Dario does UK fans proud. Claims victory in Sure for Men Rockingham 500 Delighting a partisan crowd, Scotsman Dario Franchitti used pit strategy and a fast ...
Dario does UK fans proud.
Claims victory in Sure for Men Rockingham 500
Delighting a partisan crowd, Scotsman Dario Franchitti used pit strategy and a fast #27 Team KOOL Green Lola/Honda to claim his first oval victory in the 211-lap Sure for Men Rockingham 500 enduro today, .986 seconds in front of point leader Cristiano da Matta's #6 Havoline Lola/Toyota. Thirteen of 19 starters finished the contest, with ninth placed British rookie Darren Manning's #19 Team St. George Lola/Ford the last car home on the lead lap. Manning led the contest twice for a total of 18 laps, while Franchitti three times for a total of 58 laps, pleasing some 27,000 fans on hand.
Held under very cold and cloudy skies, with air temps in the 62-64 range and track temperatures between 64-68 degrees, the race was punctuated by five cautions. Franchitti stalled on his first pit stop "and went to the back of the pack. At that point, we needed different strategy. When I came out in the lead on our last stop, I knew it had worked. This was a very interesting day," Franchitti deadpanned, "and it's just terrific to get my first oval win at home." Da Matta "could get close to Dario, but I just couldn't pass him." His team had a conservative final stop to ensure second place. "The car was very good and the team gave me good stops, but it wasn't that I didn't try to win. If it wasn't going to happen in the pits, it wasn't going to happen." Overtaking on the 1.479-mile oval is particularly difficult with a 19-car field that is so equal, da Matta insisted.
Bruno Junqueira took 5th place in the #4 Team Target Lola/Toyota in a quiet effort. "I had a really good car, but with pit stop problems, it was tough to make up track position." He retains second place in the points, albeit 58 points behind da Matta (191-133). Franchitti now has third place, with 126 points. Jimmy Vasser gained 7th place in the #8 Shell Lola/Ford after starting 13th, and also turned the race's fastest lap. "The car was really good, but our biggest problem was a lack of track position," Vasser opined. Polesitter Kenny Brack, who led the most laps (134) in the #12 Team Target Lola/Toyota had a miserable final pit stop that relegated him to his 8th finishing spot. "Nobody passes here," he declared. "The pace is too fast for overtaking and, when we had our pit stop problem (a dropped wheel nut), there was no way I could make up those spots."
Manning led Michael Andretti (#39 Motorola Lola/Honda), Michel Jourdain Jr. (#9 Office Depot Lola/Ford) and Scott Dixon (#44 Target Lola/Toyota) to the final points- paying positions. Dixon had two stop-and-go penalties for pit road violations that hampered his progress.
The Champ Cars take a breather for the balance of September and reconvene in Miami 4- 6 October for the Grand Prix of the Americas, a new venue.