Tony Kanaan and the ...
Tony Kanaan and the #55 Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Honda-Reynard finished eighth in today's inaugural Rockingham 500. Kanaan started 10th by virtue of his position in the driver point standings entering this weekend. He made it as high as sixth - twice - thanks to brilliant pit work on both fuel-and-tire stops today. But he lost two positions - first to Paul Tracy and then to Jimmy Vasser - while fighting an emerging loose condition in the closing laps, and crossed the finish line eighth.
Cars did not take to the racetrack in earnest this weekend until today. Thursday practice was rained out, and yesterday's practice and qualifying sessions were nixed due to the inability of race promoters to stop water seeping up from underneath the track at several key points around this brand new 1.5-mile oval. The day started with a 90-minute practice session at mid-day. An eight-minute "installation check" preceded the 4:45 p.m. local time start of today's race. Kanaan recorded the fastest times in both today 's practice session and the "installation check." But CART officials determined late Friday that the starting grid would be set according to championship points. The race was shortened to 140 laps from the originally scheduled 168 due to darkening conditions. Gil de Ferran made a last-lap pass of Kenny Brack to win today's event. Brack, who passed de Ferran on the next-to-last lap but just couldn't hold the lead, finished second. Helio Castroneves finished third.
The #66 Pioneer-WorldCom/Mo Nunn Racing team car was withdrawn earlier this week after a horrific crash at last weekend's German 500 in Lausitz, in which two-time champion Alex Zanardi lost both of his legs. Zanardi continued his recovery at Berlin-Marzahn Hospital today and is expected to be moved out of the Intensive Care Unit in the coming days.
"It really hurt us to start as far back as we did. We had the fastest car in practice again this weekend, just like we did in Germany. But that's the way it goes. My guys did just an excellent job of getting me in and out of the pits. We picked up three positions (from ninth to sixth) on our first stop and another position (from seventh to sixth) on our second stop. I can't ask for much more than that. 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. Other than that, it was very, very difficult to pass out there. 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. He needs his family and friends right now, and I want him to know I am definitely his friend. I told him yesterday that he's a two-time champion, and now he has the chance to win the championship of his life. After that, 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 home two weeks ago!"
Next up for the CART FedEx Championship Series is the Texaco/Havoline Grand Prix of Houston in two weeks (Oct. 4-6).