Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline driver Michael Andretti drove from his 15 th place start to finish sixth in the 225-lap Bosch Spark Plug Grand Prix of Nazareth. At the start, Andretti and his crew noticed a problem that resulted in three inches less of...
Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline driver Michael Andretti drove from his 15 th place start to finish sixth in the 225-lap Bosch Spark Plug Grand Prix of Nazareth. At the start, Andretti and his crew noticed a problem that resulted in three inches less of boost which is equivalent to approximately 50-60 less horsepower. He gained one position on the start when Dario Franchitti, who started 14th to spun causing Cristiano da Matta to spin as well. He maintained 14 th place until lap 42 when he dropped two positions while struggling with a lack of turbo boost. Around lap 70, race leader Montoya had lapped some racecars and was immediately behind Andretti when luck struck and a caution period came out when Max Papis crashed. He made his first pit stop on lap 75 and returned to the race in 15 th place. He moved into 14 th place when he passed Helio Castro Neves. He moved into 13"' place when Patrick Carpentier, who was making his return to racing after breaking his wrist in a non-racing accident, pitted with mechanical problems on lap 112. He made his second pit stop on lap 118 and returned to the race in 13th place. Many of the other drivers did not change tires in order to make a shorter stop- During the same caution period, Andretti made a quick stop to top off his fuel in hopes that the rest of the race would be caution-free and the front runners would need to pit under green conditions, allowing Andretti to move forward. Andretti was in I 10thplace when Alex Tagliani was black flagged to check a fluid leak. On the restart, Michel Jourdain and Paul Tracy came in to contact with Tracy- During the accident, Montoya somehow damaged his front wing and had to pit to replace it. After Tracy was restarted, he passed other raccears in an effort to regain his position while the yellow flag was out. CART made Tracy move to the back again and Andretti moved back into 9th place. On lap 139, Andretti passed Oriol Servia for eighth place. He moved into sixth place on lap 158 when race leader Tony Kanaan and second place Jimmy Vasser pitted during a caution for Michel Jourdain. After the race was restarted for a few laps, Mark Blundell and Helio Castroneves came into contact and brought out what would be a yellow period that was to last a surprisingly long 19 laps and thus allow all of the other drivers to be able to make it to the end of the race without another stop for fuel. On lap 187 the race was restarted and Montoya got a run on those in front of him and passed three cars, including Andretti. He ran in seventh place until lap 214 of 225 when second place runner Roberto Moreno crashed as a possible result of a deflating tire- Andretti held sixth place until the checkered flag and collected eight points. He moved from eighth place to sixth in the standings with a total of 28 points. Gil de Ferran scored the I 100th Indy-style race for Roger Penske (CART and USAC). Following are his post race comments
"I had a boost problem from the green flag on," said Andretti. "We were down three inches of boost, which was about 50 horsepower. Considering that and the fact that I dodged about 10 accidents, I am lucky to finish in sixth place. The lack of boost made it a tough day. I got wide in the first part of the race and then got passed by two guys- I had bad understeer. I would get a run on guys and then they would pull away when we got to the corners. The whole Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline team did a good job today to get me to the finish line. (On Penske's 100"' win:) I'm happy for Roger. His 100th win was a long time coming. He has done so much for the sport of auto racing. It's also good that he did it at what many people consider his home track."
Big Kmart/Route 66 driver Christian Fittipaldi ran in second or third place for most of the 225-lap Bosch Spark Plug Grand Prix of Nazareth race but finished in 11th place after lack of radio communication played havoc with pit strategy and a late additional stop for a deflating tire dropped him to an I I"' place finish. After starting in his second career CART front-row start (second place), Fittipaldi held second place behind race leader and pole sitter Juan Montoya until his first pit stop on lap 76. As he was attempting to exit the pits in the lead, excess wheel spin allowed previous third place runner Paul Tracy to narrowly edge Fittipaldi. as well as previous race leader Montoya, out of the pits. The race was restarted on lap 80 but Luiz Garcia Jr. spun on the restart to bring out another yellow. By lap 86, Montoya regained the lead from Tracy with Fittipaldi close behind- He held third place until lap 118 when the field pit under the caution to retrieve the car of Norberto Fontana. Due to the timing of the pit stop, the team contemplated not changing tires in order to save time and gain positions but could not ask Fittipaldi if his current tires would hold up an additional stint- The team had to take a conservative approach and make a routine stop. Fittipaldi's pit stop was quick but he was passed by many cars that did not change tires. Current race leader Tony Kanaan and Jimmy Vasser did not pit and therefore were running one-two. Fittipaldi rejoined the race in 9th place. He moved into eighth place when Alex Tagliani was black flagged to check a fluid leak. He moved into sixth place on lap 129 when Michel Jourdain and Paul Tracy came into contact and Juan Montoya pitted to replace his front wing, possibly damaged in the same incident. He took over fifth place when Tracy had to go to the back of the field for passing under the caution period. On lap 139, Fittipaldi charged alongside Kenny Brack but did not have enough speed to complete the pass for fourth place. He held fifth place and continued pressuring Brack until he made a quick pit stop on lap 157 to top off his fuel during a caution for Michael Jourdain who made contact with the wall. After receiving six gallons of fuel he returned to the track in 10"' place with enough fuel to go the distance and hope that the remainder of the race would be caution free, causing others to pit under racing conditions. On lap 168, an uncharacteristically long 19 lap caution began to clear the wrecked cars of Mark Blundell and Helio Castro Neves, thus allowing other drivers to have enough fuel to complete the race. The race was restarted and Fittipaldi continued in 10th place. On lap 214, Fittipaldi was immediately called in when the crew was warned of a deflating tire via computer telemetry. He rejoined the race in 12th place but moved up to 11th when second place runner Roberto Moreno crashed, reportedly due to a deflating tire. Due to the high number of accidents, many drivers ran over debris, which can result in a puncture. After the race was restarted, Fittipaldi drove to an I I th place finish and collected two championship points. It was his 10th time to score points in his past 12 FedEx starts, dating to last year's 12th-place finish at Cleveland and including his first career victory at Road America. Following are his post race comments,
"We didn't have the use of the radios from the start," said Fittipaldi. "I could hear them but they couldn't hear me. In a race full of alternatives, that definitely didn't help. When we stopped for a splash, there were 60-some laps to go and a lot of people wouldn't have made it to the end but then we had an enormous amount of yellow laps. Luckily the sensors showed that I had a tire (right rear) going down and I was able to pit. Even if we would have stayed in the front, I have to ask myself whether the punctured tire would have ultimately gotten me anyway. It was a tough day for the Big Kmart/Route 66 team. We were hoping for more from our second place start."
Andretti Announced Ownership of Hockey Team ... Longtime hockey fan, Michael Andretti, announced his partnership with the Lehigh Valley Extreme hockey team on Friday at the track. The Extreme will compete in the United Hockey League. "There are many hockey fans in this area so it's good that there is now a team here," commented Andretti at the press conference. "They told me I could drive the Zambomi so I'm going to make a new track record with it. I'll be at as many games as possible rooting on the team. There are many hockey players that are race fans and many drivers who are hockey fans. I hope this association will help both sports grow."
On the Mound Now Pitching for the Detroit Tigers Is ... Big Kmart/Route 66 driver Christian Fittipaldi will travel to Detroit, Mich. on Memorial Day to be the guest of honor during the Kmart/Detroit Grand Prix/Ford Family Day for the Detroit Tigers first game at Comerica Park. Fittipaldi will sign autographs for one hour and will then throw out the first pitch for the game at 7:05 PM ET. Commercials have been running at Comerica Park, which feature Fittipaldi. While he is in Detroit for the appearance he will be doing interviews to promote the appearance as well as the upcoming Tenneco Automotive Grand Prix of Detroit race. Prior to the appearance he did an interview for WJR, which was broadcast to 12 states. He was interviewed on 97.1 (Detroit FM) after the race and will be on WDFN Monday morning.
Next on the Schedule ... The Miller Lite 225 will take place next weekend at the historic Milwaukee Mile. Newman/Haas Racing has won five of the past nine events at the track- Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline driver Andretti tested at the track one week ago and was the fastest driver for the majority of the test day. While Andretti was concentrating on "hot" pit stop practice, Roberto Moreno ran a quicker time on the one-mile oval.