Hornish wins race on birthday
For far too long in Sunday's Kansas Lottery Indy 300, Sam Hornish Jr. had no one to look at in front of him.
And nothing to think about except for what might not turn out right.
"It seems like when you lead that many laps early," Hornish said, "that something always tends to go wrong."
There were no need for the worthless worries Sunday, as Hornish held off a late charge by Dan Wheldon to take the Kansas Lottery 300 by .0793 seconds.
The victory was Hornish's second straight and his third overall in the Indy Racing League season.
It wasn't without a challenge down the stretch from pole-sitter Wheldon. The two raced side-by-side in laps 197 and 198, with Wheldon taking a slight lead on the outside.
"The last couple of laps were a little bit of fun, but made me a little nervous, too," Hornish said. "Dan had a really good car."
Wheldon couldn't ever push past the inside car, however, falling behind Hornish in the final two laps.
"I tried for as long as I could. I was surprised that I stayed outside him for as many laps as I did," Wheldon said. "I was hoping I could go two more. Unfortunately, it wasn't to be."
With the victory, Hornish moved into first in the IRL standings. His 300 points put him 20 ahead of previous leader Helio Castroneves, who recovered to take sixth after colliding with the wall on lap 38.
"I thought when I crashed, that was it," Castroneves said, "but when my guys fixed the car, I was like, 'Wow, I'm still in it.'"
Vitor Meira continued his string of close calls at Kansas. After finishing within feet of victories the past two years, Meira came in third behind Hornish and Wheldon.
Unfortunately, the near-miss means the 29-year-old is still searching for his first checkered flag.
"We're six times close," Meira said. "Every weekend, we are working our way up. We are doing everything we can to get the first victory."
Scott Dixon came in fourth, and 2005 winner Tony Kanaan rounded out the top five.
Danica Patrick fell two laps behind the pace, finishing 11th.
With the runner-up finish, Wheldon maintained his spot at fourth in the standings despite his aggressive efforts to move up this week.
"Sometimes you have a winning car, and sometimes you don't," Wheldon said. "We just tried everything that we could. He was just a little bit quicker than us."
Hornish visited Victory Lane on his 27th birthday, leading 149 of the 200 laps.
"We are just going to keep going and trying to do the best that we can," Hornish said. "I think there's a lot of things we can do yet this season."