Chevron driver da Matta was leading when his engine failed in the late stages of The 500 Presented by Toyota at the California Speedway; Lilly driver Fittipaldi finished seventh. CRISTIANO DA MATTA, ...
Chevron driver da Matta was leading when his engine failed in the late stages of The 500 Presented by Toyota at the California Speedway; Lilly driver Fittipaldi finished seventh.
CRISTIANO DA MATTA, #1 Chevron Toyota-Lola-Bridgestone: "To end the race this way is a huge disappointment for myself and the Chevron team. We waited for this point in the race to come before we went for it and everything was going as planned until the car just lost power. Before my last stop I was leading and asked the team if I could let Jimmy pass me to save some fuel before my stop then I came alongside him right before the stop so I could try to get out ahead of him. The guys did another perfect stop and I was able to. He (Vasser) had a strong car but I was hoping to draft by him in the last two laps if he got back in front of me. After my last stop, I was running almost three seconds ahead of him and was going to try to keep him behind me and then I lost power. I had no indication there was a problem. It just happened. I think I had a strong chance to get my second win at this track and third in a row for Newman/Haas so it is a big disappointment. It would have been good to win another 500-mile race for Toyota as well. If we could have made it 14 more laps we would have been in good shape. If were not able to beat the record (for most wins in a season) anymore, it doesn't mean anything to me (to match it). The wind package was definitely better than what we had last year. You could go to the front and break away from the pack. It was better racing because of that. "
* NOTES: Has had nine front row starts this season. He has won NINE of past 20 CART events dating back to his first three-peat (Australia and Fontana in '01 and Mexico in '02) where he became the first driver to accomplish the feat since Juan Montoya ('99). Led 30 laps in Long Beach and built a strong lead before a pit accident derailed his bid for a CART record-tying fourth consecutive win. Wins in Laguna Seca, Portland, Chicago and Toronto enabled him to tie two others (Unser, Jr., and Zanardi) with a CART record fourth consecutive win although he failed to score a fifth consecutive win in Cleveland after he lead the first 19 laps from pole but retired with mechanical failure. Led 36 laps in Vancouver before a drive shaft failure ended his race. Was in second in Mid-Ohio when he slid off-course and ultimately finished 13th. He won in Elkhart Lake and his Miami win was his ninth in 18 events. Led all racing laps in Australia but finished 8th in a race dictated by rain. Led 53 laps en route to his first Superspeedway victory when he won The Marlboro 500 in '01. Was his fourth race here. Highest start to date was second in '01. Retired in the '00 event after a piece from P. Tracy's racecar hit his front suspension and caused him to crash. Engine failure led to a 23rd place finish in '99. He clinched the '02 CART Championship in Round 16 of 19 in Miami after winning the event and building an insurmountable lead of 69 points over second place with 68 points maximum left in '02. Is hoping to beat the record for most wins in a season at eight set by Michael Andretti (and Newman/Haas) in 1991 and Al Unser Jr. in '94.
CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI, #11 Lilly Toyota-Lola-Bridgestone: "The car was good at the beginning of the race but as the race went on and the field began to spread out, I honestly couldn't keep up. The car was much better in traffic but when we ran alone we didn't have enough straight-line speed."
* NOTES: Was his sixth event here. Won the 2000 race after leading 35 laps, finished 3rd in 1999, 7th in 1998 and 9th in 1997. Last season he started 5th, led four laps and finished 13th. In five previous starts, he scored two podium finishes (1st in 2000, 3rd in 1999) and finished in the top-9 four of five times (13th - 2001, 7th - 1998, 9th - 1997). In the 1999 event, he set the fastest race lap and in 2001 set the 2nd fastest race lap. Christian Fittipaldi led 5 laps in 1997; 6 in 1998; 37 in 1999; 35 in 2000 en route to victory after also setting the fastest race lap and led 4 in 2001. He is currently in 5th place in the point standings and could finish as high as second place IF he earned all 23 points available in Mexico City and Patrick Carpentier and Dario Franchitti failed to score points.