CHAMPCAR/CART: Season finale Fontana summary

Da Matta Collects $1 Million For Record-Setting Victory At Marlboro 500 Presented By Toyota FONTANA, Calif. (November 4, 2001) - Cristiano da Matta of Newman/Haas Racing capped a day-long, record-breaking shuffle at the front of the field Sunday...

Da Matta Collects $1 Million For Record-Setting Victory At Marlboro 500 Presented By Toyota

FONTANA, Calif. (November 4, 2001) - Cristiano da Matta of Newman/Haas Racing capped a day-long, record-breaking shuffle at the front of the field Sunday and earned a cool $1 million for the effort by winning the Marlboro 500 Presented by Toyota at California Speedway.

In a race that featured a Champ Car record 73 lead changes among a record 19 different drivers - despite being shortened from its originally scheduled 250 laps to 220, due to concerns over daylight - da Matta (Texaco/Havoline/Kmart Toyota Lola) reached the start/finish line just .007 of a second ahead of Team Rahal's Max Papis (Miller Lite Ford Lola) as the last of eight caution flags flew on Lap 216, the result of a single-car accident involving Scott Dixon (Nextel Powerware Panasonic PacWest Toyota).

As the time required to clean the debris from the accident was more than remained in the event, the race concluded under caution, with da Matta claiming his third victory of the season and second in a row, following last week's win at Australia. He became the second consecutive Newman/Haas Racing driver to claim the $1 million prize for a victory in the season finale, following teammate Christian Fittipaldi's win here last year.

Da Matta, who qualified on the outside pole, led 53 laps, one off the event-high 54 laps led by Papis. The 73 lead changes crumbled the previous Champ Car record of 62, established at Michigan in 1998.

In addition, the 19 different race leaders shattered a Champ Car record of 12 established at Fontana last year.

Da Matta's three victories tied him with reigning Indianapolis 500 champion Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske for second place in the FedEx Championship Series. Kenny Brack (Shell Ford Lola), Papis teammate, led the 2001 FedEx Championship Series with four victories.

Da Matta collected 20 championship points for the victory, and finished fifth in the championship with 140 points, one behind fourth-place Castroneves (141). Papis, who finished second, moved from eighth to sixth place in the championship following his second podium finish in three events, including a victory at Laguna Seca. He finished the season with 107 championship points.

Third place went to pole-sitter Alex Tagliani (Player's/Indeck Ford Reynard) of Player's Forsythe Racing, who logged his second consecutive podium performance following a runner-up effort at Australia. Tagliani moved from 16th to 11th place in the championship, with 65 points.

Rounding out the top five finishers were rookie Bruno Junqueira (Target Toyota Lola) of Target Chip Ganassi Racing, whose fourth-place effort was his best since a victory at Road America, and Tony Kanaan (Hollywood Honda Reynard), who scored championship points for the ninth time in 10 events by finishing fifth.

Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske, who will be formally crowned FedEx Championship Series champion for the second consecutive season during Tuesday night's awards ceremonies in Las Vegas, finished sixth. He concludes the season with 199 championship points, 36 more than Brack, who finished in the runner-up spot.

Michael Andretti (Motorola Honda Reynard) of Team Motorola wrapped up third place in the championship with a seventh-place finish Sunday. Andretti, CART's all-time victory leader (41) in his first season with Team Motorola, logged his best finish in the championship since a runner-up effort in 1996.

WHAT THEY'RE SAYING

CRISTIANO da MATTA, Texaco/Havoline/Kmart Toyota Lola: "I thought I had to stay in the lead and that's what I was trying to do. What I didn't want to do is fight a lot with Max or Alex because I didn't want a lot of others to be in the fight at the end. I was pretty confident in the car, and could go flat down to the end. You need to be a little lucky being in the right place at the right time. For everybody, it's a very exciting race. We were racing all together all the time. I've been all over the world, and I think that's the kind of racing that the fans like to see. It's a very, very nice race."

MAX PAPIS, Miller Lite Ford Lola: "I feel that the Miller team did a wonderful job this year despite all the difficulties and everything. It's unfortunate that the yellow flag came out. I still think that I beat him. I learned a lot in my years of experience on a superspeedway. I'm still going to have to watch the video and check it out. But it was a great race. I accept the results. I drove very, very nicely, and I'm proud of what we did. This is motor racing and can't win all the time. This was my last race for Team Rahal. I don't know if this is goodbye or see you later, because there's a lot of things still up in the air. I drove really hard for my whole career. We worked really hard on the Miller team, and this wasn't easy. We always believed that we have a good heart, and have good ability and we finished in the top six of the championship. I'm very proud of what we did. I gave it all I had."

ALEX TAGLIANI, Player's/Indeck Ford Reynard: "It was pretty good except when we were running three-wide or four-wide. You never know, and you need to be confident. It's a long race and can be boring sometimes because you have to conserve fuel. I got into the lead only once. It was a question of saving fuel and trying to get a yellow to come into the pits. That's what I did today."

WHAT'S NOTEWORTHY

* Cristiano da Matta's (Texaco/Havoline/Kmart Toyota Lola) victory was the fourth of his career. Each of the four has come on a different type of racing venue: short oval (Chicago, 2000), permanent road course (Mexico, 2001), temporary street circuit (Australia, 2001) and superspeedway. He finished the season with five podium finishes, including second at Long Beach and third at England, and scored championship points in 13 of 20 starts.

* Cristiano da Matta's victory was the sixth of the season for Toyota, and its second on an oval. The earlier wins came from da Matta at Monterrey, Mexico and Australia; Scott Dixon (Nextel Powerware Panasonic PacWest Toyota) at Nazareth; Bruno Junqueira (Target Toyota Lola) at Road America and Roberto Moreno (Visteon Ford Reynard) at Vancouver.

* Max Papis (Miller Lite Ford Lola) scored championship points for the sixth consecutive event with his second-place finish, dating to a runner-up result at Germany and including a victory at Laguna Seca. The podium finish was his fourth of the season, including a victory at Portland. Papis moved from 16th to sixth in the championship during his six-race scoring run.

* Alex Tagliani (Player's/Indeck Ford Reynard) recorded a career-best finish on an oval with his third-place effort. His previous oval best was sixth three times, including last year at California Speedway.

* Rookie Bruno Junqueira finished fourth, a career best in three superspeedway starts, but his third top-10 performance this season at that type of venue. He also finished fifth at the Indianapolis 500 in May and ninth at Michigan International Speedway in July.

* Tony Kanaan's (Hollywood Honda Reynard) fifth-place finish was his best since fourth at Vancouver, and allowed him to score championship points for the ninth time in 10 events and the 14th time in 19 starts this season. He finished ninth in the championship with 93 points, a career-high in his fourth FedEx Championship Series season.

* FedEx Championship Series champion Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) finished sixth to extend his streak of points-paying finishes to 10 events, the longest run in the FedEx Championship Series this season. De Ferran, who became only the fourth back-to-back champion in series history this season, scored in 15 of 20 starts this year, with victories at England and Houston among his eight podium finishes.

* Kenny Brack (Shell Ford Lola), who finished runner-up in the FedEx Championship Series with 163 points, ended up as the series leader in victories, with four; pole positions, with six; and laps led, with 621. Meanwhile, Rookie of the Year Scott Dixon (Nextel Powerware Panasonic PacWest Toyota) of the PacWest Racing Group led the series in laps completed, with 2,521 of a possible 2,610; and miles completed, with 4,351.217 of a possible 4,520.983.

WHAT'S NEXT

The FedEx Championship Series will honor 2001 champion Gil de Ferran and Marlboro Team Penske during its annual awards banquet on Tuesday, November 6, at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas, Nev. Also honored will be the top 10 finishers in the 2001 FedEx Championship Series, the Manufacturers and Constructors champions and Rookie of the Year Scott Dixon.

-CART-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Michael Andretti , Bruno Junqueira , Max Papis , Roberto Moreno , Alex Tagliani , Christian Fittipaldi , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Kenny Brack , Chip Ganassi , Cristiano da Matta
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing