CLEVELAND, Ohio (July 1, 2001) - Dario Franchitti of Team KOOL Green ended a lengthy absence from victory circle Sunday when he drove to victory in the 20th Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by Firstar at Burke ...
CLEVELAND, Ohio (July 1, 2001) - Dario Franchitti of Team KOOL Green ended a lengthy absence from victory circle Sunday when he drove to victory in the 20th Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by Firstar at Burke Lakefront Airport.
Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard) collected his seventh career FedEx Championship Series victory, and his first since Australia in 1999, when he finished 0.305 seconds ahead of Memo Gidley of Target Chip Ganassi Racing in the ninth of 20 rounds in the FedEx Championship Series. Gidley (Target Toyota Lola), who led a race-high 57 laps, posted a career-best finish in his 24th career start and his second for Target Chip Ganassi Racing.
Bryan Herta (Zakspeed/Forsythe Racing Ford Reynard) finished third for his best finish since a victory at Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca in 1999.
Franchitti's victory tied him with Adrian Fernandez for 15th on the CART career victory list and moved him from sixth to third place in the FedEx Championship Series championship with 65 points. Kenny Brack (Shell Ford Lola) of Team Rahal continues to lead with 84 points following a sixth-place finish Sunday, while Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske stands second with 70 after collecting a single point for 12th place.
Franchitti led 11 laps of the 100-lap event, including the final nine when Gidley, who had built a lead of more than 25 seconds just past the midway point of the event, was forced to pit for a splash of fuel on Lap 91. Franchitti, meanwhile, coaxed just enough fuel out of his tank to bring Honda its third victory of the season and its fifth in the past six starts at Cleveland. He averaged a race-record 118.007 miles per hour en route to the victory.
Franchitti ran out of fuel just after taking the checkered flag, which made Team KOOL Green's decision to have him pit under caution on Lap 2 and top off the fuel tank a crucial one. Franchitti, who started 14th, had fallen as far back as 22nd after an off-course excursion on Lap 1 and exited the pits in 23rd place.
By Lap 34, he was running fifth, and he remained among the top five drivers for the remainder of the event.
Gidley's career-best finish exceeded his previous career-best result of sixth at Road America last year, when he drove for Della Penna Motorsports. Herta recorded his third podium finish at Cleveland and a best-ever result for the Zakspeed/Forsythe Racing Team, which is spending its first full season competing in the FedEx Championship Series.
Rounding out the top five finishers were defending FedEx Championship Series champion Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske, who finished fourth, and Jimmy Vasser (Visteon Toyota Reynard) of Patrick Racing, who took fifth. De Ferran improved from eighth to fourth in the championship with 56 points while Vasser jumped from 10th to seventh, with 50 points.
The Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by Firstar was Round 9 of 21 in the 2001 FedEx Championship Series. The series visits seven countries and four continents during the season and climaxes with the season-ending Marlboro 500 Presented by Toyota on Sunday, Nov. 4 at California Speedway in Fontana, Calif. Thanks to a partnership between Marlboro, Toyota, CART and California Speedway, the winner of the season finale will collect $1 million, one of the richest paydays in all of motorsports. An additional $1 million, as well as the prestigious Vanderbilt Cup, will be awarded to the driver who wins the FedEx Championship Series championship.
DARIO FRANCHITTI, KOOL Honda Reynard: "On the first corner, I went to the outside, I thought, to stay out of trouble, and I think it was Tora [Takagi] who spun. I got into the grass, and it was wet, so I ended up in last. Then I came into the pit and stalled it, but it didn't matter because I was last anyway. From there we were just saving fuel and passing people when we could, and I could see we were going longer on fuel. They kept saying on the radio, 'it's you and Bryan, you and Bryan,' and then Memo showed up and he was coming like a rocket. Tony [Kanaan] and Michael [Andretti] were holding me up for a little while, but they got out of the way. My dashboard said there was one gallon on the last lap, and I knew I had to be careful, because I didn't want to lose it in the last chicane. I was kind of shocked when I crossed the finish line. The guys at Team KOOL Green did a great job today. We kept believing we could do it. We've qualified really, really well last year, and then we'd come to second lap and we were off. This season we've had great cars, and today was no exception, except that today everything went right. There's no point in giving up. Even at the most difficult point last year, I never thought about giving up. You might as well park the car if you're going to give up."
MEMO GIDLEY, Target Toyota Lola: "This is all about chasing a dream. This is what it was all about for the last eight months, when I was getting up in the morning working out and driving my go-kart. Last weekend, people thought it was good, just because I was in the car. Passion keeps me going, and I've got a lot of support out here. It was a fun situation for me, when I was running flat out like I was every lap, it was like qualifying, I was pushing very hard every lap. I just focused on where I needed to place the car. You can only do what you can do. [Team manager] Mike Hull kept saying, 'Keep pushing, keep pushing,' and he doesn't really know me because I'm going to push every time. The important part of what me and the guys did today really inspires people. I saw 'P1' once at Long Beach, but that was out of sequence, that wasn't really leading the race. Today, I really led the race. We were fast, and one of the cars that was going to win the race."
BRYAN HERTA, Zakspeed Forsythe Racing Ford Reynard: "At the start, I went down the outside there and decided I wasn't going to lift until they did, and I was too late. I fell back to 11th there. We knew this was a race that could go green all the way, so we set our fuel mark at the get-go. It's huge, because it's the first year with the new team. We've struggled a bit this year, maybe not more than normal, but we were having more trouble on the road courses than the ovals. The car has been good on the ovals this year. We came here with a little different setup, and it worked a lot better, so I'm hoping it'll be good for the rest of the year."
* Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard) recorded his first career FedEx Championship Series victory on a permanent road course at Road America in 1998, and his subsequent six triumphs have all come on temporary street circuits, at Vancouver and Houston in 1998 and Toronto, Detroit and Australia in 1999. Sunday's win ended a run of 29 winless events, dating to the 1999 season finale at Fontana.
* Memo Gidley (Target Toyota Lola) led a race-high 57 laps, the second time in his career he had led a FedEx Championship Series event. He also led a lap last year at Long Beach while filling in for the injured Patrick Carpentier at Player's Forsythe Racing. Gidley's previous best finish on a temporary street circuit was 11th at Cleveland in 1999. His runner-up finish moved him from 28th to 15th in the championship with 17 points.
* Bryan Herta's (Zakspeed/Forsythe Racing Ford Reynard) podium finish was the 10th of his career, three of which have come at Cleveland. He also finished second in 1995 and third in 1997. Herta's best previous finish this season was 10th at Long Beach.
* Dario Franchitti's victory allowed Honda to extend its lead in the CART Manufacturer's Championship to four points (136-132) over second-place Toyota. Honda claimed its third victory of the season, the other two coming from Helio Castroneves at Long Beach and Detroit.
* Honda also claimed its fifth win in the past six FedEx Championship Series events at Cleveland. Previous Honda-powered winners at Burke Lakefront Airport have included Gil de Ferran in 1996, Alex Zanardi in 1997 and '98 and Juan Montoya in 1999.
* Gil de Ferran's (Marlboro Honda Reynard) fourth-place finish was his fifth top-six result in seven career starts at Cleveland. The run is comprised of a victory in 1997, runner-up efforts in 1997 and '99 and a sixth-place finish in 1998. Sunday's finish was de Ferran's best since third at Long Beach.
* Jimmy Vasser (Visteon Toyota Reynard) finished fifth in his best effort since fifth at Japan. Vasser recorded his second-best finish in nine starts at Cleveland, exceeded only by third in 1995.
* Rookie Max Wilson (winner B2B.com /Arciero/Blair Racing Ford Lola), who qualified a career-best third, led the first 20 laps, and 23 of the first 33. It marked the first stint on the lead of his rookie season. Wilson was victimized by some tough luck when he had to pit on consecutive laps (Laps 33 34) as a result of being unable to access his pit on the first stop due to obstruction by the crippled car of Bruno Junqueira (Target Toyota Lola). Junqueira had made contact with the pit barrier wall after entering the pits following on-course contact with Christian Fittipaldi (Kmart Toyota Lola). Wilson dropped from first to 15th place following his first excursion into pit lane and from 15th to 20th following his second. He finished 19th, four laps behind.
* Alex Tagliani (Player's/Indeck Ford Reynard) of Player's Forsythe Racing finished a season-best ninth, exceeding his previous best of 12th at Milwaukee and Portland. The finish is his best since sixth in the 2000 season finale at California Speedway.
* Championship Auto Racing Teams is joining with England's Rockingham Motor Speedway to sponsor the seventh annual Motorsports Industry Association Awards conducted in the Cholmondey Room and Terrace at the House of Lords in London Monday evening. CART Chairman and CEO Joe Heitzler will be one of the featured guests among the more than 300 attendees from all aspects of the worldwide motorsports industry. Also in attendance will be Rockingham's David Grace as well as Hans-Jorg Fisher, the head man from Germany's EuroSpeedway.
The Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by Firstar ended a run of three consecutive FedEx Championship Series events following previous stops in Detroit and Portland. The series takes a week off before beginning another run of three straight events with the Molson Indy, July 13-15 at Exhibition Place in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.