Paul Tracy came close, but in the end had to settle for third in today's Marlboro Grand Prix of Miami, the opening round of the 2000 CART FedEx Championship Series.
Taking a less-than-perfect car up through the field from his 17th place starting position, the Honda-powered Team KOOL Green driver moved into the lead two-thirds of the way through today's 150 lap race. But the Canadian was caught out by lapped traffic with just 10 laps remaining and in an instant fell back to third behind Max Papis and Roberto Moreno. Driving a car that worked well in clean air but "pushed" in traffic, Tracy was unable to mount a counterattack in the final laps.
Starting from the pole, Gil de Ferran also led a large portion of the race. But after making his final pit stop of the day on lap 98, an unlucky yellow flag allowed his challengers to pit under caution and dropped the Marlboro Team Penske driver to the back of the lead lap. He battled back to finish 6th . Teammate Helio Castro-Neves had a short afternoon, mechanical problems taking him out of the race after just nine laps.
Rookie Shinji Nakano posted a solid run for Walker Racing, finishing 8th and on the lead lap in his first-ever oval track race, and giving the Japanese driver an early lead in the series rookie standings. Bryan Herta and his Forsythe Championship Racing team withdrew from this race earlier in the month, but the team plans to continue testing its American?built Swift chassis next week at Phoenix International Raceway.
<pre> PPG Cup Points (after 1 of 20 Races)
1. Max Papis 20 pts. 2. Roberto Moreno 16 3. Paul Tracy 14 4. Jimmy Vassar 12 5. Patrick Carpentier 10 6. Gil de Ferran 10 7. Christian Fittipaldi 6 8. Shinji Nakano 5 9. Alexandre Taglaini 4 10. Tony Kanaan 3 11. Dario Franchitti 2 12, Cristiano da Matta 1
1. Ford Cosworth 20 pts. 2. Honda 16 3. Toyota 12 4. Mercedes-Benz 3
Rookie of the Year
1. Shinji Nakano 5 Pts. 2. Alexandre Tagliani 4 3. Norberto Fontana 0 4. Kenny Brack 0 5. Oriol Servia 0 6. Takuya Kurosawa 0
</pre> PAUL TRACY (#26 Team KOOL Green Honda) Started 17th, Finished 3rd, led 32 laps: "First of all, congratulations to my good friend Max. He's waited a long time for this to happen, and he's a very deserving winner. It was a great day for Team KOOL Green, to finish third is a huge achievement? We didn't have a great race car. All race long, really all weekend long, the car had a mid-corner push, then would go loose on the exit, We thought we had a handle on it this morning, but it was back again in the race. We probably only had a 7th or 8th place car, but my team gave me a couple of great stops today and I did what I could. At the end of the race if I didn't have lapped traffic I think we'd been okay, but that's racing, sometimes."
GIL de FERRAN (#2 Marlboro Team Penske Honda) Started 1st, Finished 6th, led 41 laps today: "It was one of those tough days. The car was fantastic, very comfortable running alone and in traffic. The team did everything right all day long. We had a very, very unfortunate yellow. We made our final stop and then the yellow came out. After that, I tried very hard to come up through the field, pushing as hard as I could all the way to the end."
SHINJI NAKANO (#5 Avex/Alpine/Walker Racing Honda) Started 15th, Finished 8th: "The team did a great job today, and I really enjoyed my first race on an oval. For a while I thought I could catch (Christian) Fittipaldi, but I wasn't able to pass him. I learned a lot today - my first CART race, first oval race, pit stops, cautions. I had a lot of new experiences today."
DARIO FRANCHITTI (#27 Team KOOL Green Honda) Started 22nd, Finished 11th: "The car was never quite right. It got better as the weekend went on and a little better during the race. Running by myself, it was okay, in fact I could pretty much keep pace with the leaders, but it was a handful in traffic. Once I lost a lap, I could not get it back. You really lose out at this place it you don't have seat time, and my Spring Training accident lost me valuable practice time. I am very happy for Max (Papis). and congratulate Paul (Tracy) for what he achieved with a less than perfect car. It was a long afternoon, but we're leaving with two more points than we did last year. We've done a good amount of testing at Nazareth and Paul really knows that place, so we are looking for better things in two week's time."
HELIO CASTRO-NEVES (#3 Marlboro Team Penske Honda) Started 8th , Finished 25th (not running - electrical): "The car was just beautiful at the start. I caught up to Gil and we ran together for a few laps. But then the car lost power and finally stopped. I really don't know what was the problem. Maybe after the engineers have a chance to look at the data, we'll know. A short race for us, but the season is just beginning. On to Nazareth."