CHAMPCAR/CART: Miami: Race report

MIAMI (September 28, 2003) -- Going back through many long and lean years as Bettenhausen Motorsports, the newly-rebuilt Herdez Competition team has pushed its team into the spotlight on occasion in the last two years of racing in the Champ Car ...

MIAMI (September 28, 2003) -- Going back through many long and lean years as Bettenhausen Motorsports, the newly-rebuilt Herdez Competition team has pushed its team into the spotlight on occasion in the last two years of racing in the Champ Car World Series, but on a sunny Sunday in Miami, the duo of Mario Dominguez (#55 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Roberto Moreno (#4 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) took all the spotlight and most of the hardware home as they swept the top two spots in the Grand Prix Americas Presented by Sportsbook.com.

Dominguez and Moreno kept their noses clean all day and rewrote the team record books as they earned the first-ever 1-2 sweep in the long history of the Herdez squad. In fact, no two Herdez drivers had ever finished in the top 10 of the same race before today but Dominguez and Moreno erased that mark from the team annals with a strong run on the 1.15-mile Miami street course, winning Round 16 of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford.

Dominguez would take the lead on the 108th lap of the 135-lap event, leading his teammate past Darren Manning (#15 RAC/Walker Racing Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) and ahead of the pack. Dominguez, who took his first Champ Car win a year ago under monsoon conditions in Surfers Paradise, would hold off his teammate on a Lap 122 restart and protected his lead with some of his fastest laps of the race in the day's waning moments as he claimed a 5.241-second win over Moreno. The Brazilian veteran would complete the historic sweep by coming home in second, earning his best finish of the year and his first podium since 2001.

Mika Salo (#27 PK Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) came back from losing a lap on his first fuel stint and emerged from a couple of tight squeezes to claim the third spot, earning a podium finish in just his second Champ Car start, making him the first driver since Nigel Mansell in 1993 to earn a podium finish in one of his first two series starts. The run also gave the rookie PK Racing squad its first-ever podium, and marked its highest finish of the 2003 campaign.

The event defied any and all pre-race predictions and ended up as one of the wildest affairs of the 2003 campaign. The first pass for the lead came in the first corner as Bruno Junqueira (#1 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) swooped around polesitter Adrian Fernandez (#51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) to take the lead, but Fernandez battled back just one lap later with a strong inside move in Turn 1 and reclaimed a lead that he would hold for the next 88 trips around the Miami layout.

Fernandez would take some of the drama out of the lead battle for the first half of the race, but there was plenty to keep series followers entertained directly behind him. Fernandez and Junqueira held the top two spots ahead of Oriol Servia (#20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), Paul Tracy (#3 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Sebastien Bourdais (#2 McDonald's/Lilly Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) as Tracy looked to protect his series lead from the Newman/Haas Racing duo.

Servia would be the first to fall to the wayside as he lost control of his mount on a Lap 44 restart while running third and ended his day sitting against the wall with a damaged suspension. Tracy and Bourdais would be next to tangle 24 laps later in a skirmish that threw the points race into a blender. Bourdais tried to make a pass of Tracy for third coming through Turn One, but did not totally complete the pass, leaving enough room for Tracy to try an inside move in Turn Two. Tracy would make contact with Bourdais and send both of them spinning, creating enough damage with the move to end the race prematurely for both drivers.

The crash threw the door wide open to Junqueira as he looked to eat into the championship lead that was 17 points at the drop of the green flag. However, that opportunity evaporated in a spray of carbon fiber on Lap 93 when Junqueira powered to the inside of Fernandez in Turn One, but instead of finding a place to pass, he found the rear of Fernandez, spinning both leaders out and ending their chances for victory.

The spin also collected the luckless Tiago Monteiro (#7 Fittipaldi-Dingman Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) who had just come out of the pits after contact with Michel Jourdain Jr. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone). That contact would be memorable not for the fact that it slowed Monteiro down, but that it would end the victory chances of Jourdain 10 laps after the fact. Jourdain would inherit the lead after the Fernandez crash, but was penalized by CART Stewards for the Pit Lane incident, moving him to the back of the restart line and promoting Manning to the lead.

Manning's lead would be short-lived however as Dominguez, Moreno and Salo would all get by the British rookie and into the lead on Lap 108. Dominguez built a two-second lead but was forced to endure a restart with 12 laps to go after the car of Ryan Hunter-Reay (#31 American Spirit Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) expired on track. Equal to the task, the Mexican sophomore rolled away at the drop of the green flag and eased to the win. Behind the podium finishers came the Reynards of Jimmy Vasser (#12 American Spirit Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) and Mario Haberfeld (#34 Mi-Jack/Conquest Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) to round out the top five. Vasser would earn his best finish since Long Beach while Haberfeld claimed his first top-five placing since Laguna Seca.

Junqueira would return to place ninth and did manage to shave a few points off of Tracy's advantage with just three races to go. Tracy now leads Junqueira by 13 points, with Jourdain using his seventh-place finish to close to within 33 markers of the leader. Patrick Carpentier (#32 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) would keep his title hopes alive by finishing sixth, making him the last of the five drivers that are still alive in the championship with three races to run.

QUOTES FROM TOP THREE FINISHERS:

MARIO DOMINGUEZ (#55 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): "It just feels amazing I tell you. It's just unbelievable that the Herdez Competition team finished one-two. It's a historic moment and a great result for our team. Just crossing the finish line knowing that Roberto [Moreno] and I went one-two -- I can't describe that to you. To win this race in Miami going into Mexico City in a few weeks is huge, for the sponsors, the team and everyone involved. They have all believed in this project and I'm very happy with the result."

ROBERTO MORENO (#4 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): "I can't believe this old man finished second! All I can say is that it's a team effort. It started in Spring Training in Sebring with testing, and we should have had better results thus far, but we put it together today. I've always believed in Mario and it gives me great pleasure to be sitting here driving for Herdez Competition."

MIKA SALO (#27 PK Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): "It was a short lap we lost in the beginning really, and we got behind some slower cars. But luckily there was a yellow and we got the lap back. The PK Racing team did a good job, talking and planning. So I had to make up for my poor qualifying effort yesterday when I hit the wall and started in the back. I kept it between the walls and we finished third -- which was higher than I would have guessed -- but we'll take it for sure. I'm pretty confident with the car now and driving on cold tires so we'll go from here."

NOTEWORTHY

* Adrian Fernandez led 88 laps on the day on his way to placing eighth, marking the most laps that he has led since 1999, when he paced 153 laps at Motegi. He also led his 500th career lap on Sunday and now has a career total of 583.

* Darren Manning had his series record streak of top-10 finishes snapped Sunday as he placed 11th. He had scored in the top 10 in each of the last eight races, setting a new standard for series rookies. He is still alive in the Rookie-of-the-Year chase, standing 59 points behind Sebastien Bourdais.

* Geoff Boss finished 10th for Dale Coyne Racing, marking the first time since 1996 that a Dale Coyne driver has scored points in consecutive races. Roberto Moreno was the last driver to manage the feat for the Illinois-based team.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Darren Manning , Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Adrian Fernandez , Roberto Moreno , Mika Salo , Patrick Carpentier , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Nigel Mansell , Mario Dominguez , Tiago Monteiro , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Sébastien Bourdais , Geoff Boss , Dale Coyne , Michel Jourdain
Teams Dale Coyne Racing