CHAMPCAR/CART: Denver: Honda race report

Fourth for Fernandez in 'Mile High' race. Owner/driver Adrian Fernandez completed a strong weekend for his Fernandez Racing team at the inaugural Shell Grand Prix of Denver, finishing fourth today and overcoming the demands placed on both driver...

Fourth for Fernandez in 'Mile High' race.

Owner/driver Adrian Fernandez completed a strong weekend for his Fernandez Racing team at the inaugural Shell Grand Prix of Denver, finishing fourth today and overcoming the demands placed on both driver and equipment by the rough downtown street circuit, located almost one mile above sea level.

The altitude placed unusually high demands on both the cooling system and brakes aboard the CART Champ Cars, along with the rough nature of the 2.71-mile street course that circulated the downtown Pepsi Center. But there were surprisingly few retirements, and only one full-course caution period, throughout the 100-lap contest.

Fernandez started on the outside of the front row and battled Scott Dixon throughout the contest, while eventual race winner Bruno Junqueira took command at the front of the field and led from start to finish. The Fernandez team chose a pit strategy that had him stopping two laps before the majority of the field and that, coupled with fading brakes, dropped him to fourth in the closing laps. Teammate Shinji Nakano had his strongest race of the season, starting on the second row and running fourth for the first half of the race before being halted by transmission failure.

Tony Kanaan had another strong run today, finishing sixth after a long battle with Kenny Brack and Christian Fittipaldi. Paul Tracy survived opening lap contact with teammate Dario Franchitti that ended the Scot's day, and made a typical charge up through the field to finish 8th. However, Michael Andretti struggled home to a 13th-place finish with handling problems.

Honda Fast Facts

· Adrian Fernandez's fourth place result is his best finish since suffering thigh and hip injuries in a late-race crash at the Molson Indy Vancouver five weeks ago.

· Today's race was the first for Honda at Denver's high altitude. CART's only previous visits were in 1990 and '91, prior to Honda joining the series.

Adrian Fernandez (#51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex/Fernandez Racing Honda) Started 2nd, finished 4th: "I'm getting too old for this! The bumps were tough on my body, and the altitude was very hard on the equipment, but Honda and the team really came through today. The race was very physical for me, probably the hardest of the season, because I am not yet back in the shape I was before my accident (at the Molson Indy Vancouver). At the end of the day, I think our pit strategy hurt us a little bit and the brakes held us back at the end of the race. The pedal was too low, and that made it hard to get the most out of the car and challenge for third."

Tony Kanaan (#10 Pioneer/Mo Nunn Racing Honda) Started 9th, finished 6th: "I've got to thank my crew for giving me a car to go the distance today. The conditions were rough and we were very concerned about using up the brakes and cooling the engine, as well as keeping the car on the track with all the bumps here. But everything held together and I actually had a fast car that was at its best halfway through the race. The team did a great job at all three pit stops and I've got to say we're getting into a groove with four top-six finishes in our last five races, including two podiums. I'm looking forward to England, I think we'll have a good chance there."

Paul Tracy (#26 Team KOOL Green Honda) Started 15th, finished 8th: "I wasn't trying to pass Dario, but I locked up the brakes and could not stop. Unfortunately, Dario was the first one in my path. It was my mistake and I feel really terrible for Dario. I drove with a broken heart the rest of the race. I tried to miss him, but I was committed to the inside line and had nowhere to go. I'm riding motorcycles with him tomorrow and hopefully he won't run me off the side of the mountain!"

Michael Andretti (#39 Team Motorola Honda) Started 16th, finished 13th: "It's really tough to find much positive to say today. We fought out there all day but could only manage a 13th, so no (championship) points, which is just icing on the cake. We'll just have to put this race behind us and turn our focus to (the next race in) England."

Shinji Nakano (#52 Twin Ring Motegi/Fernandez Racing Honda) Started 3rd, finished 16th (not running - transmission): "My car was really good today and the team did a great job. I thought a podium (top three) finish was for sure for us today, but then a gearbox problem ended our day. It is so disappointing, I'm not sure I can describe it. We were finishing a pit stop, but when I tried to leave, the car wouldn't go into gear. There was just no way and we were done."

-honda-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Michael Andretti , Bruno Junqueira , Adrian Fernandez , Christian Fittipaldi , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Shinji Nakano , Kenny Brack , Mo Nunn