CHAMPCAR/CART: Milwaukee: Race report

Paul Tracy erases Indy disappointment with dominating Miller Lite 250 win at The Milwaukee Mile. WEST ALLIS, Wis. (June 2, 2002) - Paul Tracy ( ...

Paul Tracy erases Indy disappointment with dominating Miller Lite 250 win at The Milwaukee Mile.

WEST ALLIS, Wis. (June 2, 2002) - Paul Tracy (#26 KOOL Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) spent most of the past week lamenting the one that got away, and decided to take matters into his own hands Sunday in the Miller Lite 250 at the Milwaukee Mile.

Tracy took the lead from the second the green flag flew over the Wisconsin State Fair Park, sweeping around polesitter Adrian Fernandez (#51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Honda/Lola/Bridgestone), and would go on to lead 184 of the 250 laps to take his first win of the CART FedEx Championship Series campaign, and his third at the 1.032-mile Milwaukee oval.

The Canadian driver paced each of the first 113 laps of the day before giving up the point during pit stops, but reassumed the lead when Kenny Brack (#12 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone) made his final stop on Lap 179. Tracy would have Fernandez in his rear view mirror for the last 71 laps but kept the polesitter at bay, crossing the finish line .638 seconds ahead of Fernandez to claim his 19th career CART victory.

Fernandez would place second on the day for his best finish of the season and best since his 2000 Surfers Paradise win, earning his best placing since taking ownership of Fernandez Racing prior to the 2001 season. The one-two finish for Honda was the first of the season for any manufacturer and the first for Honda since last season's event at the Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca.

Tracy took the lead in the first corner of the race ahead of Scott Dixon (#44 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone) and would stretch his advantage to two full seconds after just 17 laps. That lead would shrink as Tracy started running down the back end of the starting field, as Townsend Bell (#20 Visteon Toyota/Reynard/Bridgestone) would slow the leader's progress as the Californian rookie fought gamely to stay on the lead lap.

Tracy led through the first round of pit stops, which came under yellow-flag conditions after Mario Dominguez (#16 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) turned a half-spin in Turn Three, and found himself with a new foe chasing him down as Patrick Carpentier (#32 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) moved into second place. That battle would continue until the 96th lap of the day when the Player's pilot would retire with an electrical problem, handing the duty of chasing down Tracy to seven-time Milwaukee winner Michael Andretti (#39 Motorola Honda/Lola/Bridgestone).

Andretti took up the challenge immediately and whittled Tracy's lead down to under a second when the caution banner flew again for Tora Takagi (#5 Pioneer/Denso Toyota/Reynard/Bridgestone), who was running in fourth place when he got in the marbles and contacted the outside wall.

A wild scramble in the pits followed as Andretti led six cars that pitted as soon as the pits opened on Lap 112, while Tracy led another six cars that initially stayed out, and then came in on Lap 114. Andretti's move would have allowed him to take the restart in the front half of the field but he spun on the subsequent without hitting anything, extending the caution period for another six orbits.

The spin allowed a handful of drivers to pit again, meaning that they would only have to make one more stop to make it to the finish, and gave the lead on the restart to Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Kenny Brack (#12 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone) and Bruno Junqueira (# 4 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone), with Brack taking the point from Junqueira in the first corner on the Lap 121 restart.

Tracy would dispatch Junqueira two turns later and settle in behind last year's Milwaukee winner as Brack would lead the next 59 laps while Junqueira maintained third with Fernandez moving into the fourth spot.

The Target teammates would duck in for a fuel stop on Lap 181 and saw their strategy go awry one lap later when their new stablemate Dixon got loose and nearly hit the Turn Two wall, bringing out the caution banner for the fourth time of the day. Everyone else would then pit under yellow on Lap 185, allowing the rest of the field to finish the remainder of the event without having to make a mandatory fuel stop.

Tracy came out at the front of the line with Fernandez holding down the second spot ahead of Dario Franchitti (#27 KOOL Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) and Michel Jourdain Jr. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola Bridgestone), Jourdain moving into the top five where he would look to extend his streak as the only driver in the series to finish in the top five in every race of the 2002 season.

Franchitti's charge would end on the Lap 189 restart lap however as he spun and hit the Turn 2 wall, bringing out a caution that would allow Brack to pit and stay on the lead lap, but Brack would be the only driver to pit as Tracy and Fernandez would maintain their top-two places on the track. The front-running duo would be joined at the front by Max Papis (#22 ROCKWELL FIRST POINT Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) for the first time all day as the Italian moved into the third spot ahead of Christian Fittipaldi (#11 Lilly Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone) and Dixon.

Jourdain would again move into the fifth spot one circuit after the Lap 201 restart while Fernandez again set sail for the rear of Tracy's Honda. Tracy built his lead to two full seconds with 21 trips around the Mile to go but the Mexican driver battled back, shaving half the deficit off the timing sheet before Tracy would take the checkered flag .638 seconds ahead of Fernandez.

Papis rounded out the podium with a third-place finish, his second of the season, while Fittipaldi and Jourdain rounded out the top five. Jourdain would assume the CART FedEx Championship Series points lead with his effort, taking a seven-point lead over Franchitti and becoming the first Mexican driver to lead the CART points since Fernandez led the loop two races into the 1998 campaign.

The CART FedEx Championship Series moves on to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca next weekend for the Bridgestone Grand Prix of Monterey Featuring the Shell 300, Round 5 of the 20-race 2002 CART FedEx Championship Series schedule. SPEED Channel will provide extensive television coverage throughout the weekend, culminating with the live race broadcast scheduled for 4:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, June 9.

Quotes from the top three finishers in the Miller Lite 250 follow below:

PAUL TRACY (#26 KOOL Honda/Lola/Bridgestone):

I'm very proud of the job that everybody's done. The amount of work everybody does you can't understand. We've had so much heartache over the last year or so. There were so many times where we've been close but it just didn't happen. Especially after what happened lat week, where we came so close to a win, it feels really good to be on the top step of the podium again." (On the start of the race) "Hey, the green light was on! I saw all green last week and I saw all green this week." (On traffic) "The whole field is fast. The tail end of the field was Michael (Andretti) and (Kenny) Brack. These were guys that I was trying to lap. You don't want to lose a lap, because if you do and the yellow comes out, you're out of it. They were only going two or three tenths slower. That's just how deep the field is."

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ (#51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Honda/Lola/Bridgestone):

"For me (the start) was absolutely out of control. The flag was green and Paul was always in control, and basically he was always in the lead. I bet you there were three cars on the start/finish line that passed me. (CART Starter) Jim Swintal came to me and apologized. That cost me the race. The polesitter should be always setting the pace. After that, we kept working our way up. The track got really slippery and at one point I thought I was going to hit the wall in Turn Four. I actually closed my eyes because I thought I was going to hit the wall. The marbles were really, really, really high. I had to change my line and drive lower." (On what this means to his team) Fernandez Racing is a very young team. It's not easy to make a team work, but the team never made any mistakes all weekend. This team will keep going up and will keep getting stronger and stronger."

MAX PAPIS (#22 Rockwell First Point Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone):

"That's why they call me 'Mad Max.' That's how I made my reputation in U.S. Racing, by coming from the back (of the field). We came here and we only had one car. It was pretty hard to hang it out in qualifying, because if I made one mistake, we would not be racing. That shows we are a small group, but we've got a lot of heart and determination, and we have accomplished a lot. I don't know if you guys understand. We are third in the championship with a team that has never been testing. We don't have a part in this truck. Nothing. Just my car. The guys are under so much pressure. They don't deserve it, but you have to try and build on it. We were one of the fastest cars out there at the end of the race. We were catching Adrian. It was difficult to be super brave; I could only be normal brave.

NOTEWORTHY:

* Michel Jourdain Jr. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) assumed the points lead with his fifth-place finish, taking a seven-point margin into next week's Bridgestone Grand Prix of Monterey Featuring the Shell 300. Jourdain's finish makes him the only driver in the series to finish in the top five in each of the first four races of the CART FedEx season.

* Honda drivers Paul Tracy (#26 KOOL Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) and Adrian Fernandez (#51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) finished 1-2 today, marking the first time that any manufacturer has swept the top two spots in a race this season. It is the first time that Honda has swept the first two finishing spots since last year's event at the Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca.

* Paul Tracy led 184 laps Sunday, more laps than he had led in the previous two seasons combined. His number of laps led Sunday is higher than any of his season totals since joining Team KOOL Green in 1998. Sunday's laps led also gives him 2,637 for his CART career, moving him ahead of Emerson Fittipaldi (2,624) for sixth on the all-time list. The win was his third on the Milwaukee Mile, making him only the third driver to win as many as three CART events at Milwaukee, joining Michael Andretti (5) and Tom Sneva (4).

* Cristiano da Matta (#6 Havoline Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone) scored his first oval-track points of the season with an 11th-place finish Sunday, allowing the Brazilian to maintain the fifth spot in the CART standings.

-cart-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Michael Andretti , Bruno Junqueira , Max Papis , Adrian Fernandez , Patrick Carpentier , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tora Takagi , Townsend Bell , Mario Dominguez , Tom Sneva , Emerson Fittipaldi , Chip Ganassi , Cristiano da Matta , Michel Jourdain
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing