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Johnson Wins Race, Busch Wins the Prize

August 03, 2003|Shav Glick | Times Staff Writer

INDIANAPOLIS — The NASCAR drivers let Indy car driver Helio Castroneves have his day in the sun for a while Saturday, letting him lead the first 20 laps of the year's final International Race of Champions before six of them drafted by in half a lap.

"I was feeling like a pro for a moment, thinking, 'Hey, I'm not doing that bad,' but then those guys decided it was time to go," said the perplexed two-time Indianapolis 500 winner.

Jimmie Johnson was the first to pass the Brazilian and he continued on to win the 40-lap, 100-mile race, driving a garish-looking car that IROC officials described as "wild rose."

Kurt Busch, with a fourth-place finish in a violet-colored car, won the overall championship and its $250,000 prize. He was second in the first race at Daytona, won the second at Talladega, Ala., and third at Chicago.

"I have won local championships around home in Las Vegas, I won a Featherlite Southwest series, which was big in 1999," said the 24-year-old Winston Cup driver. "That and winning my first Winston Cup race [Atlanta last year] is a parallel with those two. It's great to be a champion once again."

Four-time champion Mark Martin, fifth Saturday, collected $125,000 as overall runner-up. NASCAR drivers took the first five positions. The first non-Winston Cup finisher was Scott Sharp of the Indy Racing League, a replacement for the injured Felipe Giaffone.

"Those guys, side-by-side, I don't know how they do it," Castroneves said. "Harvick was just pushing Jimmie like crazy [on a restart] and I was thinking, 'How is this possible?' It was fun, but you need to know how to find a draft."

Johnson averaged 135.287 mph for the 100 miles. The race was the last for True Value as a title sponsor after 20 seasons with IROC.

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