CHAMPCAR/CART: Miami: Honda Race report

Fernandez survives Miami street fight With three potential Honda-powered race winners encountering trouble on the tight downtown Miami streets of today's Grand Prix Americas, at the end of a hot day of racing it was Adrian Fernandez leading the...

Fernandez survives Miami street fight

With three potential Honda-powered race winners encountering trouble on the tight downtown Miami streets of today's Grand Prix Americas, at the end of a hot day of racing it was Adrian Fernandez leading the Honda field home today with a seventh place finish. Cristiano da Matta won the race and clinched the 2002 CART driver's championship.

Tony Kanaan, starting on the pole for the first time this season, led the first 23 laps today but then was penalized for contact with Scott Dixon while the pair battled for first place. The penalty sent the Mo Nunn driver to the rear of the field, but the Miami resident fought his way back up to seventh. Then late race contact with Michael Andretti, who will become Kanaan's team owner/teammate next season, put both on the sidelines with just over a lap remaining.

Dario Franchitti moved up significantly during the first quarter of the 105-lap race, taking second place on the 24th lap and then continuing a long battle with both race leader Cristiano da Matta and Christian Fittipaldi in third. But the Team KOOL Green driver slid into the barriers on the 90th lap. He lost two laps getting restarted before resuming to finish 10th.

Teammate Paul Tracy also led eight laps today, despite brushing the wall on several occasions and even a spin on the 80th lap. But eighteen laps later, Tracy was tapped into a second spin by contact from Jimmy Vasser, and ended his day with resulting suspension damage. Shinji Nakano ran in the top ten for the first 60 laps, but a fuel leak started a fire in the cockpit of his Fernandez Racing Honda, and the Japanese driver was forced to abandon the race with burns to his hands.

Honda Fast Facts

· Michael Andretti celebrated his 40th birthday on Saturday of the race weekend, and started his 306th Champ Car race today.

· Shinji Nakano was treated trackside at the CART Medical Unit for first and second degree burns on his hands. He was released on site and will have further treatment on his return home to Indianapolis.

Adrian Fernandez (#51 Tecate/Telmex/Quaker State/Fernandez Racing Honda) Started 9th, finished 7th: "The car was okay for the first ten laps or so, then it started to get a push (understeer), then it was loose, and we never recovered the car after that. So it was just a matter of hanging in there while the car kept getting worse and worse. We made a tire pressure adjustment, but that did not help. It was very strange: no grip in the front, and no grip in the rear. It was frustrating to drive and just wait for everybody to catch up, but we survived and were able to get some (championship) points out of it."

Michael Andretti (#39 Team Motorola Honda) Started 14th, finished 8th: "It was really, really physical out there today. When you combine the tight track with today's heat and an ill-handling car, it sure makes for a long day. I thought Team Motorola was going to be able to salvage a decent finish at the end but Tony (Kanaan) tried to pass me in a spot that I didn't expect and I guess he was committed to the inside and he took me out. It was a challenge out there today for us. We couldn't get the car to handle well and that just made it so tough."

Tony Kanaan (#10 Pioneer/Mo Nunn Racing Honda) Started 1st, finished 9th: (on his penalty for contact with Scott Dixon) "I was protecting my line and CART says you are allowed to make one move, which I did. But CART saw it differently and who am I to judge? After I came together with Dixon the car was okay, but I was stuck in traffic and then at the end Michael (Andretti) and I came together. I feel really bad for Michael, but I think he didn't see me and we hit. It was just that kind of race, I took my new boss out! I hope he doesn't fire me before I even start working for him!"

Dario Franchitti (#27 Team KOOL Green Honda) Started 7th, finished 10th: "My car was pretty good today, but maybe not quite as quick at Cristiano's. I also want to congratulate Cristiano, his team did a great job this year and he really deserves the championship. I think we were headed for a podium (top three) finish, but I made a mistake and went into the tire wall. It took two laps to get me going again and that cost us a good finish."

Paul Tracy (#26 Team KOOL Green Honda) Started 16th, finished 12th (not running - contact): "Not a good day for the team. I thought we had a shot for the win, but just lost it through one of the fastest parts of the track. I was lucky not to hit the wall. I was looking in my mirrors going backwards down the track and, backed into a runoff area, and then could take off again. I still thought we could salvage a third place finish, but Jimmy (Vasser) hit me. That's kind of out of character for him, so I guess it was just one of those things."

-honda-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Adrian Fernandez , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Shinji Nakano , Cristiano da Matta , Mo Nunn