Just as in last year's race here, defending race champion Honda-powered Helio Castroneves came from a starting spot on the outside of front row to win the Miller Lite 200 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. It was the third victory of the season...
Just as in last year's race here, defending race champion Honda-powered Helio Castroneves came from a starting spot on the outside of front row to win the Miller Lite 200 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. It was the third victory of the season for the Marlboro Team Penske driver and - with Juan Montoya's win in 1999 - the third consecutive CART FedEx Championship Series victory for Honda at Mid-Ohio.
Pole qualifier Gil de Ferran led the first 28 laps of today's run in his Penske Honda Reynard, but made his first fuel stop one lap earlier than his teammate. By staying out the extra lap, Castroneves had a clear track to make up ground which, combined with a slightly quicker pit stop, enabled him to take a lead he would maintain for all but 11 of the remaining laps.
Honda's fifth victory of the season also increased company's lead in the CART Manufacturer's Championship to 27 points over Ford Cosworth; and moved Castroneves to within a single point of the driver's championship lead.
Behind the Penske duo, Dario Franchitti moved up to third place with an `in the grass' pass of Patrick Carpentier on the 10th lap, but then spun in the same first corner on a lap 76 restart after a caution. He recovered for a 16th-place finish.
In the second Team KOOL Green Honda, Paul Tracy held off the advances of Tony Kanaan to finish fourth while Alex Zanardi was headed for a for a top ten finish until a late-race penalty for jumping a restart saw the former champion dropped to 19th. Finally, Adrian Fernandez was fortunate to escape uninjured when apparent brake failure led to a high-speed crash on lap 50.
Helio Castroneves (#3 Marlboro Team Penske Honda) Started 2nd, finished 1st, 3rd CART win of 2001, 5th Honda race victory, increases Honda's lead in the Manufacturer's Championship over Ford Cosworth and Toyota: "It was a fantastic day for Marlboro Team Penske, finishing both cars at the top. The rain this morning changed the track a lot, and I had a lot of oversteer at the beginning of the race. But as the race went on and more rubber got on the track the car improved greatly. I was getting ready to make my first pit stop, but at the very last second I decided to stay out one more lap, and I think that was crucial to our win today. After that, the car was strong at every restart. The win today definitely helps us in the championship, but there still are a lot of races to go."
Gil de Ferran (#1 Marlboro Team Penske Honda) Started 1st, finished 2nd , 4th podium finish of 2001: "It was a great race for both me and Helio. I think we were very closely matched today, and we drove a really hard pace all day today. The difference really was the first pit stop. I had a bit of traffic on my `out' lap, plus he stayed out a lap longer and made some time there as well. Second place is not the same thing as winning, but it was an important result for us in terms of the championship."
Paul Tracy (#26 Team KOOL Green Honda) Started 8th, finished 4th: "It was pretty uneventful, really. I had a little bit too much understeer so it didn't handle great. But I was fast enough to stay in front of other guys, just not fast enough to do anything to challenge the guys in front of me. I spent the whole race just watching my mirrors and trying to get a good result, which we did. It was good we finished well and got a handful of points so I'm pretty happy. We got through this race and the only mark on the nose of the car is the one we painted on."
Tony Kanaan (#55 Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Honda): Started 7th, finished 5th: "To begin with, we chose a setup that was very conservative. Something easy to drive that would get us safely throughout the whole race. It turns out it was a bit too conservative. The car was great through the complex part of the track. I was catching people all day long. But those are the places that are tough to pass. And I didn't have enough on the straights to pass anybody. I had some close calls. The one with Dario was really close. I don't know how I got through it. You know the movie 'Days of Thunder' where the crew chief tells Tom Cruise to accelerate when you see smoke? Well, that's what I did. Sometimes you just have to put your fate in God's hands and hope for the best. He was definitely looking out for me on that one. I can't say I'm really happy with fifth place, but I'm pleased. One big thing we accomplished today is that we're now in 11th in the points and that puts us, for sure, in the fast (qualifying) group at Elkhart Lake."