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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
ST. PETERSBURG - Apparently, Sam Hornish can turn a steering wheel both directions.
Hornish, a two-time Indy Racing League champion who has spent most of his young career racing on ovals, will start sixth in today's Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
"I was happy to make the top six," said Hornish, driver of the No. 6 Dallara-Toyota for Team Penske. "It was a good showing and I still have a lot to learn."
The IRL debuted a two-part qualifying format in which single-lap times were used to skim the six fastest off the top and put them into a 10-minute shootout to determine the final starting order. The rest of the 21-car field was set according to single-lap speeds.
Hornish's single lap of 102.125 was fifth fastest, earning him a spot in the shootout with many of the IRL's most experienced road-course racers. Hornish did not improve his speed in the shootout and lost a position to Tony Kanaan.
Few might have expected Hornish to be among the fastest given his limited road-course experience. The last time he was in a race that included right-hand turns was in a Toyota Atlantic series event in Houston in 1999.
Pole-sitter Bryan Herta was impressed but not surprised by Hornish's performance.
"I congratulated him on proving a lot of people wrong," Herta said. "There's a lot of stupid people who want to put you in boxes all the time. People wanted to say Sam's not a road racer, he's not going to succeed at it. All that does it put pressure on a guy for no reason. I think he went out and proved he could do it, so good for him."
SAD NEWS: Helio Castroneves was among the many worldwide who mourned the death of Pope John Paul II.
Castroneves, Brazilian driver of the No. 3 Dallara-Toyota for Team Penske, met the Pope during a December visit to the Vatican, conversing with him in Portuguese and kneeling to kiss his ring.
"It was incredible," said Castroneves, whose Catholic faith is important to him. "I felt not only a blessed person but special to be in a unique experience. For me, it was the highlight of my personal life. In your professional life you have a lot of things, but personal, that was the moment."
WHERE'S ASHLEY?: Forget Waldo. Most everyone was on the lookout Saturday for actor Ashley Judd, wife of driver Dario Franchitti. With her beloved Kentucky basketball team out of the NCAA Tournament, it was expected Judd would join her husband.
Though she tried to keep a low profile, donning big sunglasses and a woven hat with a floppy brim that hid most of her face, she was easy to spot when Franchitti posted the fastest speed during single-lap qualifying. The two walked the length of pit road arm in arm.
BACK TO BASICS: Team owner A.J. Foyt decided to use his traditional No. 14 instead of No. 48 on the car driven by his grandson, A.J. Foyt IV, after learning it would be the first IndyCar Series event in which the No. 14 did not compete. Foyt had planned to celebrate the 48th anniversary of his start in Indy car racing.
"Just tell them you never know what A.J.'s going to do," he said.
The team passed on qualifying and will start last.
NO HELP: Scott Sharp also failed to post a time after his qualifying run was disallowed. He will start 20th.
Sharp was on his last warmup lap when he went off course. Though he kept the No. 8 Panoz/Honda running, he needed assistance from the safety team to return to the track. According to IRL rules, no one is allowed to touch the car.
"Obviously, it was a mistake on my part," Sharp said. "I was pretty pumped up to put a good lap together and drove it into Turn 4 too deep while things were still a bit cold. I overcooked my brakes and went into the runoff."
BUT THEY'RE LOUDER: As might have been expected, qualifying speeds for the naturally-aspirated IRL cars fell short of those posted two years ago on this course by the CART series, which uses turbocharged engines. Sebastien Bourdais won the pole in 2003 at 106.710 mph. HIGH FLYING: Darren Manning had the day's wildest ride when his No. 10 Panoz/Toyota went airborne briefly during a crash in the morning practice.
Manning caught the curb in the hairpin of Turns 13 and 14 and left the ground for a few feet before landing in the sand and spinning into a tire barrier. After repairs, Manning used the same car to qualify and will start 16th.