CHAMPCAR/CART: Mexico City: Newman/Haas race notes, quotes

2002 CART Champion and Havoline driver da Matta finished second in the CART FedEx Series season finale in Mexico City; podium finish or possible win eluded Lilly driver Fittipaldi who ultimately had an exhaust failure and finished fifth overall in...

2002 CART Champion and Havoline driver da Matta finished second in the CART FedEx Series season finale in Mexico City; podium finish or possible win eluded Lilly driver Fittipaldi who ultimately had an exhaust failure and finished fifth overall in 2002.

CRISTIANO DA MATTA, #1 Havoline Toyota-Lola-Bridgestone:   "It was a race that I had to drive harder than any other race this season.  We didn't really have a car that was capable of finishing second but that's where the teamwork comes into play at Newman/Haas.  Some days the car wasn't that good or the engine or pit stops or the driver but the other areas compensated for the weakness.  That is what makes a team capable of winning the Championship.  I have to thank the Havoline crew because this is 100 percent their result.  They smoked everyone today.  They've been the best in pit stops all season.  I came in the pits for my last stop in eighth place and got back on track second of the guys on the same strategy.  Second place is not a bad way to end the season.  (On attempted pass for lead:)  I was on the outside of Kenny because I knew I couldn't get him on the inside but I just couldn't make it.  I knew it was for the win and he did to.  You can't imagine how much I have learned in my two years at Newman/Haas.  I will always be grateful to them for everything they have done for me.  Despite the result, it is not a happy feeling that I have today because I am leaving a team like Newman/Haas and have to say goodbye to a lot of people that mean a lot to me." 

· NOTES: Has had nine front row starts this season.  Prior to today's race, had won NINE of past 20 CART events dating back to his first three-peat (Australia and Fontana in 2001 and Mexico in 2002) where he became the first driver to accomplish the feat since Juan Montoya (1999).  Led 30 laps in Long Beach before a pit accident derailed his bid for a CART record-tying fourth consecutive win.  Wins in Laguna Seca, Portland, Chicago and Toronto enabled him to tie two others (Unser, Jr., Zanardi) with a CART record fourth consecutive win although he failed to score a fifth consecutive win in Cleveland after he lead the first 19 laps from pole but retired with mechanical failure.  Led 36 laps in Vancouver before a drive shaft failure ended his race.  Was in second in Mid-Ohio when he slid off-course and ultimately finished 13th.  He won in Elkhart Lake and his Miami win was his ninth in 18 events. Led all racing laps in Australia but finished 8th in a race dictated by rain.  Was about to resume the lead in The 500 before his engine failed with 14 laps to go in the 500-mile race.  He clinched the 2002 CART FedEx Championship in Round 16 of 19 in Miami after winning the event and building an insurmountable lead of 69 points over second place with 68 points maximum left in the season.  Hoped to MATCH the record for most wins in a season at eight set by Michael Andretti (and Newman/Haas) in 1991 (in his eighth season) and Al Unser Jr. in 1994 (12th season).

CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI, #11 Lilly Toyota-Lola-Bridgestone:  "Things don't always go your way.  I had a slow third stop that probably cost us the race when a lug nut fell out of an air gun.  On the second stop, I didn't understand why they brought me in one lap early but apparently for some reason they didn't get enough fuel in the car on the first stop.  The third stop did us in for the win though.  I dropped from second to ninth. I ran second to Tony after the second stop and would have taken over the lead when he was black-flagged but unfortunately the race didn't go that way for us.  After that the exhaust broke and ended our day.  I was very confident of our chance to win the race so it's a huge shame for everyone that the day ended the way it did. It's definitely not the way I wanted to finish my career in CART.  I spent eight years here and seven with Newman/Haas and I am thankful to them.  I have made many friends at the team and in CART that I am going to miss but I am looking forward to starting my new career in NASCAR."

· NOTES: Raced here in the 1992 Formula One event. He finished FIFTH in the year-end point standings.

-nhr-

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Al Unser Jr. , Michael Andretti