Although a half dozen Honda-powered drivers were at times positioned to win today's Target Grand Prix of Chicago, lapped traffic and pit stop strategy combined to shape the outcome of the 225-mile run here at the Chicago Motor Speedway oval with...
Although a half dozen Honda-powered drivers were at times positioned to win today's Target Grand Prix of Chicago, lapped traffic and pit stop strategy combined to shape the outcome of the 225-mile run here at the Chicago Motor Speedway oval with Gil de Ferran finishing third for Marlboro Team Penske.
Not happy with the handling of his Honda-Reynard in this morning's warmup session, de Ferran and his team made major changes to the suspension `set-up' prior to the start of the race, completing the work just as it was time to grid the cars for the start. The changes were all for the better, and the defending series champion steadily worked his way through the field from his sixth row starting position, finally moving up to third place in the final 10 laps of the race.
De Ferran's teammate Helio Castroneves led a total of 68 laps, before being balked on a restart by Max Papis. That move helped eventual winner Kenny Brack make a successful pass of the Brazilian and begin his run to the race victory. The Mo Nunn Racing duo of Tony Kanaan and Alex Zanardi also figured prominently in today's contest. After starting from the pole, Kanaan led a total of 51 laps, but also ran afoul of slower traffic after his last pit stop and dropped to an eighth place finish.
Teammate Zanardi had similar difficulties after running as high as second, as did Team Fernandez owner/driver Adrian Fernandez. Team KOOL Green's Dario Franchitti led 19 laps, but incurred a pit-lane speeding penalty that dropped him out of a points-paying finish. Toronto race winner Michael Andretti dropped out of the contest with a broken exhaust header on lap 187 while Shinji Nakano also lost out a possible top-10 result when he ran out of fuel on lap 204.
Gil de Ferran (#1 Marlboro Team Penske Honda) Started 12th, finished 3rd, 3rd podium finish of 2001: "I wasn't very happy with the car this morning. So I got together with Tom German and my other engineers and we decided to change the car completely. I mean everything, springs (anti-roll) bars, shocks, you wouldn't believe the list of things the crew had to do before the race. And there almost wasn't enough time to do it all, but somehow they managed it. At the start, I felt the car was great right away, and it got better as the fuel load lightened. Then Roger (Penske) made a great call and brought me in a little early for my second pit stop. That move gave me a clear track when I returned and I believe that's when I made up a lot of ground on the rest of the field. So it was a true team effort today."
Helio Castroneves (#3 Marlboro Team Penske Honda) Started 2nd, finished 7th, moves up to 2nd in the points standings: "We had a very strong car today, but got caught out by lapped traffic and cold tires on that last restart. It was an okay finish, but it could have been a better day for us. The good news is that we're heading to Mid-Ohio where we had a 1-2 finish last year and the Marlboro car performs well there, so hopefully we'll be able to leave closer in the championship points."
Tony Kanaan (#55 Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Honda): Started 1st, finished 8th: "The car was a little loose at the start of the race, but we made it better during both pit stops. Unfortunately, lapped traffic cost us a lot today. Even through we were maybe seven-tenths (of a second) quicker, when you got behind slower traffic you were stuck running the same line. We had already agreed that when you are a lap down you have to let people by. It was very disappointing, and it wasn't good racing. But it's up to the people upstairs (race officials) to enforce the blue flag."
Adrian Fernandez (#51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Fernandez Racing Honda) Started 3rd, finished 10th: "The car was good at the start, but it wasn't long before it went loose. After that, we kind of lost the handle a little bit, and never could get the car quite right again. But in the end, pit strategy did a lot to determine the outcome of today's race, and we lost some positions today just because of when the yellow flags came out."
Paul Tracy (#26 Team KOOL Green Honda) Started 22nd, finished 12th: "It was the kind of race where you go around and around all day and at the end have nothing really to show for it. I got one point out of it because the guy in front of me ran out of fuel on the last lap. It was a very below average day and we get a point out of it, that's it. For all the work we put in all weekend, that's pretty unsatisfying."