Missions Accomplished Two weeks ago at Laguna Seca, a third place finish by Gil de Ferran clinched Honda's fourth CART Manufacturer's Championship. Today, de Ferran's fourth place finish at the Honda Indy 300 was enough to successfully defend...
Two weeks ago at Laguna Seca, a third place finish by Gil de Ferran clinched Honda's fourth CART Manufacturer's Championship. Today, de Ferran's fourth place finish at the Honda Indy 300 was enough to successfully defend his 2000 driver's championship as well. By winning the 2001 Vanderbilt Cup, de Ferran also became only the fourth CART driver in series history to win back-to-back championships.
Michael Andretti's second place finish was the best result for Honda today. The Team Motorola driver moved strongly through the field through the first two thirds of the 65-lap run and was challenging eventual race winner Cristaino da Matta when fuel concerns forced him to slightly drop his pace.
Three other Honda drivers, Paul Tracy, Dario Franchitti and Helio Castroneves, also ran in the lead group today before problems struck. For Castroneves, it was overheating brakes that dropped him a lap off the leaders, while a spin and resulting engine failure took Franchitti out of the contest on lap 35. Paul Tracy appeared headed for at least a top four finish before mechanical problems on the final lap meant that the Team KOOL Green driver had to coast from the last corner to the finish line, dropping him all the way down to 20th.
Michael Andretti (#39 Team Motorola Honda) Started 6th, finished 2nd: "It was a pretty good day. We got lucky on that first yellow. We'd just made our stop before they closed the pits. I was able to pass Roberto (Moreno) and (Alex) Tagliani and was running (Cristiano) da Matta down at the end, but then the crew got on the radio and told me to start conserving fuel, so that was a little bit disappointing. But it was a good day for us, a solid podium finish that moves us up in the (championship) points. And congratulations to Gil (de Ferran), he is a very deserving champion."
Gil de Ferran (#1 Marlboro Team Penske Honda) Started 2nd, finished 4th, clinched his second consecutive CART driver's championship: "I guess it hasn't completely sunk in yet. I know that I am a very fortunate person to be driving for a guy like Roger, and a team like Penske. To me, it's like I've been living in a dream since I joined this team two years ago. I drove a good race today. I ran my own pace even though I had a lot of issues to deal with: the brakes were going away and I was nursing the car as much as I could - taking care of the brakes, gearbox and engine. But everything held up fine to the end. Then on the last lap Paul (Tracy) had his problem and there was oil everywhere! I almost went off just two turns from the finish!"
Shinji Nakano (#52 Avex/Alpine Fernandez Racing Honda) Started 18th, finished 12th: "My car was pretty decent. We found a good setup this morning and I had a good car during the race. I was trying to save fuel but it wasn't quite enough and the strategy didn't help. It was a little bit of bad luck but at least we could finish. We have one race left and now we have to achieve something special. We got a point today and, okay it is only one point, but we have to keep the high motivation for the team and myself, so this finish was pretty good."
Paul Tracy (#26 Team KOOL Green Honda) Started 4th, finished 14th: "Days don't get much more frustrating than this one. The team gave me a great car and great pit stops and I think I drove a hell of a race. We were looking at scoring some good points, but the racing gods had other ideas, I guess. There was no warning and the engine let go with the finish line in sight."