CHAMPCAR/CART: Fittipald, Andretti have hard day at Road America

- Big Kmart/Route 66 driver Christian Fittipaldi returned to the site of his first CART victory determined to score back-to-back wins at Road America in the Motorola 220. He was in second place to race leader Alex Tagliani when he pitted for ...

- Big Kmart/Route 66 driver Christian Fittipaldi returned to the site of his first CART victory determined to score back-to-back wins at Road America in the Motorola 220. He was in second place to race leader Alex Tagliani when he pitted for his second stop on lap 31 of 55 and a fire broke out on the right rear of his car signaling a broken exhaust header. The already unbelievable disappointment was made worse a few laps later as the driver Fittipaldi was previously running second to, Alex Tagliani, encountered problems and also fell out of the race. At the start of the race, Fittipaldi moved from his eighth place start into fifth thanks to Paul Tracy, Helio Castroneves and Gil de Ferran. Seventh place starter, and eventual winner, Paul Tracy went off course and dropped back to 23rd, sixth place starter Helio Castroneves went off course and second place starter Gil de Ferran slowed and subsequently retired from the race, all on the first lap. Twelfth place starter Juan Montoya, who was presumably running full rich fuel mixture due to his starting position, passed Fittipaldi on the first lap to move him back to sixth place. He held sixth place behind teammate Andretti who was also passed by Montoya for the next five laps while plotting a pass which he accomplished on lap seven at the inside of turn one. Initially, Fittipaldi had a run on Andretti on the fifth lap and the two cars appeared to touch before Fittipaldi aborted the attempt. In the ensuing laps, Fittipaldi began to catch up to the front runners until the majority of the field pitted on lap 15 for the first stop. He moved into fifth place after the stops were complete and passed Fernandez on lap 17 for fourth place. He moved into third place when previous third place runner and polesitter Dario Franchitti went off course in turn three on lap 21. On lap 28, race leader Montoya, who had reportedly short fueled on his first stop made his second and Fittipaldi moved into second place behind leader Alex Tagliani. He held second place for the next two and one-half laps until he pitted on lap 31. Team manager John Tzouanakis informed the crew that the right rear of the car was on fire. After Fittipaldi was safely out of the car and the fire was extinguished, the crew determined that the exhaust header broke and caused the fire. Fittipaldi finished in 15th place after 31 of 55 laps. In his six events at Road America, Fittipaldi has run no lower than third place but encountered a variety of challenges in all but one race - which he won. Following are his post race comments:

"After all of the effort of coming from eighth place into second, I can't believe what happened," said Fittipaldi. "It is textbook Elkhart for me but at least we kept our string of running in the top two or three going. I was doing my job driving the car as best as I could. We weren't leading but we were up there. Who knows what could have happened. (On pass of teammate:) I was trying to catch the lead pack and I needed to get by Michael to do it. It's very disappointing to drop out of the race since the car was running good and we were competitive. One man's misfortune is another man's fortune. We would have been looking good for a top-finish if we would have stayed in the race."

Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline driver Michael Andretti held onto his lead in the CART Championship despite encountering mechanical failure that led to his retiring from the Motorola 220 after 17 of 55 laps while in third place and on a conservative fuel strategy that would help him in the late stages of the event. A broken tripod (or CV Joint) was the culprit that aided Roberto Moreno, who was third place in the Championship standings to shave the margin between Andretti and second place from 19 to 13 points. Gil de Ferran, who was second in the standings also failed to finish the event. After the dust cleared from a race that saw only 10 of the 25 cars finish, it looked like a distinct possibility that Newman/Haas Racing could have scored back-to-back, one-two finishes as Fittipaldi and Andretti did in 1999. After starting the race in fourth place on a conservative fuel strategy in order to drive one lap further than the field on the long, four-mile track, Andretti held fourth place until the second lap when Montoya, who was probably on a full-rich fuel setting, passed him. He held fifth place for the following five laps ahead of teammate Fittipaldi. On lap seven of 55 Fittipaldi passed him in turn one. He ran in sixth place and conserved fuel until he was able to stretch his fuel window one lap longer than most of the field. He made his first pit stop on lap 16, while most stopped on lap 15. After a quick stop, he was able to return to the track in third place due to gaining valuable track position on a light fuel load and hot tires while others pit one lap earlier. Approximately one-half way through the following lap, Andretti encountered a problem and reported to the crew that he thought the tripod or "CV Joint" which transmits the power to the wheels broke. He drove the car into the pits and the team retired from the race due to the rare failure of the part. Following are his post race comments:

"What a disappointment," said Andretti. "This one hurts. We were able to go longer on fuel and I thought we were looking good. Especially after Gil went out. We moved from sixth to third by going one lap longer and were in a good position to challenge for a podium finish. It helps that Gil also dropped out but there are a lot of guys that could gang up on us in the point standings. The car was good for a top-four finish. We think the CV joint broke. It never breaks. The first time I heard of it breaking is when it happened to Juan in Detroit. All of a sudden I felt the drive go and I looked back and saw pieces flying out of the back of the car. This really puts the pressure on for the Championship. The fans should like the tight points race but it's not as fun for us. We were looking good in terms of scoring some points today."

- Jerry Springer Bids Good Luck to Andretti Before Race: During her flight to the Motorola 220, racing journalist Annie Proffitt sat by talk show host Jerry Springer, who was a fan of Michael Andretti. Springer wrote a good luck note to Andretti, which Profitt delivered.

- Next on the Schedule: The CART FedEx Championship will take a well-deserved week off after nine races in 12 weeks before heading to Vancouver for the Molson Indy. Andretti has three wins and five podium finishes at the track as well as having led a good majority of the laps run. Fittipaldi highest finish there is a third place in 1996.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Michael Andretti , Roberto Moreno , Alex Tagliani , Christian Fittipaldi , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti