LONG BEACH, Calif. (April 8, 2001) - Marlboro Team Penske parlayed its expertise on the Long Beach temporary street circuit into a pair of podium finishes Sunday as Helio Castroneves captured the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach and teammate Gil de...
LONG BEACH, Calif. (April 8, 2001) - Marlboro Team Penske parlayed its expertise on the Long Beach temporary street circuit into a pair of podium finishes Sunday as Helio Castroneves captured the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach and teammate Gil de Ferran finished third.
Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard), who tied for the FedEx Championship Series lead with three victories last year, charged from the pole and led all 82 laps to capture the fourth victory of his four-year career. In so doing, he became the first FedEx Championship Series driver to lead every lap of a race since Bryan Herta led all 83 en route to victory at Laguna Seca in 1999.
It was Castroneves' first victory since last year at Laguna Seca, and the 22 championship points he earned for winning the race, the pole position and leading the most laps was also the first point sweep in CART competition since that event. Castroneves punctuated his triumph with his trademark climbing of the fence along the start/finish straight once he completed his victory lap.
De Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard), the defending FedEx Championship Series champion, recorded his second consecutive podium finish, following a runner-up result in the season opener at Mexico. It was also his seventh podium in the last 11 events, dating to a third-place finish last year at Chicago.
Between the two was Cristiano da Matta (Texaco/Havoline/Kmart Toyota Lola) of Newman/Haas Racing, winner at Mexico, whose runner-up performance kept him in the FedEx Championship Series points lead with 37, seven ahead of de Ferran (30).
Castroneves stands third with 27 points, followed by Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) of Team KOOL Green, fourth with 26. Tracy finished fourth Sunday, followed by Jimmy Vasser (Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard) of Patrick Racing, who rounded out the top five and stands fifth in the championship as well, with 18 points.
Castroneves finished 0.534 seconds ahead of da Matta, with whom he waged a spirited battle for the lead over the final third of the event. The top two drivers finished over a second clear of de Ferran. Castroneves averaged 86.223 miles per hour en route to the victory.
HELIO CASTRONEVES, Marlboro Honda Reynard: "Since the beginning of the race, I was pretty tough. The car was great the whole race. My fuel meter broke on the parade lap, and I didn't know what to do. So, on the start, I was saving fuel.
"I knew it was going to be a strategy race, because I finished second here last year, and I did it because I was saving fuel. The car was perfect, and I was just making sure that my braking points were good and that I didn't make any mistakes. It was a perfect day, starting from the pole, running the fastest lap in the race, leading all the laps, I couldn't ask for anything more."
CRISTIANO da MATTA, Texaco/Havoline/Kmart Toyota Lola: "The beginning of the race was everybody trying to save fuel for a sprint at the end. I knew Helio [Castroneves] was saving a lot of fuel, and I was trying to save fuel too. I passed Tony [Kanaan] on the start and I passed Kenny [Brack] on the first stop, and I don't know what happened to him, but I never saw him back in the race. The second stint was when I tried to put pressure on him. The best place to pass here is in Turn 1, but Helio is a pretty smart guy, and he always kept me on the outside. He drove well, he drove defensively, and he deserved it. I had nothing for him."
GIL de FERRAN, Marlboro Honda Reynard: "We had a great day today. I had a normal start, Dario [Franchitti] beside me had a great start, and got ahead going into Turn 1, but then I got past him again in the braking area for Turn 1. The car was very, very good in handling, probably the best car I've ever had. I was just trying to save fuel. It was a very smooth day for us, everything was very good. I am very happy being on the podium today."
* Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard) picked up his fourth career FedEx Championship Series victory, all of which have come on road or street courses. Castroneves' other victories came at Detroit, Mid-Ohio and Laguna Seca last year.
* Cristiano da Matta's (Texaco/Havoline/Kmart Toyota Lola) runner-up performance represented the best effort of his three-year career on a temporary street circuit, topping third at Cleveland last year.
* Defending FedEx Championship Series champion and 2000 Mario Andretti Award winner Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) extended an impressive run of podium results with his third-place showing Sunday, his seventh podium in his past 11 starts. That run also includes finishes of second at Mid-Ohio and Laguna Seca last year and Monterrey this year; and third at Chicago, Houston and California Speedway last year.
* Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) of Team KOOL Green was the only driver among the top eight finishers to start outside the top 10. Tracy, who started 12th, drove to victory from the 17th starting position at Long Beach in 2000, which represented the second-deepest position on the grid from which anyone has driven to victory in a CART road- or street-course event.
* By finishing fifth, Jimmy Vasser (Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard) extended a run that has seen him finish seventh or better in 10 career starts at Long Beach, including a victory in 1996. He finished seventh in 1992, ninth in '97, eighth in '98, 10th in '99 and third last year.
* Castroneves became the first driver since Mario Andretti in 1987 to lead every lap (95) en route to victory at Long Beach. Andretti also led every lap on the way to the checkered flag in 1984 (112).
* The podium sweep by Brazilian drivers represented the third since de Ferran's victory at Portland last year. De Ferran was joined by countrymen Roberto Moreno and Christian Fittipaldi, respectively, in that podium performance. Brazilian drivers also claimed the top three places at Mid-Ohio, where Castroneves won, de Ferran finished second and Fittipaldi took third.
* Castroneves' victory was the 42nd for a graduate of the Dayton Indy Lights championship since Tracy earned the first at Long Beach in 1993. It was the second in a row, including da Matta's season-opening triumph at Monterrey. Indy Lights drivers have also won seven of the past eight FedEx Championship Series events contested on road or street courses, dating to last year at Mid-Ohio.
* Honda-powered drivers have now claimed six consecutive victories in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, dating to a victory by Jimmy Vasser in 1996. The other wins came from Alex Zanardi (1997, '98), Juan Montoya ('99) and Paul Tracy last year.
* For the second consecutive season, Player's Forsythe Racing Team driver Patrick Carpentier (Player's/Indeck Ford Reynard) sustained a small fracture of his left wrist as a result of contact with Max Papis (Miller Lite Ford Lola) of Team Rahal on Lap 54. Carpentier sustained a similar fracture almost a year ago to the day in a fall at his Las Vegas home. According to Dr. Steve Olvey, CART Director of Medical Affairs, "Pat has a left wrist fracture [considered a bone chip]. The injury does not implacate the same bone he broke last season and appears to be much less serious than last year's fracture. He will fly today to Indianapolis to see Dr. [Terry] Trammell [CART Orthopedic Consultant] tomorrow. Following further examinations, Dr. Trammell will determine if any surgery is required to help heal the fracture faster. He will then decide if Patrick is in a position to race at the next event [the April 29 Firestone Firehawk 600 Presented by Pioneer at Texas Motor Speedway]."
* Actors Rick Schroeder ("Silver Spoons"), William Shatner ("Star Trek") and Christopher McDonald ("Happy Gilmore") gave the command to start engines Sunday. Other celebrities in attendance this weekend included actors Sylvester Stallone, Kip Pardue, Til Schweiger and Christian de la Fuente, all of whom star in the upcoming movie, Driven, a Warner Brothers release which set for theatrical release later this month which utilizes CART as a backdrop; Driven director Renny Harlin and actor Josh Brolin.
The FedEx Championship Series continues with Round 3, the inaugural Firestone Firehawk 600 Presented by Pioneer, April 27-29 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas.