CHAMPCAR/CART: Mont?rr?y: Honda Race report

Franchitti Starts 2002 with Second Place Run Dario Franchitti led the way for the Honda-powered field in today's season opening Tecate/ Telmex Grand Prix of Monterrey, briefly leading the race and finishing second to defending race champion ...

Franchitti Starts 2002 with Second Place Run

Dario Franchitti led the way for the Honda-powered field in today's season opening Tecate/ Telmex Grand Prix of Monterrey, briefly leading the race and finishing second to defending race champion Cristiano da Matta.

Teammate Paul Tracy also led several laps today and looked like a potential top-three finisher, but fuel pickup problems aboard his Team KOOL Green Honda required an extra pit stop for the Canadian and dropped him to eighth at the checkered.

Pole qualifier and local favorite Adrian Fernandez started strongly today, but running their cars too low led to the chassis grounding under braking and a disappointing 13th place run for Fernandez, 15th for teammate Shinji Nakano. Michael Andretti fell a lap down due to a spin, while Tony Kanaan lost two laps early due to an electronics problem that led to a long pit stop for repairs, and then was involved in a late-race collision with Tora Takagi that ended his run.

Today's run was the first of 20 events on the 2002 CART FedEx Championship Series schedule. The next round, the traditional race through the streets that is the Grand Prix of Long Beach, California, will take place April 14.

Honda Fast Facts:

· Dario Franchitti's 2nd place finish equals the best result for Honda scored in last year's inaugural race here when Gil de Ferran ran second to Cristiano da Matta.

· Adrian Fernandez scored Honda's 61st pole in Champ Car racing by posting the fastest time in qualifying in both Friday and Saturday's timed sessions.

· Today's race was the debut for the new Honda HR-2 engine, designed for CART's new 34-inch turbocharger boost pressure limit.

Dario Franchitti (#27 Team KOOL Green Honda) started 2nd, finished 2nd:

"Up until the end, it was a great race. We were running flat out all the way and that's the way it is suppose to be. We lost some valuable time on our first pit stop with the air jack and had to raise the car again, but the rest of the stops were perfect. But that's the kind of race it was. You needed a perfect race to win, and with the time we lost, it made a difference. Plus it was a shame that I was held up (by lapped traffic) at the end. I should have been able to take a run at de Matta, but I was completely held up and could not make a race out of it."

Paul Tracy (#26 Team KOOL Green Honda) started 19th, finished 8th:

"Within five laps at the end of the run I would run out of fuel and at the last stop we were just outside the window of where we needed to be, that 27 lap window (between pit stops). It's disappointing, we were right on track to be on the podium. The car felt good and I could feel my off-season conditioning pay off. It should have been a better day, but at least we came out of here with some points."

Michael Andretti (#39 Team Motorola Honda) started 16th, finished 12th:

"Unfortunately, I spun while downshifting and it really cost me since I went a lap down. The car was handling much better today and I was putting together some good lap times but it was just really difficult to gain track position. The car was consistent all day and we got more grip out of our Bridgestone tires as the race went on, so I was really disappointed that we weren't able to capitalize on that."

Adrian Fernandez (#51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Fernandez Racing Honda) started 1st, finished 13th:

"We missed a bit on the setup, I think we started with the car too low. I was touching the ground under braking and then locking the brakes. At the start I thought we might have a pretty good car but after a few laps I knew we didn't have a car to contend today. We'll get them next time."

Shinji Nakano (#52 Alpine/Mitsuba Fernandez Racing Honda) started 20th, finished 15th:

"The car was okay until my contact with da Matta. But it wasn't easy today, the track was very slick off line. After the contact, the car had even more oversteer and we also ran the ride height too low."

Tony Kanaan (#10 Pioneer/WorldCom Mo Nunn Racing Honda) started 13th, finished 16th:

"You hate to leave the opening race of the season without any points. That's a tough way to start the year. That's why we were determined to continue even though the electrical problem early in the race put us two laps down. You just never know what's going to happen out there. We ran pretty competitive laps from then on. I was following (Tora) Takagi for quite a long time, and toward the end of the race I had a chance to get by him. I had an opening heading into Turn 1, but then he closed the door on me at the last second. We touched, and that was it."

-hrd-

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Series INDYCAR