CHAMPCAR/CART: Andretti's Toronto love affair continues

by Cam Curwood - Motorsport.com A quick second pit stop helped Michael Andretti overtake Cristiano da Matta and score his second victory of the season at the Molson Indy Toronto. The win marked Andretti's 6th in Toronto and his 9th overall...


by Cam Curwood - Motorsport.com

A quick second pit stop helped Michael Andretti overtake Cristiano da Matta and score his second victory of the season at the Molson Indy Toronto. The win marked Andretti's 6th in Toronto and his 9th overall in Canada. It was also the 40th win of Andretti's career, which moved him into sole possession of 3rd place on the all-time wins list.

"Maybe it's something in the water," Andretti laughed when asked about why he is so successful in Canada. "The car was dynamite today. It was absolutely my best weekend of the year. I am so happy to get the 40th win in Toronto because Toronto has been so good to me."

Da Matta led most of the race after passing pole-sitter Helio Castroneves on the first lap. Castroneves slid and squirmed going into corner three, and da Matta nipped by into the lead. Castroneves' problems caused Andretti, sitting third, to brake hard, and Juan Montoya and Dario Franchitti collided in avoidance of that corner's mayhem. "It was like ice down there," exclaimed Andretti. Franchitti mumbled, "I don't know what happened." Both Franchitti and Montoya retired in the pits.

Da Matta made his second pit stop on lap 73, and was stationary for 13.0 seconds. When Andretti, sitting second at the time, pitted a lap later, his stop was marginally quicker at 12.3 seconds, but he emerged ahead of da Matta.

"I ran like it was qualifying," said Andretti about the lap when da Matta pitted. "I passed Helio at the first stop, and when I couldn't catch da Matta I figured I would wait until the pit stops again."

Many drivers benefited from making slightly later stops. One of these was Adrian Fernandez, who emerged ahead of both Andretti and Da Matta. Andretti knew it would take time for the cold tires on the car of Fernandez to heat up. "I knew I had to take a chance while he was on his cold tires," said Andretti.

Fernandez also realized he would struggle to keep Andretti behind while on cold tires, and decided not to push it too hard. "I didn't want to kill everything, I wanted to finish." Andretti used the opportunity to pass Fernandez. From there, Andretti was unchallenged and finished 6.537 seconds ahead of Fernandez.

Paul Tracy, another of those to benefit from a later pit stop, emerged ahead of the now third placed da Matta, and they finished in that order, 3rd and 4th, behind Andretti and Fernandez. Tracy, however, claimed he nearly had a "disastrous" race when he bent the suspension after clipping the wall just after the first restart. "It was difficult," added Tracy. "I was trying to keep my pace without cooking the tires."

Tracy claimed he had something extra pushing him along today. Wearing one of Greg Moore's helmets in honour of the late Canadian, he thanked the team, sponsors and Greg's family for allowing him to do that. "It gave me a lot of extra motivation," he stated.

Points leader Roberto Moreno was yet another who benefited from a late pit stop. Moreno ran as low as 15th early on, but was 5th after the last pit stops, and actually led for a while when the others pitted. However, Moreno soon developed gearbox problems, and eventually retired out of the points.

Moreno's retirement played right into the hands of Andretti, who came into the race in 2nd place in the points, trailing Moreno by 22 points. "It was a perfect day," stated Andretti. "It was a perfect day to make ground on Roberto." Andretti also noted two of the other front-runners failed to score points. "I thought, 'Dario and Montoya out on the first lap -- that's not bad'."

Andretti now trails Moreno by only 2 points in the championship, and is 13 clear of 3rd placed Gil de Ferran, who finished the race 6th behind 5th placed Alex Tagliani.

"I am as hungry as I have ever been in my life," said Andretti about his motivation for the championship.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Michael Andretti , Adrian Fernandez , Roberto Moreno , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Greg Moore , Cristiano da Matta