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Author: Kent Mitchell
Date: Aug. 26, 2003
Publisher: Cox Enterprises d/b/a The Atlanta Journal Constitution
Document Type: Article
Length: 429 words

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Byline: KENT MITCHELL; Staff

Hornish defecting to Penske

Helio Castroneves won Sunday's IRL Firestone Indy 225 at Nazareth, Pa., but the bigger news concerned second-place finisher Sam Hornish Jr. The defending IndyCar series champion announced he will drive for Penske Racing next year, replacing Indianapolis 500 champion Gil de Ferran, who is retiring at season's end.

Hornish captured the 2001 and 2002 championships and is the winningest driver in IRL's seven-year history with nine victories.

Penske cars have won 118 open-wheel races --- including 13 in the Indianapolis 500 --- and 11 national championships, all records.

Hornish announced last week that he was leaving Panther Racing, for whom he won his IRL titles. Hornish, from Defiance, Ohio, said he wanted to continue to compete in the Indy 500, but he also stated a desire to race in the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400 --- NASCAR's biggest events. Moving to Penske gives him that opportunity. The team fields cars in Winston Cup for Ryan Newman and Rusty Wallace.

Fisher out of hospital

Sarah Fisher, who spun out during Saturday's IRL practice session and hit the wall, was released from Lehigh Valley Hospital in Allentown, Pa., with a severe back contusion and wasn't able to start the race. . . . Stockbridge driver Jimmy Kite also raced at Nazareth, competing, in the 100-lap United States Auto Club (USAC) Silver Crown Series pavement finale.

He finished 15th in a field of 32 in a race dedicated to the memory of his grandfather, who died on Aug. 18.

Panoz on the podium

JML Team Panoz scored its third consecutive podium finish Sunday in the American Le Mans Series Road America 500 at Elkhart Lake, Wis.

This time, Olivier Beretta and David Saelens made a big comeback run to take second in the LMP900 class and third overall. The last time a Panoz entry earned three consecutive podium results in the ALMS was 2001.

The No. 11 Panoz --- "Old Seabiscuit" --- of Gunnar Jeannette and Benjamin Leuenberger experienced a battery failure at the first pit stop and finished 10th overall, fourth in LMP900 class.

Former Panoz drivers Jan Magnussen and David Brabham drove their Ferrari 550 to a GTS Class victory and fourth overall, followed by Johnny O'Connell of Flowery Branch and Canadian Ron Fellows in a factory Corvette.

The Atlanta-based Essex Racing Team took its third P675 podium in the past four races.

Jason Workman of Gainesville and James Gue of Athens drove the Lola B2K/40/Nissan (P675) to 24th overall, second in class.

--- The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A106894449