan have the clearest job. Each can wrap up the championship by winning.

Hornish goes into the 312-mile race as the hottest driver in the series with three wins and a runner-up finish in his last four starts.

Hornish has been a force since GM introduced the Cosworth-built GEN IV powerplant at the end of July.

"I feel the same way I've felt since we got the new engine: We have an opportunity to win," said Hornish, who after today will take de Ferran's seat at Marlboro Team Penske.

Castroneves was second last year, losing to Hornish by about a foot and finishing 20 points behind the champion. He thinks the race probably will come down to the last turn of the last lap on a track that has featured five of the 10 closest finishes in the IndyCar Series.

IRL today

Race: Chevy 500, Fort Worth, Texas.

Time/TV: 3:30 p.m./ESPN.

Track: Texas Motor Speedway (oval, 1.5 miles, 24 degrees).

Fast fact: Eight of the 12 IRL races at Texas Motor Speedway have had a margin of victory of less than a second.

Points race:

1. H.Castroneves 467
tie. Scott Dixon 467
3. T. Kanaan 460
4. S. Hornish Jr. 448
5. G. de Ferran 437

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IRL's finale may be its best

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