Hornish dominates IRL opener in Homestead

Posted: Sunday, March 03, 2002

HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- In a new season with plenty of new competition, IRL champion Sam Hornish Jr. put himself in the same old position Saturday: atop the series standings.

Hornish won IRL season opener, the Grand Prix of Miami, in dominating fashion. It was his fourth victory in two seasons and second straight at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Hornish lapped the field with about 65 laps remaining. Even though two late caution flags allowed insurgent Team Penske drivers Gil de Ferran and Helio Castroneves to get back on the lead lap, they never got close enough to challenge for the victory.

De Ferran, the two-time CART champion, finished second. Castroneves, last year's Indy 500 winner, was third in the caution-filled race. Jeff Ward was fourth, Eliseo Salazar fifth and rookie Tomas Scheckter sixth.

Sam's Town 300

LAS VEGAS -- If only Jeff Burton could run every weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The pole-winning driver came from behind following his final pit stop and pulled away to win by a full straightaway Saturday in the Sam's Town 300 Busch Series race.

''He was in another zip code,'' joked former series champion Jeff Green, who finished a distant fifth.

Burton has been dominating on the 1 1/2-mile oval in both Busch and Winston Cup. He now owns two victories and five top-10 finishes in as many Busch Series starts here and goes into Sunday's UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400 with two victories and a runner-up finish in four Cup starts.

He led 149 of the 200 laps on Saturday, averaging 123.796 mph in the race slowed by five cautions for 31 laps. It was the 16th Busch victory for Burton.

Australian Grand Prix

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Michael Schumacher won the Australian Grand Prix for the third straight year Sunday, avoiding a pileup at the start and easily holding off Juan Pablo Montoya.

The two-time defending Formula One champion raced to his 54th career victory, completing 58 laps on the 3.295-mile Albert Park course in 1 hour, 35 minutes, 36.792 seconds.

Montoya was second, 18.6 seconds behind the German star.

''We're nicely surprised we were able to get through here,'' said Schumacher, who drove a 2001 car because Ferrari hasn't fully tested its 2002 model.

Kimi Raikkonen was third in his first race for McLaren as the replacement for two-time world champion Mika Hakkinen.

Only eight cars finished the season-opening race, with Schumacher, Montoya and Raikkonen the only ones on the lead lap.

Eddie Irvine, the 1999 winner in Australia, finished fourth, and Australian rookie Mark Webber was fifth in a Toyota in the Japanese company's first Formula One start.

Ralf Schumacher, Michael's younger brother, wiped out pole winner Rubens Barrichello in a multicar wreck at the start that cut the field in half.

''I didn't know what was going on,'' Michael Schumacher said. ''It was just cars flying everywhere. I was afraid to turn into the first corner. I drove wide through the grass, which was probably a good decision.''

Ralf Schumacher overtook his brother for second place, then slammed into the back of Barrichello's Ferrari. The Williams BMW climbed over the back of Barrichello's car at the first turn and catapulted into a speed trap before crashing into a wall.

''It was so frightening,'' Ralf Schumacher said. ''Going airborne in an aircraft is a lot nicer than going airborne in an F1 car, which is not really made for that.''

The pileup behind the initial wreck claimed Giancarlo Fisichella's Jordan, the Saubers of Felipe Massa and Nick Heidfeld, Jenson Button's Renault, Olivier Panis' BAR and Alan McNish's Toyota. None of the drivers were injured.

The accident occurred during the restart after both Arrows stalled in the scheduled start, leaving Enrique Bernoldi and Heinz-Harald Frentzen stranded on the track.

Ralf Schumacher said he tried to pass inside and outside but Barrichello ''closed the door'' on him both times.

''He tried to brake into the first corner,'' Ralf Schumacher said. ''I thought it was a bit early, but he definitely changed the road twice too much and we are only allowed to do it one, so that's the main problem. ... It's a shame, it was a good start. It could have been a great race.''

Barrichello didn't accept fault.

''Even if he thinks that I moved too many times, I moved back to the left probably a centimeter or so,'' the Brazilian said. ''If he wanted to overtake on the outside he should have moved a lot farther.''

Eleven cars completed the first racing lap and the field was down to eight in the last 10 laps.

Montoya swooped into the lead in the 11th lap, passing Michael Schumacher on the inside, but the German regained the lead at the start of lap 17.

''I was holding him and holding him until he was going to find a way past,'' Montoya said. ''He drove around the outside. It was like I was parked. He just drove into the distance.''

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