Gil de Ferran claimed his second consecutive CART FedEx Championship Series race victory today at the Texaco/Havoline Grand Prix of Houston, moving back into the points lead for the driver's championship for the second time this season. The...
Gil de Ferran claimed his second consecutive CART FedEx Championship Series race victory today at the Texaco/Havoline Grand Prix of Houston, moving back into the points lead for the driver's championship for the second time this season. The Marlboro Team Penske driver had a perfect weekend at the downtown street circuit, qualifying on the pole Saturday and leading the 100-lap race from start to finish despite a determined challenge from fellow Honda-powered driver Dario Franchitti.
For his part, Franchitti also had one of his best results this season as the Team KOOL Green driver forced de Ferran to a record-setting race pace during their duel. The pair ran virtually nose-to-tail from laps 50 - 77, then again during the final 10 laps.
Helio Castroneves finished fifth as the Penske team continues to compile strong street and road course results this year. Mo Nunn Racing's Tony Kanaan ran in the top ten for most of the day, but faded with handling problems late in the day and dropped to a 12th place finish. Damage from separate incidents led to the retirements of both Paul Tracy and Michael Andretti, virtually ending Andretti's championship hopes. Fernandez Racing teammates Adrian Fernandez and Shinji Nakano also were delayed by on-track incidents, but recovered to finish 14th and 15th.
Finally, Casey Mears made his Honda-powered debut today, finished 17th in his first run replacing the injured Alex Zanardi. Zanardi continues to make exceptional progress in his recovery from his injuries, and is expected to be moved from the Marzahn-Berlin hospital in Germany to a facility in his hometown of Bologna within the next week to ten days.
Gil de Ferran (#1 Marlboro Team Penske Honda) Started 1st, finished 1st, 2nd win this season and 2nd consecutive win; series-leading 7th win of the season for Honda, which now could clinch the CART Manufacturer's Championship next weekend at Laguna Seca: "It's true the season started out slow, with a lot of misfortune and things not coming together for us, but now we are able to translate sped from practice into good qualifying positions and race finishes. As we get to the end of the year each race has a little bit of extra importance. I was very aware of that coming into this weekend. You can't underestimate the opposition, they are very strong. So this a good day for us, but already I am thinking about Laguna Seca and getting the job done there."
Dario Franchitti (#27 Team KOOL Green Honda) Started 6th, finished 2nd: "The race was a case of picking guys off when I could, pushing them into mistakes. Probably the most fun part of the race was the middle segment, when Gil and I were going at it. Both our crews told us to turn up the fuel. I was pushing as hard as I could, and I could see Gil was pushing pretty hard too. That's when it's a lot of fun, absolutely giving it everything and sometimes a little bit more. They were like qualifying laps, one right after another."
Helio Castroneves (#3 Marlboro Team Penske Honda) Started 4th, finished 5th: "It wasn't a bad day. We did not expect the green to go so long, so my tires got worse and worse. Unfortunately, I locked them up a couple of times and that didn't help the handling at all. Later, I had a good dice with Kenny (Brack). Then I saw an opportunity and when he got a little wide I just dived in. I just drove 100% sure, that was fun."
Casey Mears (#66 Pioneer/Mo Nunn Racing Honda) Started 25th, finished 17th: "That was an education. We got the whole race in, which was one of our more modest goals, and I've got to say that I learned a ton. We brought the car home with no dings all weekend, and I ran with a lot of guys who were in my pack. I even ran lap times comparable with a lot of the guys running mid-pack. The hardest thing to deal with, I must say, was figuring out exactly what I was supposed to do when I saw the blue ('move over') flag. It didn't happen very often today, but I've never really had to deal with that before. Hopefully, the farther along we go, I won't be seeing any of those blue flags! I'm thankful as can be to the whole team for being so patient with me all weekend long, and for giving me this opportunity, to begin with. We're leaving here on a positive note, I think. And we'll be ready to really give it a go at Laguna."