CHAMPCAR/CART: Dario wins at Cleveland

By - David C. Schilke - Motorsport.com Burke Lakefront Airport - Cleveland, OH - Dario Franchitti wins the Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland presented by Firstar. Franchitti led twelve of the one hundred laps to win his first race of the season. ...

By - David C. Schilke - Motorsport.com

Burke Lakefront Airport - Cleveland, OH - Dario Franchitti wins the Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland presented by Firstar. Franchitti led twelve of the one hundred laps to win his first race of the season. A mere .305 seconds behind him was Memo Gidley who is only in his second race for this season. Third place went to Bryan Herta, fourth to Gil de Ferran and fifth Jimmy Vasser. The race was a record set pace of one hour, 47 minutes and 4.723 seconds.

The laps under yellow:

There was only one full course yellow in the race. It occurred on the first lap going into turn one. Oriol Servia and Patrick Carpentier made side-to-side contact going through the turn. Both cars spun to the outside and stalled. The crash ended up collecting Kanaan, Jourdain, Moreno and Franchitti as well. All cars made it out of turn one except Jourdain and Carpentier; their race was over on the first lap on the first turn. Franchitti dropped to last because of the accident and a pit stop during the yellow and had to battle his way to the front for the rest of the race.

Servia's account of the accident: "I don't think any one driver hit me, I think we all hit each other. It's very wide there (Turn one) and gets narrow quickly and I just banged wheels with people and that's when the rear winglet broke…."

Servia also lost the front wing later in the race when Bruno Junqueira hit a reference cone into the middle of the track leaving Seriva no chance of avoiding it. Servia finished 17th overall.

Carpentier had a different account of what happened: "Oriol Servia came in like crazy and he was way too fast going in and just hit my car. Unfortunately he got Tony (Kanaan) also, and I was sandwiched between those two guys and that was the end of my race."

Carpentier hurt his already injured wrist in the crash and went to CART Safety Medical Center to have the good doctor take a look at it. Carpentier will be fine to race in Toronto.

Jourdain was a victim of the accident: "I saw the accident and I was trying to miss it when suddenly somebody hit me from behind. I think it was Patrick, but I'm not sure. They told me on the radio that somebody hit Pat and then he hit me. I'm really upset because it's crazy. People try to make up 10 positions at the start every year here and it's not smart."

The leaders:

Dario took over the lead from Gidley when Gidley had to pull off into the pits for a splash-and-go to insure he had enough fuel for the end. Dario then held the lead the rest of the race. Gidley entered the track in second place after the stop. With a full tank Gidley had the ability to run full-rich to catch Dario, who was in fuel conservation mode. Gidley's progress was stopped by lapped traffic and he couldn't close the gap on Dario until the traffic was dealt with. The last lap was a close contest as Gidley did everything possible to catch Dario. In the end Dario crossed the line less than half a second in front of Gidley to take the win.

The winner, Dario Franchitti: "It's a great victory for team Kool Green and it feels really good to be back. I thought going in we had a reasonable chance, starting 14th. Then in the first corner I was trying to avoid the accidents and went off, and after we pitted we were all the way to the back. But the crew did a great job in the pits today and I just drove as quick as I could. At the end, Kyle (Moyer, Team Manager) was telling me, 'Memo's catching you and Bryan's coming up behind you, but you've got to save fuel.' And I thought, how am I going to do that? The pressure was on. We were last at one point but we were first when it counts. We were racing again today to raise money for the 100 Black Men of America and the $10,000 bonus for first makes it even better."

Memo Gidley led most of the laps in the race with 57. His charge started on lap 21 when he passed Wilson for the lead and he did not give it up until he had to dive into the pits for extra fuel while Dario stayed out.

A very happy Memo Gidley: "It was qualifying lap for me every lap today, every corner. It was the best seat time and the most fun I've had in a Champ car since I started."

Herta might have had a better finish. On lap 89 Herta spun exiting turn 7 when he put his left rear wheel off the track. Roberto Moreno locked the wheels while trying to avoid him. They made light contact but Herta was able to get underway immediately and appeared to be undamaged. Moreno was not as lucky, he ended up stalled in the tire wall at 8 and had to be bump-start by the CART safety crew under a local yellow. Moreno finished 8th overall.

Bryan Herta: "I'm really happy to finish third. The way our season gone this is a win for us. Given all the adversity we've gone through today and this season, this just feels so good.

Other race leaders included the rookie Max Wilson, Roberto Moreno, Bryan Herta, Kenny Brack and Adrian Fernandez. Max Wilson lead from the first lap all the way to lap 21 where he was passed for the lead. After that his luck left him, he couldn't pit on lap 33 because Junqueria was blocking the pit spot. On the next lap Wilson made a successful stop but the damage was already done. On lap 60 Wilson hit the rear of Zanardi and has to pit for front wing damage. To add insult to injury he is then black flagged for a pit road speed violation and served a stop-and-go penalty. By the end of the day Wilson finished in the 19th spot, four laps behind the leaders.

Mauricio Gugelmin had the pole for today's race but he never led a single lap. Wilson passed him on the first lap for the lead. While he did post the third fastest lap in the race he slid farther down the field to end up in 10th place overall.

Did not finish (DNF):

Besides Carpentier and Jourdian; Paul Tracy, Bruno Junqueria Adrian Fernandez and Shinji Nakano retired early from the race.

Tracy ended his day on lap 7 when he had engine troubles and exited the circuit from turn 1 and coasted the car all the way to the transporter.

Junqueria rear ended Fittipaldi while entering the pits and then broke the left front wheel on the pit entry barrier during lap 32 to take him out of the race. Fittipaldi finished 11th.

Adrian Fernandez completed 86 laps and Shinji Nakano had 41 laps before both had to retire due to mechanical problems

Brain Fade:

On Lap 74 Takagi made contact with Scott Dixon at turn 6. Both cars spun and continued, but Dixon had damage to his right front wheel and had to limp back to the pits. He loses four laps while the crew makes the repair. Dixon finished in 20th and Takagi in 14th.

Cristiano da Matta spins and continues on lap 85 and finishes in 7th position.

Points:

In the Vanderbilt Championship points Kenny Brack maintains his lead with 84 thanks to his 6th place finish today. Helio Castroneves and Dario are now tied for second with 65 each, Gil de Ferran is in third with 56 and da Matta now has 55 putting him in fourth.

The teams now have a free weekend. The next event is the Molson Indy on July 15th in Toronto, Canada and is round ten for this CART season.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Memo Gidley , Bruno Junqueira , Adrian Fernandez , Roberto Moreno , Patrick Carpentier , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Mauricio Gugelmin , Max Wilson , Oriol Servia , Bryan Herta , Shinji Nakano , Kenny Brack , Cristiano da Matta