CHAMPCAR/CART: Mexico City: Race report

Kenny Brack earns first road course win in record-breaking CART season finale in Mexico City. MEXICO CITY (November 17, 2002) - A record crowd that's believed to be the largest ever to witness a single-day sporting event in Mexico saw Kenny...

Kenny Brack earns first road course win in record-breaking CART season finale in Mexico City.

MEXICO CITY (November 17, 2002) - A record crowd that's believed to be the largest ever to witness a single-day sporting event in Mexico saw Kenny Brack (#12 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone) lead the final 11 laps of the inaugural CART Gran Premio Telmex-Gigante Presented by Banamex/Visa Sunday in Mexico City. Brack scored his first career road course victory on the revitalized 2.75-mile Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez circuit, which last played host to CART in 1981.

The action started in the first turn of the 73-lap event in front of an enthusiastic crowd of 174,866, a new CART record single-day attendance record. Paul Tracy (#26 KOOL Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) of Team KOOL Green kept the fans on their feet early as he made a dash from his eighth starting position and looked to the inside of 1996 CART champion Jimmy Vasser (#8 Shell Ford-Cosworth/Lola Bridgestone) who started fifth on the grid. Tracy got deep inside of Vasser, but made hard nose-to-tail contact, sending both drivers spinning of course with slight damage.

After CART race control officials issued a full-course yellow for the incident, polesitter Bruno Junqueira (#4 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone) surprisingly went off course in turn nine after fending off a battle for the lead from Tony Kanaan (#10 Pioneer/WorldCom Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) of Mo Nunn Racing who started fourth. Junqueira regained composure and continued on, but only after falling back to ninth position and relinquishing the lead to Kanaan.

Mexico City native Luis Diaz (#51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) had high hopes for his Champ Car debut while filling in for injured Adrian Fernandez, but only completed one lap before mechanical gremlins cut his afternoon short.

Kanaan paced the field on the lap four restart and led convincingly through the first two 20-lap pit windows until lap 40, as Christian Fittipaldi (#11 Lilly Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone) of Newman/Haas Racing waited patiently in second. But Kanaan and the Mo Nunn Racing team would run into major problems when the Brazilian left the pits with the fuel hose still engaged in his machine, starting a fire which sent pit lane and safety officials into action.

As a result of the incident, Kanaan lost the lead to Scotland's Dario Franchitti (#27 KOOL Honda/Lola Bridgestone) who started third. Franchitti then led a mid-race battle for rights to second place in the driver's standings (worth $500,000) with Canada's Patrick Carpentier (#32 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth Reynard/Bridgestone) in fifth and Junqueira in sixth. As Franchitti extended his lead over Kanaan to nearly 3.5 seconds, Kanaan received the black flag for a pit safety violation, leaving Fittipaldi and Brack in the hunt for the lead.

The pace was slowed on lap 53 for a single-car incident involving CART's all-time victory leader Michael Andretti (#39 Motorola Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) who got wide exiting turn 13 and came back across the course to make contact with the inside retaining wall. Andretti, who started 10th in the final race of his illustrious CART career, would retire from the damage sustained in the incident, finishing 17th.

The race took a dramatic turn for the worse for some of the frontrunners as Franchitti came down pit lane under yellow in what would be the race's final scheduled pit stop. Both race leader Franchitti and second-place Fittipaldi would lose valuable track position during the duo's lengthy final stops. Franchitti came off pit lane in sixth place with Fittipaldi in ninth as Mexican Michel Jourdain Jr. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) of Team Rahal assumed the lead off pit sequence. Although the fan favorite was forced to relinquish the lead to eventual racewinner Brack for a scheduled lap 62 pit stop, the record Mexican crowd stood and cheered as Jourdain paced nine laps ahead of the eventual leaders.

But in the end, Brack, the Swede, was able to benefit from other's misfortunes on pit lane and won his first event of the season and the fifth of his Champ Car career, stretching his lead to 3.987 seconds over recently-crowned CART FedEx Championship Series champion Cristiano da Matta (#1 Havoline Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone) of Newman/Haas Racing, who finished second after benefiting from the final pit stop sequence.

Junqueira recovered to finish on the podium after a long consistent ride and he earned the second place battle for the championship as a result.

Four members of the Mo Nunn Racing crew were injured in the fire during Tony Kanaan's pit stop on Lap 40. According to Dr. Steve Olvey, CART Director of Medical Affairs, Art Kilgore suffered first- and second-degree burns to his arms, Darren Sturrock suffered first- and second-degree burns to his face and legs, John Gage suffered heat inhalation, and Don Lambert suffered minor heat inhalation. All four crew members were treated at the CART Medical Unit and were released. The crew members will fly home this evening.

The massive raceday crowd of 174,866 was an all-time CART record, surpassing the previous mark of 116,000 set in Monterrey, Mexico in 2000. Complementing the raceday turnout was a total of 351,972 spectators for the weekend, which also stacked up to be a all-time CART record, surpassing the 316,000 that moved through the turnstiles that same weekend in Monterrey 2000.

At the conclusion of the 19-race season, CART topped its previous record for total season attendance at 2,686,640, besting the 2000 season at mark of 2,621,229 - a 20-race slate that year.

CHAMP CAR TOP-THREE DRIVER QUOTES

KENNY BRACK (#12 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone): "It's been a strange season. It's nice to finish this way. It's really, really fantastic to come here to Mexico and see, first of all, this facility with all the fans. It's really a track that has very high standards. It's been a pleasure to run here all weekend. For me and for the Target Chip Ganassi team, the crew of the #12 car, I think it's been fantastic, too, to finally get a victory. We've been so close so many times this year. We led a lot of laps, but not the last one. Today was finally great to do that. For me, too, I mean, to win on a road course here, I thought I wasn't going to win on a road course (laughter). We've been good this year on road courses, but we haven't won. It's a fantastic feeling for me and the team, Target, Chip Ganassi and everybody."

CRISTIANO DA MATTA (#1 Havoline Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone): "For me it was a very tough race. I don't think I had the car that really deserved to finish the race second today, but I think that's where the teamwork comes into play. Many times during this championship, with the whole package, either one day the car wasn't great or the other day maybe the engine wasn't great, the pit stops wasn't great, and other days the driver wasn't great. There were always the other parts trying to cover the other people's not mistakes but weaknesses that very day. Today I feel like the car wasn't a hundred percent capable of finishing in the top three. My crew just gave me a pit stop that I don't know where they came from with that. It was just so quick. I went from eighth position to second position. I give all the credit for the second place to the crew. I passed only one car on the track. Everything else was their good work. So what can I say? They've done a wonderful job the whole season. Today they just finished smoking all the other teams in the pit stops. I'm just very happy - in two ways. I'm very happy for the team, having a second place out of my last race in CART, and the other way leaving a team that I got along with everybody so well, of course it's not a good feeling. On the other hand, I have a Formula 1 challenge in front of me that I'm really excited about. But today, if you just talk about today, for me the result and everything, it's not a very happy day."

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA (#4 Target/Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone): "Today was a tough race. But in the end I'm quite happy to finish second in the championship. I had a very good car all the weekend. But on the start, starting the pole is not that big an advantage. Tony got inside of me. I tried to outbrake him. I hit a bump, because I was in a line I never do it. I just lose my pedal, the throttle, and I couldn't lift the throttle to downshift. I was stuck in fifth gear and locked a little bit, then I went straight. It was a silly mistake. Then I came to ninth, and I was patient to go forward on the grid. I had a very, very fast car, but unfortunately I wasn't able to pass people. My car wasn't that fast on the straightaway today. Once I got to run by myself, I could close the gaps. Our last pit stop for sure my crew did a good job, put me behind Carpentier. I knew the second place in the championship was between me and him. On the restart, I did a very good last turn, outbreak him in turn one. Then I just follow Cristiano, make sure that I'm going to finish in front of Patrick, guarantee the second place in the championship. That's quite good because Cristiano drove very well, but I am not ashamed to finish second in the championship."

NOTEWORTHY
* Today's crowd of 174,866 shattered the attendance record for a single-day sporting event in Mexico. The previous record of 132,247 was set in 1993 when Mexican boxer Julio Caesar Chavez fought at Azteca Stadium in Mexico City.

* The win for Brack was his first since The American Memorial at EuroSpeedway Lausitz in 2001. Brack becomes the ninth different winner of the 2002 CART FedEx Championship Series, marking the fourth consecutive season that there have been at least nine different winners. He is also the sixth different winner in the last six races.

* Patrick Carpentier locked up third place in the 2002 CART FedEx Championship Series point standings with a fourth place performance today. The result was his third consecutive top-four result, and his 10th top five finish of the season.

* With a 10th place finish, Jimmy Vasser earned championship points for the ninth consecutive race. As a result, he moved from 12th following Round 10 in Vancouver, to seventh at the conclusion of the season.

* Rookie Andre Lotterer (J.A.G. Sports Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) earned a championship point in his first Champ Car appearance, with a 12th place run today. It was the first time a rookie scored in his maiden race since Darren Manning earned four points for a ninth place run at Rockingham in September.

* Despite leading the race within the last 15 laps, Michel Jourdain Jr. finished outside of the points-paying position for the second consecutive race after scoring in the first 17 races of the season. Nevertheless, he ends the season as the leader in laps (2,368 out of a possible 2,411) and miles (4,238.698 out of a possible 4,321.705) completed. His 10th place showing in the 2002 CART FedEx Championship Series standings is a career-best.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Andre Lotterer , Darren Manning , Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Adrian Fernandez , Patrick Carpentier , Paul Tracy , Tony Kanaan , Kenny Brack , Luis Diaz , Chip Ganassi , Michel Jourdain , Mo Nunn