Honda Racing Sunday, November 4, 2001 Marlboro 500 Circuit: California Speedway (2.0 mile oval track) Fontana, California Weather: Overcast, warm, 82-degrees F Kanaan Fifth at Fontana Finale Tony Kanaan had one of the fastest cars on the...
Sunday, November 4, 2001
California Speedway (2.0 mile oval track) Fontana, California
Weather: Overcast, warm, 82-degrees F
Kanaan Fifth at Fontana Finale
Tony Kanaan had one of the fastest cars on the track in the closing laps of today's Marlboro 500 at California Speedway, but the Honda-powered driver came up just short in his bid for victory when a late-race caution resulted in the CART season finale ending behind the pace car. It was another exciting FedEx Championship Series speedway event, with 73 official lead changes and the top dozen finishers all within nine seconds of race winner Cristiano da Matta.
Kanaan was running in the middle of the lead group - but back in 14th place - when he began his charge on lap 201. Within a handful of laps, the Mo Nunn Racing driver was into the top ten, then sixth and closing on the leaders by lap 214. But one lap later Scott Dixon crashed, without injury, in turn four, bringing out the caution that would end the race.
Newly crowned two-time series champion Gil de Ferran also moved up through the field today after starting on the eighth row of the grid. The Marlboro Team Penske machine ran as high as third with just 15 laps remaining, but then slowed by a slow leak in a tire to finish sixth.
Michael Andretti and Casey Mears both led portions of today's race, then a pair of second-generation drivers went on to battle themselves in the closing laps, with Andretti just edging Mears as the caution flag waved. Adrian Fernandez also led 16 laps today before crashing out on lap 195 while Helio Castroneves, Shinji Nakano, Dario Franchitti and Paul Tracy all ended the day early with mechanical failures.
Tony Kanaan (#55 Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Honda) Started 14th, finished 5th: "We had the car today, there's no doubt about it. It's a shame we ran out of laps, but that's racing. We're finishing our season on a high note, that's for sure. Plus, I won another bet with Cristiano, although this time it's not for a bike, it's for $100,000. We told each other that if one of us wins this race (and the $1 million first prize), he would give the other 100 grand. That's a nice consolation prize. My car was just awesome today. I could move to the front whenever I wanted. We took a gamble on our fuel strategy by topping off with what we thought were about 40 laps to go, but they shortened the race, and we got some yellows that cost us some very important laps we needed to get back to the front. We've been so close so many times this year. Again, we are frustrated, but at least we were in a position to win."
Gil de Ferran (#1 Marlboro Team Penske Honda) Started 16th, finished 6th: "The race was unbelievable, it's just a shame we couldn't fight for the win. I was running in third towards the end when the engine went soft, and we had a puncture in the left rear tire which made the car pick up more understeer. Overall, it was a fantastic season for Marlboro Team Penske, the team did a great job all year."
Michael Andretti (#39 Team Motorola Honda) Started 13th, finished 7th: "The car was running really well. We finished the race, which we've never done here before, and got the points we needed to finish third in the championship. It's unfortunate CART had to shorten the race. I hink if we had run the full distance our fuel strategy would have worked to our advantage. But I understand as it was getting dark and tough to see out there. Everyone on the team did an awesome job. To come into the year with a brand new team and finish third in the championship is pretty darn good."
Casey Mears (#66 Pioneer/Mo Nunn Racing Honda) Started 21st finished 8th: "Wow, this was the best race we've had all year. Well, in the four races that I was able to live my dream thanks to Morris (Nunn). It was an honor to take over for Alex Zanardi under not the greatest circumstances. But Morris and the team were just awesome to work with and I really thank everyone for believing in me. They gave me a great car today. I really felt comfortable all day. I felt like I could run with anybody on the track. If we would have had some more laps, we might have been able to charge all the way to the front with Tony. But I'll take what we got. We made it all the way to the end and we had a very competitive car."