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NOTES

Rookie Foyt Is Impact Player

May 26, 2003|Mike Kupper and Shav Glick | Times Sports Writers

INDIANAPOLIS — It's hard to be anonymous in a race if your name is A.J. Foyt IV, but the young driver -- it was his 19th birthday -- was noticed for more than his name in Sunday's Indianapolis 500.

He finished only 18th, completing 189 of 200 laps, but was still running at the finish and it could truly be said that he played a crucial role in the outcome of the race.

He got in the middle of a late-race battle for the lead between teammates Helio Castroneves and Gil de Ferran. In fact, he got in front of Castroneves and while he was making up his mind how best to get out of the way, De Ferran passed Castroneves and went on to win the race.

Castroneves was gracious about it, referring to Foyt simply as a back marker until pressed for a name, then simply saying, "A.J," treating the encounter very much as simply racing.

Young Anthony?

He had a lot on his mind.

"It was definitely a long day," he said. "I had incidents. Three times I should have crashed, but I didn't. I feel lucky and glad we got the experience."

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Sunday's race was the closest 1-2-3 Indy 500 finish. Only 1.2475 seconds separated winner De Ferran from third-place finisher Tony Kanaan. The previous record was 1.881 seconds, the gap between winner Bobby Rahal and third-place Rick Mears in 1986.

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De Ferran was driving car No. 6 for Penske Racing. The last time car No. 6 won, Mears was driving it, in 1984, for Penske. Only two other drivers won in No. 6, Wilbur Shaw in 1937 and Bob Sweikert in 1955.

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Roger Penske has a problem. He won his 14th Indianapolis 500 as a car owner Sunday, but De Ferran's win in a G Force chassis complicated the future plans of his team. That is because Castroneves, his two-time champion who finished second, drives a Dallara chassis.

"At this point, we can't be taking two chassis to every race," Penske said. "We have to make that decision pretty quick. I think for the next race, in Texas [June 7], we will run the Dallaras. We tested with them there. Then we must decide."

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De Ferran, born in Paris of Brazilian parents, became the 16th foreign-born driver to win the 500 and the fourth in a row, following Kenny Brack (Sweden), Juan Montoya (Colombia) and Castroneves (Brazil).

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Sarah Fisher's fourth 500 ended as her shortest. The only woman in the race did a 180-degree spin and hit the wall on Lap 14, ending her day.

"There's not much we can really do about what happened," she said. "The motor just blew up when we were going into Turn 4. When you're turning the car and the motor blows, there's not a whole lot you can do."

She wasn't the first driver out, however. Felipe Giaffone stopped after six laps with an electrical problem, and Billy Boat's engine expired a lap later.

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Although G Force is an English chassis and Toyota is a Japanese builder, De Ferran's winning car was American built. The chassis was built at Don Panoz's G Force factory in Braselton, Ga., and the engine was built at the Toyota plant in Costa Mesa.

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