CHAMPCAR/CART: Mid-Ohio: American Spirit race report

First Champ Car podium for Hunter-Reay and American Spirit, Vasser sets fastest lap Lexington, Ohio -- With his third place finish at The Champ Car Grand Prix at Mid-Ohio, Ryan Hunter-Reay became the first American Rookie to podium in a Champ...

First Champ Car podium for Hunter-Reay and American Spirit, Vasser sets fastest lap

Lexington, Ohio -- With his third place finish at The Champ Car Grand Prix at Mid-Ohio, Ryan Hunter-Reay became the first American Rookie to podium in a Champ Car race since Eddie Cheever accomplished the fete at Toronto in 1990. Hunter-Reay became the first Reynard of the 2003 Champ Car season to start from the front row yesterday, when he qualified second, alongside series point's leader Paul Tracy. The young American drove a flawless race; he held second position until the first round of stops when Michel Jourdain passed him in the pits. Hunter-Reay fought hard to regain the position throughout the second stint and he received a little help from his crew on the second round of stops, the 31 crew was flawless, Hunter-Reay returned to the track ahead of Jourdain.

This time, Patrick Carpentier #32 Players/Lola got the advantage. The 32 crew tested a different strategy, by short fueling Carpentier, it worked. The third stop came and went, it was perfect. The most intense pressure of the day came on the final stint when his teammate Jimmy Vasser charged through the field from 14th to fourth, Vasser was fast and Hunter-Reay felt the pressure, but the rookie was flawless he set the third-fastest lap of the race and he held off his veteran teammate and brought home his #31 red, white and blue Reynard in third position. The best finish of the season for a rookie other than Sebastian Bourdais, the best finish for Reynard, the best finish for the first year team American Spirit and of course the best finish of the year for America's Rookie, Ryan Hunter-Reay.

Jimmy Vasser was the fastest driver of the day racing in the Champ Car Grand Prix at Mid-Ohio. He was cheated of a proper qualifying effort when his transmission failed yesterday, forcing him to start 14th, a position that gave no representation of Vasser's speed. His goal was to run up front, and he knew he had the car to do it. The green flag fell and Vasser passed three cars on the start. By the first pitstop, he was up to seventh and his crew gave him fantastic service. He returned to the track in sixth and the hunt continued, by lap 59, Vasser was chasing his rookie teammate, in fourth position. Lap 60 was his best of the race and better than anyone else's he turned a 1:08.366 minute lap at 118.901 mph. With just 10 laps to go, Vasser clipped the curb, his day ended in the sand trap, an unlucky ending to an unlucky, but fast weekend for the veteran.

JIMMY VASSER, #12 American Spirit/Ford-Reynard/Cosworth

Vasser on the Race:

"Ed Nathman gave me a great car today; it was a lot of fun to drive. We were on it, we had one hell of a run going, but I clipped the curb and lost it towards the end. The team did a great job, congratulations to Ryan, he drove a great race. We didn't catch a break this weekend, but we proved we are fast."

RYAN HUNTER-REAY, #31 American Spirit/Ford-Reynard/Cosworth

Hunter-Reay on Qualifying:

"I am very happy and very proud to be here today. It was an unbelievable day. The guys did their jobs in the trailer and I did my job on the track, combined we had an excellent day. This was a huge team effort, Jimmy has helped me out a bunch this weekend, the team had done a great job all weekend and I feel I have been driving well. We kept our heads up and kept in the game and this is a great reward."

Stefan Johansson, Team Owner:

"Ryan drove a phenomenal race today and did a terrific job all weekend, I am very proud of him. The whole team gave a great performance, they are working well together and I think we are getting better and better on and off the track. There is a bit more pressure when you are running up front, but everyone handled it well, especially Ryan. It is a pity we couldn't get Jimmy toward the front of the grid, because he showed everyone out there that he had the speed today."

-astj-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Stefan Johansson , Eddie Cheever , Jimmy Vasser , Patrick Carpentier , Paul Tracy , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Michel Jourdain