Honda-powered Gil de Ferran emerged triumphant today in the inaugural Rockingham 500 after a race long battle with championship rival Kenny Brack culminated in the pair swapping positions twice in the final lap and a half of the 140-lap ...
Honda-powered Gil de Ferran emerged triumphant today in the inaugural Rockingham 500 after a race long battle with championship rival Kenny Brack culminated in the pair swapping positions twice in the final lap and a half of the 140-lap race.
There was additional action in the final laps just behind the leaders as Helio Castroneves, Michael Andretti and Cristiano da Matta disputed third place throughout the race. Castroneves appeared to claim third following the final round of pit stops, but later was found to have passed after the `blend line' where the pit lane merges with the race track, and was penalized one position to fourth.
In yet another closing-lap battle, Mo Nunn Racing's Tony Kanaan fought an ill-handling car for the second-half of the race, losing positions to fellow Honda driver Paul Tracy and Jimmy Vasser at the same time that Brack and de Ferran were having their final duel.
Behind this group, Dario Franchitti ran as high as fourth place though the middle portion of the contest, but lost ground during the final round of pit stops and ended the day ninth. The Fernandez Racing duo of Shinji Nakano and Adrian Fernandez also ran short on racing luck today, with Nakano falling off the lead lap by mid-race and Fernandez dropping out with mechanical problems after running as high as seventh.
Alex Zanardi, severely injured in last week's American Memorial race in Germany, continues to recover from his injuries in a Berlin Hospital. The former two-time CART champion has been awakened from his medically-induced coma and soon will be moved out of intensive care.
Gil de Ferran (#1 Marlboro Team Penske Honda) Started 2nd, finished 1st, 1st win of 2001, 6th Honda race win this season: "First of all, obviously we still racing under a little bit of a dark cloud after all of the events last week, both in the United States and (Alex) Zanardi's accident. But I guess we have to try to keep going and return to some type of normalcy. It's been a long weekend, but when I saw the skies today I thought `well, it's now or never.' It was a very exciting race, maybe too exciting! The car worked very well during the first stint but then went loose and Kenny (Brack) got around me. But the guys in the pit did a great job on the second stop and put me out in front. Traffic was very difficult today. I got crossed up trying to pass Max (Papis) there at the end and Kenny just shot by me. But I knew then he would be the one having to deal with the lapped cars and on the last lap I got a good run on him going into (turn) three and went side-by-side with him into turn four. I had a better line and was able carry the throttle deeper into the corner. I knew I could run wheel-to-wheel with Kenny and it wouldn't end in tears. This was a very emotional race for me. I have some strong attachments to this country. My wife is from here and England is where I first made my name as a racing driver."
Tony Kanaan (#55 Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Honda) Started 10th finished 8th: "Things were going pretty well until we got down to the end. I was following Michael (Andretti) and got held up just enough to let (Paul) Tracy work his way past me. That got my car loose, and Jimmy (Vasser) was able to get by. I feel really bad for my guys because they worked so hard to get me into the top six. If we could have started up front, I guarantee it would have been a different story today. But I'm just glad to get this weekend - this long road trip - over with. It's all seemed like a bad dream and I wish we could just wake up tomorrow and find out that it all didn't happen. First the big problems back home, and then the big accident with Alex. I can't wait to go and see Alex tomorrow. I told him yesterday that he's a two-time champion, and now he has the chance to win the championship of his life. It will be good to get back home and think about everything that's happened the last couple of weeks. Life sure is a lot different now than it was when we left two weeks ago!"
Dario Franchitti (#27 Team KOOL Green Honda) Started 6th, finished 9th: "We had a great crowd today and I hope they enjoyed their first look at Champ Car racing. The car was good during the first run and I got by (Scott) Dixon and then Michael (Andretti) and Helio (Castroneves). Then the temperature dropped and we lost the balance in the car. It felt one way going into the corner and another way coming out. Then we had a small problem on the final pit stop and in the end didn't quite get the result I think we were capable of today."