CHAMPCAR/CART: Honda Michigan race notes

A fight to the finish among five CART FedEx Championship Series drivers saw Honda-powered Dario Franchitti cross the line in second place in today's Harrah's 500 at Michigan International Speedway. After leading at least part of each of the final...

A fight to the finish among five CART FedEx Championship Series drivers saw Honda-powered Dario Franchitti cross the line in second place in today's Harrah's 500 at Michigan International Speedway. After leading at least part of each of the final seven laps, the Team KOOL Green driver took the checkered flag literally inches ahead of third-place Michel Jourdain, and just 24 hundredths of a second behind first-time winner Patrick Carpentier.

The podium finish for Franchitti, his third in the last five races, moved the Scot up to second in the mid-season championship standings, just three points behind leader Kenny Brack.

Franchitti's teammate, Paul Tracy, lost three laps to the leaders due to a malfunctioning fuel nozzle during his first pit stop. But the Canadian charged back throughout the rest of the event, regaining two of those laps and then more positions after the final restart to finish seventh.

Just behind Tracy at the finish was Helio Castroneves, who lost a lap early in the race due to handling problems. But chassis adjustments made by his Marlboro Team Penske crew improved his car dramatically, and Castroneves rallied for an eighth place finish.

Mo Nunn Racing's Tony Kanaan also contended for the lead before dropping out with electrical problems, which also claimed teammate Alex Zanardi. Toronto race winner Michael Andretti ran in the lead pack for the first 180 laps, but then dropped out with mechanical problems. Mechanical ills, coupled with the high heat and humidity today at Michigan International Speedway, also eliminated Gil de Ferran, Adrian Fernandez and Shinji Nakano.

<pre> Driver's Championship (after 11 of 21 races) Manufacturer's Championship

 1.  Kenny Brack                84 points       1.  Honda               174 points
 2.  Dario Franchitti           81              2.  Toyota              154
 3.  Helio Castroneves          75              3.  Ford Cosworth       151
 4.  Michael Andretti           73
 5.  Cristiano da Matta         67
 6.  Gil de Ferran              58
 7.  Scott Dixon                57              Rookie of the Year
 8.  Paul Tracy                 52              1.  Scott Dixon         57 points
 9.  Jimmy Vasser               50              2.  Bruno Junqueira     27
10.  Christian Fittipaldi       49              3.  Max Wilson          12
11.  Max Papis                  44              4.  Nicholas Minassian   7
12.  Roberto Moreno             44              5.  Tora Takagi          1
13.  Tony Kanaan                37
18.  Adrian Fernandez           25
19.  Alex Zanardi               20
24.  Shinji Nakano              10

Dario Franchitti (#27 Team KOOL Green Honda) Started 25th, finished 2nd: "It was an eventful day. After the rain yesterday, it was the first time in my career that I've started last. I had to be reasonably aggressive during the first stint to keep from going a lap down. Memo (Gidley) got all the way alongside me once while he was leading and the yellow came out just in time. But we made the car better with every stop and it all came down to that last segment. Michel (Jourdain) and I got away a little bit as we kept passing and re-passing each other. That was the plan and it seemed to be working. Then Pat (Carpentier) made a good move and Tag (Alex Tagliani) played spoiler for him...it was close coming up to the finish. But I'm very happy for Pat. We came into the series together and he's been so closing to winning several times before. Meanwhile, we're now second in the points and in good shape for the rest of the season."

Paul Tracy (#26 Team KOOL Green Honda) Started 4th, finished 7th: "After going three laps down, we were lucky to finish as well as we did. I had the best car on the track of anybody, but our refueling problem on the first stop killed us. It's frustrating. I didn't have to work that hard, the car was so good I could just drive to the front. I could come through the field any time, but I couldn't pull away from anybody once I was up there to get my laps back. We had the fastest car out there today, it just didn't show in the results."

Helio Castroneves (#3 Marlboro Team Penske Honda) Started 19th, finished 8th: "The start was a little bit rough for us, but as soon as the team added some downforce the car was much, much better. It was almost perfect. If we'd added that for the beginning of the race... But we now we've learned from that, right? We had a good finish, move up a little bit in the points and we'll go on from here."

Michael Andretti (#39 Team Motorola Honda) Started 18th, finished 19th (not running - mechanical): "We were in pretty good shape today, I thought we were headed for a top three finish but unfortunately we broke. I'm not sure what happened but the car just lost power. It was tough out there today, very hot and real close racing. I'm disappointed, but now we go on to Chicago and try to stay in the points hunt."

Alex Zanardi (#66 Pioneer/Worldcom/Mo Nunn Racing Honda): Started 14th, finished 20th (not running - mechanical): "The team saw that I was generating no voltage. I was hoping we could just ignore it, but in reality it was only going to be a matter of time before we could not continue. I just got my car to where it could run comfortably with the leaders and I was looking forward to the last 100 miles of racing. It was a good run while it lasted. I feel very good about the future of this team. Unfortunately, today was just a bad day."

-HPD

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Max Papis , Adrian Fernandez , Roberto Moreno , Patrick Carpentier , Alex Tagliani , Christian Fittipaldi , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Alex Zanardi , Tony Kanaan , Max Wilson , Tora Takagi , Shinji Nakano , Kenny Brack , Cristiano da Matta , Michel Jourdain , Mo Nunn
Teams Team Penske