Fontana, Calif (November 3, 2002) - Jimmy Vasser returned to victory lane at the California Speedway after beating Michael Andretti to the finish line by 0.400 seconds. Vasser, who hasn't visited victory lane since Houston in 2000, passed Andretti as the pair started the penultimate lap of the race.
Vasser, who earned one million dollars in his first victory at the California driving for Ganassi Racing in 1998, scored his first victory in 18 starts with Team Rahal.
A two-lap dash to the checkered flag materialized when Dario Franchitti's car caught fire in the fourth turn with five laps to go. CART officials stopped the race, sending the nine car field to the pit lane with four laps remaining.
Andretti stopped on the pit lane, lining up at the point with Vasser's car directly behind him. Oriol Servia, who was running one lap down in fifth place, separated Vasser from Patrick Carpentier, who was third.
Vasser made his move on the restart taking the lead into turn one. Rather than return the favor in turn three, Andretti decided to bide his time, waiting for the final lap to make his bid for victory.
Using a tow from Vasser's car, Andretti drew closer to the leader on the final lap in turn two but ultimately fell short.
"I tried but I just came up a little short. I said to the guys, 'I'm done, I'm not going to be able to get him.' I had been losing my front end a lot more in turns three and four and I knew I wasn't going to be able to get a run on him.
"I was disappointed when I couldn't keep my foot in it through turns one and two on the last lap, I said that's it, I'm not going to get him."
Before the race was stopped, Andretti had successfully held off challenges from Vasser. "Had it not been for Dario causing the red flag, it would have been difficult to catch Michael," Vasser said.
"Michael drove a great race. He expertly knew how to take away my air and just drove a great race. At the end, he was in a tough position. The guy leading in that situation is like a sitting duck out there."
Patrick Carpentier, who finished third, said he was pleased with his podium finish. "The car started out with a push and we improved it on every stop. On the last stop though, I don't know what happened but the car got really loose and I couldn't challenge Jimmy and Michael. I got third and I'm quite happy."
Polesitter Tony Kanaan finished fourth, the last car on the lead lap. Kanaan led four times for a total of ten laps.
Oriol Servia finished fifth followed by Scott Dixon, Christian Fittipaldi and Alex Tagliani in eighth. Bruno Junqueira finished ninth while Dario Franchitti was credited with tenth despite ending the day by parking a burning car in turn four.