Hornish, rivals look for better day at Indy

Friday, May 24, 2002

INDIANAPOLIS -- Sam Hornish Jr. is determined not to make any mistakes in his third Indianapolis 500.

Hornish, the defending Indy Racing League champion and its current points leader, has been a force at most tracks since arriving on the Indy-car scene -- but not at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

He made his debut as a precocious 20-year-old in 2000 and finished 24th, crashing out of the race after 153 of 200 laps.

Last year, Hornish embarrassed himself by spinning on cold tires on a restart 18 laps into the 500. He flattened all four tires, lost four laps in the pits and wound up 14th.

He can't wait for Sunday and a chance at redemption.

"We're really excited about the race," he said Thursday after his lap of 225.279 mph placed him second to Tony Kanaan's 225.752 as all 33 starters made it onto the 2 1/2-mile oval for the traditional "Carburetion Day," the only practice in the week between the end of qualifying and the start of the race.

"You just have to try and come back to it and see if you can do a better job," Hornish said. "Last year, I made a mistake and I'm going to try to limit the problems this time.

"The whole month we've been trying to take things easy and do things logically and not get ahead of ourselves and not peak until race day. ... It's hard to maintain your focus for the whole month."

HONDA JOINS IRL: The Indy Racing League struck another major blow in its battle with CART for supremacy of American open-wheel racing, announcing that Honda will join the series in 2003 as a fourth engine manufacturer.

Honda has built turbocharged engines for Championship Auto Racing Teams since 1994, but the company decided in October that this would be its last year after CART adopted a formula similar to the IRL's normally aspirated V-8 machines.

Initially, Honda planned to drop out of American open-wheel racing altogether, then reversed course by reaching a stunning partnership with Ilmor Engineering Inc. to enter the IRL for the first time.

COCA-COLA 600: Rookie Jimmie Johnson setting an event record in winning the pole for the Winston Cup even at Lowe's Motor Speedway near Charlotte, N.C.

Johnson ran a top lap of 186.464 mph, beating the mark of 186.034 set by Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2000. It was the third pole of Johnson's marvelous season -- he's already gotten his first career victory and is seventh in the points standings.

-- From wire reports

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