Christian FIttipaldi: After running second fastest in practice on Friday, Fittipaldi and company slipped back in the starting order in qualifying on Saturday as a result of lack of grip on the street course and started the race a disappointing...
After running second fastest in practice on Friday, Fittipaldi and company slipped back in the starting order in qualifying on Saturday as a result of lack of grip on the street course and started the race a disappointing 14th. At one point in the race, Fittipaldi ran as high as fourth behind two drivers who were out of pit sequence and would possibly have to make a late race pit for fuel but a duel with rookie Bruno Junquiero for position led to both landing in the tire wall and Fittipaldi ultimately finished 12th.
One the first of 95 laps around the 1.755-mile street course, Fittipaldi moved from 14th place into 12th when Michael Andretti and Scott Dixon. He held his position through the restart and moved to 11th place when previous frontrunner Roberto Moreno spun on lap five. On lap 10, he moved into 10th place after Paul Tracy clipped the rear wheel of Oriol Servia and brought out a caution period. He held 10th place until lap 32 when second place runner Dario Franchitti pulled off course with mechanical failure. While in 9th place, he made his first pit stop on lap 33. He returned to the race in 11th place behind two drivers - Scott Dixon and Bruno Junqueira -- out of sequence. After holding off Michael Andretti, who had topped off after his early race problem and was most likely running with a full fuel mixture, he was able to get by Fittipaldi on lap 41. He moved up to 9th by lap 51 after leader Gil de Ferran, Bruno Junqueira and Alex Tagliani pitted. On lap 52, Patrick Carpentier, who was in fifth, made contact and Fittipaldi moved into eighth place. When Scott Dixon made his stop out of sequence, Fittipaldi moved into seventh place on lap 56. On lap 62, fourth place Kenny Brack pulled off course and he moved into sixth place. After three laps, Fittipaldi moved into fourth place before his next pit stop under caution for Helio Castroneves, whose car was on fire. He moved back into fourth place by lap 73 as the pit stops finished. After the restart, eventual third place finisher Adrian Fernandez was able to pass him as Fittipaldi was working on passing Bruno Junqueira. On lap 82 of 95, Alex Zanardi made a daring pass to drop him to sixth place. On the ensuing laps, Fernandez and Zanardi also passed Bruno Junqueira and he was now in front of Fittipaldi, who appeared to have a faster car. Fittipaldi pulled alongside Junqueira numerous times but was unable to complete a pass and begin the challenge of passing others in front of the two. On lap 86, Fittipaldi attempted another pass on Junqueira who appeared to make a wide turn and the two made contact and traveled into the tires. The CART Safety Team was able to get Fittipaldi restarted and he moved from 13th into 12th on lap 87. He held his position until the checkered flag after 95 laps and collected one point.
In a race that saw most of the front runners in the CART FedEx standings fail to collect points, Fittipaldi didn't lose much ground. He scored one point for his 12th place finish and dropped from eighth place in the CART FedEx standings to 9th with a total of 49 points and is only 35 points back from leader Kenny Brack who has 84. Entering the weekend, he was 36 points back. Following are his post race comments:
"A podium finish looked possible at one point," said Fittipaldi. "The car wasn't that great on the first stint but it was better later in the race. I was stuck behind Bruno for a while and kept trying to pass but he always closed the door. The last time I tried to pass him, he swung wide and we both went into the tires. We could have been happy with points from a sixth place finish but if we would have been able to get by him, I think we would have been able to pick up more positions because the car was pretty good at that point."
- Texaco/Havoline/Kmart driver Cristiano da Matta dropped as low as 24th place after being unable to avoid another drivers spin but moved back into points-paying range before another accident ended his race. On the first lap, he drove from his disappointing 17th place starting position into 16th after Scott Dixon and eventual winner Michael Andretti banged wheels and Andretti stalled on course. After the race was restarted, front runner Roberto Moreno spun on course and came to a stop in the middle of the track.
As da Matta turned the corner before the wreck, he had nowhere to go but into the gathering of cars that included Moreno, Vasser and Dixon. Once he was restarted, he was called into the pits but unfortunately they were still officially closed. After taking on fuel, he was sent back on track but was told to go to the back of the pack for pitting while the pits were closed. Ultimately he would have been in last place regardless. As the caution period was still out the team brought him back in to top-off his fuel. While he was in the pits, the team noticed damage to his front nose but sent him back on track to prepare to change his front wing the next time he came by the pit entrance. Since he was already at the back of the pack, he would not be penalized in terms of position. After the team changed his front wing, he returned to the race in 24th place but moved up to 22nd when Paul Tracy and Oriol Servia came into contact. He moved into 20th place on lap 32 when second place runner Franchitti stopped on course and Tora Takagi and Max Wilson collided. On lap 33, he made his fourth pit stop as the majority of the field made their first and moved up one position on the following lap after Shinji Nakano pitted. He moved into 14th place on lap 50 when race leader Gil de Ferran, Bruno Junqueira, Mauricio Gugelmin and Memo Gidley pitted under caution and on into 13th place on the following lap when Alex Tagliani pit. He claimed 12th place when Patrick Carpentier locked his brakes and made contact with tire barrier on lap 52. On lap 56, he took over 11th place when Dixon made his out-of-sequence pit stop. He held 11th place for six laps until third place runner and points leader Kenny Brack stopped on course due to a mechanical failure and held the position for four laps until moving into eighth place by lap 67 when Helio Castroneves pitted and Bryan Herta dropped back. The following lap, he made his fifth pit stop and returned to the race in 13th place and was on his way back up in the running order. Unfortunately as has been the case on more than one occasion this season, da Matta had a front row view of action between Max Papis and Gil de Ferran, who was attempting to pass for ninth place. The two came into contact and da Matta attempted to get by on the right side of the pair but de Ferran came back across the track and made contact with da Matta. Both de Ferran and da Matta retired from the event. Da Matta dropped from fifth place to sixth in the point standings as a result of Andretti jumping from sixth into second in the standings. Da Matta has a total of 55 points and remains 29 points back from first place Kenny Brack who also failed to collect points and has 84. Following are da Matta's post race comments:
"The weekend didn't go as planned for us," said da Matta. "When Moreno spun I had no where to go and drove into Vasser. I had to decide where I could hit him that would cause the least damage because it was inevitable. The team told me to pit but we came in while they were still closed. We took on fuel and went back out but were going to have to go to the back of the pack anyway so we came in on the next lap to top off. Then I had to come in to replace the front win because my nose was damaged. I was just running my race from there and hoping to pick up more positions. Then Max and Gil touched wheels. I went to the outside to avoid it and Gil came back over into me. Luckily no one except Michael collected many points today so the Championship is still within reach. We need to start collecting points and turn the season back around. The team has a good set-up for Superspeedways so I am looking forward to going to Michigan with that hope."
- Reigning 500-Mile Winners Return to SuperSpeedwayâ^À¦The CART FedEx Championship will reconvene next weekend in Brooklyn, Mich. for the Michigan 500, one of two 500-mile events on Superspeedways in 2001. In 2000, Newman/Haas Racing driver Michael Andretti narrowly missed winning the event by a mere four hundredths of a second (0.04) after Juan Montoya was aided by the draft of a lapped car to claim the victory. In the second, and final 500-mile event of 2000, Christian Fittipaldi qualified third and drove to victory at the season-finale, Marlboro 500 at The California Speedway as well as collected the $1 million prize and therefore is the reigning 500-mile race winner. Overall, Newman/Haas Racing has won four events at Michigan International Speedway. Nigel Mansell drove to victory in 1993, Michael Andretti won in 1989 and Mario Andretti won the 500-mile and 200-mile events there in 1984.