Unser Jr. wins shootout for Bombardier 500 victoryPosted: Saturday June 07, 2003 10:43 PM
With one lap to go after a restart following a caution period in the Bombardier 500, Unser stayed on the low line. Kanaan, the IRL points leader, went high through the second turn.
"I was really worried about it. We've lost this thing by too close of a margin," Unser said. "He came around me and I was trying to stay close to him, but I came barreling through at the finish."
Kanaan edged slightly ahead going into the backstretch. But with the preferred line, Unser was back in front by the last turn and won by 0.0812 seconds, the seventh straight Texas race decided by less than a second.
"I wasn't confident enough I could make it, but I had to try," Kanaan said. "I got around him on the outside, but he did a great job. It was a great fight."
Last June, Unser finished second, 0.0111 seconds -- only inches -- behind Jeff Ward. The late caution made Unser fear that he might come up just short again.
Tora Takagi, who caused the wreck on the 191st lap that led to the last caution, finished third. Kenny Brack was fourth.
Takagi went inside and three-wide into the third turn on the 191st lap, and bumped Scott Sharp, Unser's Kelley Racing teammate who was running third at the time. Sharp's car was pushed up the track and slammed into Felipe Giaffone, Takagi's teammate.
It took IRL crews a long time to clean up the wreckage, and left time for only one more lap under green.
"I went into three with a head of speed. I've lost this race because somebody comes out of turn four and has been able to get by me," Unser said. "When I took a breath was in the middle of three and four, when I saw Tony sucked in behind me. As long as that thing didn't miss, we had it."
Unser took his Toyota-powered car across the line first for his third IRL win, his first his first in 20 races since winning at Gateway in 2001. This was his 40th IRL start.
After leading a record 221 laps in his previous six Texas appearances, he led 54 more on Saturday night in the 12th IRL race at the 11/2-mile track. The two-time Indianapolis 500 winner won with an average speed of 168.213 mph, slowed from a pace of about 190 mph when 19 of the last 26 were under caution.
Unser had gained the lead when polesitter Tomas Scheckter pitted after 150 laps, then had problems in the pit. He led all but one lap after that.
Scheckter led 145 laps, but had already lost the lead because of a problem in the pit when something broke in the car and he slammed into the wall along the backstretch on the 175th lap.
"We really have no idea, obviously something sudden and obviously something broke on the car," car owner Chip Ganassi said. "The good thing is Tomas is OK, and we can get another car."
Scheckter was coming out of the second turn when sparks started flying from the back of the car. He lost control, and the car hit the outside wall before sliding across the track and slamming hard against the inside barrier.
After that lengthy caution, Unser held the lead on the restart on the 186th lap, and he and Kanaan went side-by-side. Kanaan had his only official lead at the end of next lap, by a nose, but Unser regained the lead after that.
It was the second time Scheckter started from the pole at Texas and led more than half of the race without finishing.
After coming in for service at the end of the 150th lap with the lead, Scheckter left his pit box with the gas nozzle still attached to the car. As he pulled away, the hose broke loose and ignited a blaze that caught a crewman on fire. The blaze was quickly extinguished and the crewman was fine.
Scheckter was penalized for the incident, and by time he made his drive-through penalty, he had dropped to 15th place.
"We had a dominating car, but I'm sick of dominating," Scheckter said. "I want to win one of these races that we lead laps and have the car to beat."
Last June, Scheckter led 107 laps and was leading when he came in after 159 laps for his last scheduled stop before a clutch problem ended his night. Scheckter also led a race-high 63 laps at the Indianapolis 500, where he finished fourth last month.
Indianapolis 500 champion Gil de Ferran had handling problems with his car early, going into the pits 30 laps into the race and dropping from sixth to 20th and losing a lap. He worked his way back to finish eighth, a lap down.
Bryan Herta, in his first IndyCar Series start filling in for injured Andretti Green driver Dario Franchitti, finished fifth. Scott Dixon, who started on the front row with his Ganassi teammate, finished sixth, and Helio Castroneves was seventh.
There have been five different winners this year, four of them in Toyota-powered machines.