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Hornish's IRL win a first among many for Penske

BRANT JAMES
Published March 2, 2004

Sam Hornish knows how to impress the new boss.

Sure, it was no surprise when the Indy Racing League's winningest driver won for the 12th time Sunday in the season opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway. But winning in his first race in the red stripes of Team Penske made it noteworthy.

No driver had won in his first race for team owner Roger Penske in the organization's 36-year history. That's not bad considering Penske is the winningest team in the history of the IRL and has featured such drivers as Indianapolis 500 winners Helio Castroneves, Gil de Ferran, Mark Donohue, Christian Fittipaldi, Rick Mears, Danny Sullivan, Al Unser and Al Unser Jr.

"I was wondering (Sunday) morning if anybody had won their first race with Team Penske," Hornish said. "I'm glad I can be the guy to do it."

RALLY TIME: Petter Solberg thinks both he and his car are fit and ready to stop Sebastien Loeb's season-opening two-race win streak in the World Rally Championship.

Solberg, the defending world champion, spent three days testing his Subaru Impreza in Spain to prepare for the series' third race March 12-14 in Mexico.

"The car felt very strong," he told Autosport magazine. "I know the stages in Mexico are going to be high altitude, which might mean that we lose some of the performance from the engine, but I have been working hard in the gym to make sure the same doesn't happen to me, when we get into the stages."

Loeb, a Frenchman, leads the WRC standings by seven points over Finland's Marcus Gronholm. Solberg, a Norwegian, is in fourth place, 12 points behind the leader. Drivers receive 10 points for a win and incrementally less for placing in the top 10.

"Enough is enough," Solberg said. "Loeb has gone well, but now it's time for our season to start. This car can win in Mexico."

SAFER STILL: California Speedway president Bill Miller announced Monday that a SAFER (Steel and Foam Energy Reduction) wall should be in place before the NASCAR Nextel Cup race there on May 2.

The system is in place at the Indianapolis, New Hampshire, Richmond, Phoenix and Homestead-Miami tracks. Daytona International Speedway officials expect to have it in place by July, and Darlington has begun implementation. Talladega is in the process of completing installation.

SPRINT CARS: Steve Kinser lost his shot at his first win at Perris Auto Speedway (California) on Saturday when his right rear tire went flat on the final lap, allowing Jason Meyers to pass for the win in the third event of the World of Outlaws season. Kinser finished 17th as Meyers held off second-place Craig Dollansky for his sixth victory in WoO.

"It's unfortunate for Steve, but fortunate for me that he got that flat tire," Meyers said.

MOTOCROSS: Dade City resident Chad Reed won the 250cc main event Saturday at the AMA Supercross series stop in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. Reed, on a Yamaha YZ250, leads the season series with six wins and has a 26-point margin over second-place Kevin Windham in the rider standings.

PIT STOPS: The Acropolis Rally, set for June 4-6 in Lamia, Greece, will not have its ceremonial start in front of the Parthenon for the first time in its 51-year history. The ancient ruin is located atop Acropolis hill. ... Rocketsports Racing announced Robin Hill will serve as crew chief for Alex Tagliani's 2004 Champ Car team. Hill, previously a chief mechanic, has been a part of five championship teams, including one with Bobby Rahal (1992) and four straight with Chip Ganassi Racing from 1996-99. Hill replaces Tom Howatt. Tagliani finished 10th in CART's driver standings. ... Dale Earnhardt Jr. is the subject of a feature story in the March 8 issue of People magazine.

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