CHAMPCAR/CART: Honda Portland race notes

Following up on his strong second place finish last week in Detroit, Team KOOL Green's Dario Franchitti again led the Honda-powered field at Portland International Raceway, finishing sixth in a very wet and wild Freightliner/G.I. Joe's ...

Following up on his strong second place finish last week in Detroit, Team KOOL Green's Dario Franchitti again led the Honda-powered field at Portland International Raceway, finishing sixth in a very wet and wild Freightliner/G.I. Joe's 200.

Starting from the third row, both Franchitti and teammate Paul Tracy looked like contenders today, each challenging eventual winner Max Papis at different points in the 72-lap race. But contact with the car of Bruno Junqueira during a pit stop and a later spin ended Tracy's day, while Franchitti fell back after spinning on the 37th lap, then resuming in seventh place. A late race pass of Scott Dixon saw Franchitti cross the finish line in sixth, and also move up to sixth in the championship points standings.

Spins also blunted the efforts of Michael Andretti, Gil de Ferran and Helio Castroneves, although each went on to finish the race. Andretti's eighth place run also moved him up in the points table, to third. In addition to Tracy, three other Honda-powered drivers were forced out of the event by contact in a race where almost everyone except winner Papis had at least one off-course excursion. Mo Nunn Racing teammates Tony Kanaan and Alex Zanardi were eliminated in an opening lap crash with Memo Gidley, while Shinji Nakano spun out of the race on the 38th lap.

The CART FedEx Championship Series continues its string of coast-to-coast races with next week's Grand Prix of Cleveland, the third race in as many weeks for the Champ Car drivers and teams and the next round in a critical string of six races in seven week's time.

Dario Franchitti (#27 Team KOOL Green Honda) Started 5th, finished 6th: "It was a long day out there. You just can't imagine how difficult it was out there. There was so little grip you couldn't get into any kind of rhythm. And I had a problem with my visor steaming up. I couldn't see a thing. I made one mistake when I spun and ran into the back of (Bryan) Herta. I couldn't see a thing for the spray, pulled out and realized I was a hundred yards too late for my braking point. The car wasn't exactly to my liking, but it was really slick out there and everyone was slipping and sliding, it was one of those days when you just hung on for points."

Michael Andretti (#39 Team Motorola Honda) Started 16th, finished 8th: "It was an ugly day out there but in the end we gained points and a lot of other guys didn't, so that's important. I just tried to drive smooth and save my tires. The drier it got, the more my car would go away, but when it really poured the car would come back. It was just a really long day."

Gil de Ferran (#1 Marlboro Team Penske Honda) Started 15th, finished 13th: "I think our biggest problem was the track was dry all weekend until today, so no one knew what to expect today, where to brake or turn in or anything. I spun on the warmup lap and that put us at the back, but the car was actually very good, and we were running well until I spun on a restart and that sent us to the back again. We could have had a good result otherwise, so I'm a little bit upset with myself right now."

Helio Castroneves (#3 Marlboro Team Penske Honda) Started 3rd, finished 17th: "It wasn't a very good day for us. The car just wasn't working very well at the beginning of the race, it was very twitching and I slid off on the first lap. After going off the lead lap, we started making a lot of changes - seven different front wing adjustments, that's gotta be some kind of record, right? And we finally made the car good, but it was too late in the race. But we finished in one piece, so on to Cleveland next week and hopefully a little better luck there."

Adrian Fernandez (#51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Fernandez Racing Honda) Started 23rd, finished 19th: "It was tricky out there. It was very slippery and easy to make mistakes. I was trying to be smooth and patient, but it wasn't easy just to stay on the track. I don't know how many times I spun. It was one of those races that fi we could have finished on the lead lap we would have been fine. It was a long day but at the end I calmed down and said that I've got to learn something here and just drive the car. We don't practice too much in the rain, so we learned some things today."

Paul Tracy (#26 Team KOOL Green Honda) Started 13th, finished 21st (not running - contact): "We were doing well. I had a great start and we were up to sixth after the first lap. Then it was caution after caution after caution. I was able to pick up some more spots on just about every restart and we were looking good. Then I had that incident in pit lane. I got waved out of the box and I hin (Bruno) Junqueira and smashed my left front suspension. Got that repaired and was trying to move up again when I spun and (Mo) Gugelmin clipped me to end our day."

Shinji Nakano (#53 Avex/Alpine Fernandez Racing Honda) Started 18th, finished 22nd (not running-contact): "I don't know what happened on the first lap. I was hit from behind and spun in the first turn. The rear wing endplate was broken and the car was so nervous to drive that I couldn't do anything, it was really difficult just to stay on the track. On another restart, I hit Kenny (Brack) from behind and that was my fault. Finally I made another mistake and spun out. That also was my fault and I'm sorry for the team."

Tony Kanaan (#55 Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Honda): Started 21st, finished 24th (not running - contact): "I had go off to the left to avoid some other cars, and when I came back on, Gidley hit me pretty hard. And the worst part of all is that when I spun sideways, Alex hit me even harder and that took him out of the race. I can't believe it. Those are the things that happen when you start so far back. We really need to start a lot closer to the front because when you're in the back, you're playing with your own luck and it isn't always going to work out in your favor. This has been a very disappointing weekend."

Alex Zanardi (#66 Pioneer/Worldcom/Mo Nunn Racing Honda): Started 26th, finished 26th (not runnning - contact): "I was really hoping for a good day. We were struggling all day Friday and Saturday, but somehow it all came together this morning. We were third in the warm-up session in wet conditions and it was going to be raining all afternoon during the race. So, needless to say, we were feeling pretty optimistic. Unfortunately, I was caught up in something I had nothing to do with. That's really frustrating. But what are you going to do? I know everybody here is working very hard to overcome the problems we had here this weekend. We've had some promising weekends so far, but we need to be strong everywhere we go."


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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Michael Andretti , Memo Gidley , Max Papis , Adrian Fernandez , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Alex Zanardi , Tony Kanaan , Shinji Nakano , Mo Nunn
Teams Team Penske