CHAMPCAR/CART: Chicago: Lola race report

Hot three-peat for Da Matta at Chicago leads Lola trio to podium once again. As the Champ Car contingent wages war to "get Shorty", Cristiano da Matta continues to pile up the wins in the Newman-Haas Racing ...

Hot three-peat for Da Matta at Chicago leads Lola trio to podium once again.

As the Champ Car contingent wages war to "get Shorty", Cristiano da Matta continues to pile up the wins in the Newman-Haas Racing #6 Havoline Lola/Toyota.

After watching Brazil nab the World Cup this morning and having his hair shorn to resemble that of ace player Ronaldinho, da Matta went on to win CART's 250-lap Chicago Grand Prix at the hot, tiring and tough Chicago Motor Speedway 1.029-mile oval. "There was pressure all the time" for da Matta, first to the checkered flags for a second consecutive time over Bruno Junqueira's #4 Target Lola/Toyota by a miserly .639 seconds. Out of breath and dehydrated from driving in 97-101 temperatures (117-130 on the track) Junqueira admitted the race was "very tough. I just couldn't get by him," as da Matta increased his point lead to 25 over his countryman 95 points to 70.

For the second straight race, Dario Franchitti joined this duo on podium, the polesitter taking third place in the #27 Team KOOL Green Lola/Honda, just 3.456 seconds by victor da Matta. Franchitti looked poised to take his first win of the 2002 season until miscues on his first stop relegated the Scot to fighting for third. "We have the car to win," he said of his Lola/Honda/Bridgestone package.

This was a hard-fought race for all 13 finishers in an 18-car field; there were 11 lead changes among six drivers. Shinji Nakano marked his finest CART finish in the #52 Alpine/Mitsuba Lola/Honda with fifth place. "We had no mistakes and no trouble. The car was really awesome today," Nakano said. Scott Dixon recovered from a nearly lost left rear wheel after his penultimate pit stop and earned sixth place points for the #44 Target Lola/Toyota squad. Tony Kanaan took another 8th place for the #10 Pioneer/WorldCom Lola/Honda, noting the conditions made this "one of the hardest days I've had in a race car. It was very hot and very humid."

Da Matta's dominance these last three races is "a total team effort. I'm happy to win a race that is not our strength," he said, alluding to his 15th at Twin Ring Motegi and 11th in Milwaukee. "We worked very hard to get to this point and the hard work paid off."

The CART Champ Cars now venture to the Molson Indy Toronto next week, where #39 Motorola Lola/Honda driver Michael Andretti is the defending champion, looking to add to Lola Cars' 113th Champ Car victories at his favorite venue.

-lola-

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