CHAMPCAR/CART: Cleveland: Race report

PAUL TRACY SCORES 30TH CAREER CHAMP CAR WORLD SERIES VICTORY AND TAKES 2005 SERIES POINTS LEAD WITH CHAMP CAR GRAND PRIX OF CLEVELAND PRESENTED BY U.S. BANK WIN CLEVELAND (June 26, 2005) -- Not content with being the leading active driver in...

PAUL TRACY SCORES 30TH CAREER CHAMP CAR WORLD SERIES VICTORY AND TAKES 2005 SERIES POINTS LEAD WITH CHAMP CAR GRAND PRIX OF CLEVELAND PRESENTED BY U.S. BANK WIN

CLEVELAND (June 26, 2005) -- Not content with being the leading active driver in the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford series, Paul Tracy (#3 Mountain Grand Lodge/Avalanche Bay/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) is using the 2005 season to continue his assault on the all-time series record books.

He resumed the task of cementing his legacy on a balmy Sunday in Cleveland, Ohio, pacing 46 of 91 race laps around the 2.106-mile Burke Lakefront Airport course, to best his young protege A.J. Allmendinger (#10 RuSPORT Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and win the Champ Car Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by U.S. Bank. Tracy's win was the 30th victory of his Champ Car career, making the Canadian star just the seventh driver since 1956 to win as many as 30 Champ Car races, breaking the tie for seventh that he had previously shared with Rick Mears. His win, coupled with a fifth-place finish from two-time defending Cleveland race winner Sebastien Bourdais (#1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), moved Tracy into the points lead for the first time this year.

Allmendinger matched a career Champ Car high with his second-place finish and led his first race laps of the 2005 campaign. The runner-up finish allowed Allmendinger to leapfrog his RuSPORT teammate Justin Wilson (#9 RuSPORT Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) to take the third spot in the points. Newman/Haas Racing scored a podium spot for the 12th consecutive race as Oriol Servia (#2 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) ended his day in third after cutting the race's fastest lap on his penultimate trip around the Burke Lakefront Airport course.

Tracy led the 18-car field successfully through the always-treacherous first turn and held the point for the first 29 laps, giving the lead over to Portland winner Cristiano da Matta (#21 Bell Micro Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), who had pitted two laps before the rest of the field during a Lap 26 caution period. Like it did a week ago, the choice to get on a different pit strategy paid off for the PKV Racing squad as da Matta began to pull away upon taking the race lead.

The lead swelled to 4.8 seconds on Lap 48, but vanished soon after as the Brazilian suffered contact with the lapped car of Marcus Marshall (#5 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), resulting in damage to his front suspension parts that ended his race. Da Matta was able to get the damaged car off the course in Turn 10, enabling the Champ Car Race Stewards to keep the yellow flag safely tucked away and allow the drivers to continue green-flag racing.

Allmendinger and Jimmy Vasser (#12 Gulfstream Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) pitted during this incident, a move that would promote the both of them to the lead when the canary banner flew two laps later. Bjorn Wirdheim (#4 HVM Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) clouted the Turn Eight wall on Lap 54, requiring the Champ Car Safety Team to attend to the car and sending the leaders down Pit Lane for service.

After finding himself in the lead for the first time this season, Allmendinger made good use of his lofty position by leading the next 19 laps while Tracy made his way around Vasser and Timo Glock (#8 DHL Global Mail Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) to move into the second spot after the restart. The earlier pit stop on the previous start required Allmendinger to give up the lead earlier than his pursuers, handing the point to Tracy.

The 1993 Cleveland race winner ran his fastest lap of the day on his first lap back in the lead, but he gave the point position back to Alex Tagliani (#15 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) when Tracy dove down Pit Lane for his final splash of fuel. Tagliani claimed the top spot for the next five passes before his need for fuel forced him to his Team Australia pit stall, handing the lead back to Tracy, who kept Allmendinger at bay over the last six laps to score the victory. Servia nearly stole second from Allmendinger on his last lap, closing to the young American's bumper before settling for the third spot.

Tagliani got back out in time to claim the fourth spot, giving his new team its second top-five of the season and moving back into the top 10 in the points. Bourdais rounded out the top five but saw his chance to leave Cleveland with a share of the points lead disappear with two laps to go when his teammate Servia ran the fastest lap. Bourdais had posted the fastest race lap and was poised to claim the championship point awarded for the feat, when Servia snapped off a quick lap of 58.616 on Lap 90 of the 91-lap affair.

Vasser climbed into the top five in points with a sixth-place run, putting him ahead of RuSPORT's Wilson, who scored an extra championship point by making up nine spots from his starting spot. Andrew Ranger (#27 Mi-Jack/Tide Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) took over the lead in the Roshfrans Rookie-of-the-Year standings with an eighth-place run, coming home as the top-finishing rookie in the field.

Ricardo Sperafico (#11 Sonny's Real Pit BBQ Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) scored the first top-10 of his Champ Car career by finishing ninth while fellow rookie Glock rounded out the top-10. The series will take next weekend off before the chase for the Vanderbilt Cup resumes July 10 with the Molson Indy Toronto.

QUOTES FROM THE TOP-THREE FINISHERS:

Oriol Servia: (#2 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): "I did. As always, you want one more lap. Especially I thought I was much better than AJ in turn one, which is where you want to be when you pass somebody. So I was really hoping to have one more lap. But it's always like this, right? But it was good. He was also pushing at the end. He was obviously in good pace, too. I'm happy with the podium from where we started."

A.J. Allmendinger: I knew it was going to be tough on the last restart when I had Paul behind me, knowing that I was going to have to pull a fairly full distance since he was going to pit later than I was. PT is the master of the restart. After that, I was just really pushing hard. The car was fantastic. Once again, Bridgestone brings an amazing tire here. The car was at its best at the end of the race. I was a little bit tired. If we just keep inching on the podium every time, we'll be fine."

Paul Tracy: "My strategy really was almost just to back off a little bit in distance, just try to hold that. Cristiano, he just started to sneak away, sneak away, sneak away, then he broke far enough away and started picking up the pace. AJ was kind of the same. He snuck away a little bit, but I was able to bring it back a little bit and kind of seesaw. I knew with AJ, we needed to keep him within a couple seconds in the last pit stops. I knew I could do three or four more laps than him and I knew that would pay off in the end."

NOTEWORTHY

* Paul Tracy broke the tie he had for seventh place on the all-time career Champ Car victory list, after taking his 30th win today. He was tied with Rick Mears for seventh with 29. Al Unser Jr. is sixth on the list with 31 victories.

* Today's win for Paul Tracy was also his 10th victory from the pole in his career, making him the seventh driver in series history to achieve that feat as well.

* Cristiano da Matta led 21 laps today, giving him 918 for his career and moving him ahead of Dario Franchitti and into 24th on the all-time series list.

* The three-day attendance for the Champ Car Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by U.S. Bank was announced at 89,788.

* Tracy's podium finish today was the 66th of his Champ Car career, giving him sole possession of 10th place on the all-time Champ Car list of podium finishes.

* Canada takes a commanding lead in the Nation's Cup standings with Tracy's win Sunday, moving out to the widest lead of the year with a 23-point bulge over France.

-ccws-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Ricardo Sperafico , Justin Wilson , Al Unser Jr. , Jimmy Vasser , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Oriol Servia , Rick Mears , Sébastien Bourdais , A.J. Allmendinger , Bjorn Wirdheim , Marcus Marshall , Andrew Ranger , Timo Glock , Cristiano da Matta
Teams HVM Racing