Two weeks ago in Cleveland it was Dario Franchitti, but today it was Michael Andretti's turn to come from last place to victory in an exciting Molson Indy Toronto. It was the first CART FedEx Championship Series victory for Honda-powered Team ...
Two weeks ago in Cleveland it was Dario Franchitti, but today it was Michael Andretti's turn to come from last place to victory in an exciting Molson Indy Toronto. It was the first CART FedEx Championship Series victory for Honda-powered Team Motorola, formed for the start of the 2001 season. And it was Andretti's first win this year, but his 41st career Champ Car win and his 7th here in Toronto.
After starting on the inside of the seventh row, Andretti was caught up in an incident with Patrick Carpentier on the first lap, dropping the Team Motorola car to last place. But aggressive pit strategy and an equally strong drive from the veteran saw Andretti march steadily up through the field, taking the lead for good on lap 71.
Behind Andretti, Honda-powered drivers Adrian Fernandez and Alex Zanardi had their best results of the season. Owner/driver Fernandez led four laps and appeared ready to challenge for the race victory, but lost time when he stalled during his final pit stop. The Mexican native recovered to finish third, is best result since starting Fernandez Racing at the end of last season.
Starting near the back of the grid after struggles in qualifying, Alex Zanardi had his best race since returning to the series this year. Like Andretti, the two-time former series champion steadily worked his way up through the field throughout the race to finish fourth for Mo Nunn Racing. Teammate Tony Kanaan was another to contend for the win today, leading a pair of laps until problems with his pit lane refueling rig meant the team was unable to fully refuel his car, and the Brazilian ran his tank empty on the final lap of the race.
Race Report - 2
After starting on the front row today, both Marlboro Team Penske drivers also led portions of today's 95-lap run before being eliminated from the contest. Defending series champion Gil de Ferran started from the pole and led the first 49 laps, but then was caught up in a multi-car wreck shortly after his third pit stop. Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves started on the outside front row and took over the lead on lap 50, only to drop out of the contest with mechanical problems 16 laps later.
Like Andretti, Paul Tracy fell to the tail end of the field after contact with Oriol Servia on the 10th lap and then began a charge back to finish 6th for Team KOOL Green. Teammate Dario Franchitti was not as fortunate as an oil leak caused his retirement while running second on lap 31. Finally, Shinji Nakano lost radio contact with his pits at the start of the race, leading to an unscheduled third pit stop and 9th place finish.
Now the Champ Car drivers and teams begin preparations for their first super speedway event of the season, next weekend's Michigan 500 at Michigan International Speedway.
Michael Andretti (#39 Team Motorola Honda) Started 13th, finished 1st, 1st win of 2001, 4th Honda win of the season: "This is a big one, I'll tell you that. After the first lap, I thought the race was over for us. But it was a hard fought race. We took advantage of being in the back by getting in a couple of pit stops under yellow and as the race wore on, it became a strategy that began to work and I picked off a lot of cars that were having to save fuel. It was nice to be able to driver hard the whole race and not save fuel. I had fun doing it and I was able to pass a lot of cars today. This win ranks right up there with the best of them. I love Canada and I love Tornto!"
Alex Zanardi (#66 Pioneer/Worldcom/Mo Nunn Racing Honda): Started 24th, finished 4th: "That was even more fun than Cleveland (two weeks ago). It looks like my engineers are getting good at giving me a competitive race car on Sunday and that's definitely a step in the right direction for the team. I'll tell you, it's a great feeling for a race driver to get by people almost at will. I'm pumped to go to Michigan next week!"
Adrian Fernandez (#51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Fernandez Racing Honda) Started 7th, finished 3rd: "This is just a great day for myself and the entire Fernandez Racing team. Of course, I'm a little bit disappointed with the problem we had on my last pit stop because if not for that we might well have won today. But for sure the team took a giant step forward today, leading the race and scoring our first podium finish. If we keep building on our momentum from here we're going to have more good finishes and race wins before the end of the season. And for a first-year team you couldn't ask for any more than that."