CHAMPCAR/CART: Fontana: Honda race report

Andretti runs second in last lap shootout. Honda-powered Michael Andretti came up just four-tenths of a second short of scoring his second victory of the season at today's California 500, dueling with ultimate race winner Jimmy Vasser throughout...

Andretti runs second in last lap shootout.

Honda-powered Michael Andretti came up just four-tenths of a second short of scoring his second victory of the season at today's California 500, dueling with ultimate race winner Jimmy Vasser throughout the day. Starting fourth, Andretti took the lead at the start of the 250-lap contest and was one of four Honda-powered drivers to run at the head of the field today.

Andretti took the lead for the final time following a caution period on lap 242 with what looked to be a race-winning move. But when Dario Franchitti's Team KOOL Green car caught fire three laps later, race official brought out the red flag to insure that the race did not end under caution. On the last restart of the day, Vasser went around Andretti on the entry to turn one and held his advantage to the finish.

Other Honda-powered drivers to lead today included Franchitti, teammate Paul Tracy and Tony Kanaan. But pole qualifier Kanaan was unable to solve an understeer that developed mid-race, leading to a fourth-place finish, while both Tracy and Franchitti dropped out of the event with mechanical problems. Fernandez Racing teammates Max Papis, substituting for the injured Adrian Fernandez, and Shinji Nakano also failed to finish due to mechanical problems.

Honda Fast Facts

* Today's California 500 was the fastest 500-mile in history, with an average race speed of 197.995 mph despite three caution periods and one race stoppage.

* There also were 43 official lead changes among six different race leaders.

Michael Andretti (#39 Team Motorola Honda) Started 4th, finished 2nd: "After the yellow (caution period on lap 238, when he took the lead from Jimmy Vasser), I thought I had the race won. Then Dario's car lost a motor and I became a sitting duck. What's fair is fair. The yellow came out and cost Jimmy and the red flag came out and cost me. The red flag is in the rule book so it was the right decision. I'm sure Jimmy loved the red flag. Jimmy probably had the best car and deserved to win. I tried to catch him in turns three and four at the end but came up a little short. I radioed to the crew, 'I'm done.' The car was pretty good all day. Team Motorola did a good job in the pits and the Honda engine was strong. In traffic, the car was not as good. But we made an adjustment and started coming on strong late in the race."

Tony Kanaan (#10 Pioneer/Mo Nunn Racing Honda) Started 1st, finished 4th: "The car had a lot of understeer today, especially in traffic. I couldn't keep up with the other guys since I had to lift a lot. We kept on making changes to the car during the race and adding more downforce, but it never got better. I couldn't race with Jimmy or Michael those last few laps. But I gave it all I had, so at the end, I am happy with fourth."

Dario Franchitti (#27 Team KOOL Green Honda) Started 9th, finished 10th (not running - mechanical): "The car really wasn't great all day, and the worst part was that we probably changed it too much during the early pit stops. We took a lot of wing out instead of just a small amount and I got pretty loose then. Had that not happened we might have been able to do something about a strategy to run up front. Then we had the fire in the engine compartment to finish us off. It's a strange end, after running 242 laps to have this happen, it's disappointing."

Max Papis (#51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Fernandez Racing Honda) Started 10th, finished 14th (not running - mechanical): "I am very happy for the work the team did here this weekend, but sometimes it just is not your day. I want to thank everyone at Fernandez Racing. I gave it all my heart and really wanted to get this win for both me and the team. And we were not that far from it. The car was at least a top four finishing car, but unfortunately we couldn't make it for the full 250 laps."

Shinji Nakano (#52 Twin Ring Motegi/Fernandez Racing Honda) Started 12th, finished 15th (not running - mechanical): "The car wasn't handling very well in the race. It was the same problem we have had all weekend, we haven't been able to generate the proper temperature in the right front tire, so the car was always loose (oversteering). Then the rear (suspension) upright temperature started to get hotter and hotter. The team monitored it until it became too hot and they called me in. It was a frustrating weekend."

-honda-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Max Papis , Adrian Fernandez , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Tony Kanaan , Shinji Nakano , Mo Nunn