In the most exciting race of the season to date, Honda-powered Dario Franchitti held off a charging Memo Gidley by just three-tenths of a second for his first victory of the season, here at the Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland. It also is Honda's...
In the most exciting race of the season to date, Honda-powered Dario Franchitti held off a charging Memo Gidley by just three-tenths of a second for his first victory of the season, here at the Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland. It also is Honda's third race win of 2001, and increased the company's lead in the very competitive CART Manufacturer's Championship as the 21-race season nears it's mid-point.
Running a two pit-stop strategy that required the Team KOOL Green driver to conserve fuel throughout the second half of the race, Franchitti still managed to fight off repeated attacks from Bryan Herta. Meanwhile, Gidley, running a planned three-stop race that enabled him to burn more fuel, led 57 of the 100 race laps, and set the stage for the thrilling finish.
In addition to Franchitti, several other Honda-powered drivers had strong runs today, although not all were able to post a high finish. Gil de Ferran was another driver to run an all-out, three-stop race strategy, and was rewarded with a fourth place result. Adrian Fernandez had his strongest showing since the formation of his new Champ Car team, the Mexican owner/driver running in the lead group until felled by mechanical problems just five laps from the finish.
Former champion Alex Zanardi also had his best race since returning to the series this year. The Mo Nunn Racing driver battled with Fernandez for third place during the middle of the race, before the lapped car of Max Wilson ran into the rear of Zanardi's Honda, resulting in a flat rear tire and unscheduled pit stop. Helio Castroneves and Michael Andretti eacj attempted a two-stop race, but eventually had to pit a third time for fuel and finished 12th today and 15th.
Dario Franchitti (#27 Team KOOL Green Honda) Started 14th, finished 1st, 1st win this year, 7th career victory, 3rd Honda victory of 2001, increased Honda's lead in the CART Manufacturer's Championship: ""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. Then in the first corner I was trying to avoid the accidents and went off, and after we pitted we were last. 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 Brian's coming up behind you, but you've got to save fuel' and I thought `which one do you want me to do?' The pressure was on. Then Memo started catching and catching me. On the last lap I could see him coming on, the dash was showing less than a gallon of fuel on board and I kept waiting for the engine to stutter, but it never did. I couldn't believe it when we won. Everything went our way today."
Gil de Ferran (#1 Marlboro Team Penske Honda) Started 20th, finished 4th: "We had a great race, I think I passed more guys today than I have in the past few years. We planned a very aggressive strategy, pushing all the time, and it paid off. The car was very, very good all weekend and it was handling beautifully during the race. We're happy we were able to move up in the points and look forward to a weekend off before we head to Toronto and the next three-in-a-row swing of races."
Helio Castroneves (#3 Marlboro Team Penske Honda) Started 23rd, finished 12th: "We had a two pit stop strategy at the start of the race. But after the halfway point we knew we'd need three stops to make the finish, and by then it was too late to make up track position. At least we are still second in the points standings, but we need to stay focused and work for a strong result in Toronto."
Alex Zanardi (#66 Pioneer/Worldcom/Mo Nunn Racing Honda): Started 13th, finished 13th: "The car was running well today, which is very encouraging after the way things have been going. I did something unusual last night: I left my engineers all alone after telling them the things I was feeling in the car. I came back this morning and they made some significant changes to the car, all for the better. It was very energizing to be running for the lead until our misfortunes with Max Wilson. It's one of those things, he was trying to make a move on me when I'm not sure he had a move to make. When you make a move, there has to be a move. You can't just settle for getting close. He made contact, but I didn't feel a thing. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, when you don't feel something, it doesn't do any damage. But it punctured my tire and the rest is history. I'm disappointed, of course. But to have the car that I had today and to fight for the lead the way we were, we leave here very, very encouraged. I'm keeping my feet on the ground, but I can't help but feel this is the turning point to our season."