Good Morning from sunny Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for Race day in Ohio! Another beautiful day is on tap for the 80,000 to 100,000 Champ Car fans expected to pour through the gates here at the winding 2.258-mile permanent road course.
Good Morning from sunny Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for Race day in Ohio! Another beautiful day is on tap for the 80,000 to 100,000 Champ Car fans expected to pour through the gates here at the winding 2.258-mile permanent road course. Temperatures might be a touch hotter today but the partly cloudy skies insert the variable of cloud cover in an unpredictable pattern, making the tire management specialists earn their paycheck today. Today's CART on track activities begin with the traditional 30-minute warm-up taking the Green Flag at 10 a.m., followed by the start of Round 13 of the FedEx Championship Series, the Miller Lite 200 at 2 p.m.
GREEN FLAG waves at 10 a.m. to start the final practice session of the weekend. Firestone engineers report a track temperature of 89 degrees F. and an ambient temperature of 74 degrees F. at the start of the session.
BLACK FLAG is shown at 10:02 a.m. to #16 JOURDAIN Jr. after CART course observers report smoke trailing from the car while at speed on course. JOURDAIN Jr. subsequently pits the car with a brief fire breaking out at the rear until extinguished by the crew in the Pit Box. JOURDAIN Jr. exits the car as the crew readies the secondary car for use in the remainder of the session.
RED FLAG waves at 10:15 a.m. after #19 SALLES slides off course at Turn 9, crosses the gravel pit and makes contract with the tire wall. SALLES is uninjured in the incident and CART safety crews move the car to a safe location to await the end of the session.
At 10:20 a.m. and under the Red Flag, the fastest driver of the session is now #3 CASTRONEVES with a lap of 119.947 mph (1:07.770), followed by #97 da MATTA (118.866 mph; 1:08.386) and #27 FRANCHITTI (117.723 mph; 1:09.050).
GREEN FLAG waves at 10:22 a.m. to resume the session.
At 10:25 a.m., #2X de FERRAN has taken his secondary car to second-fastest in the session with a speed of 119.488 mph (1:08.030).
CHECKERED FLAG waves at 10:30 a.m. to end the session with the fastest driver still #3 CASTRONEVES with an even quicker lap of 120.407 mph (1:07.511), followed by #97 da MATTA (119.545 mph; 1:07.998) and #2X de FERRAN (119.488 mph; 1:08.030). The top five drivers are separated by less than one second in lap times with the top 19 drivers separated by less than two seconds. FedEx Championship Series drivers introduced 26 cars to the track in this morning's final session with secondary cars utilized by #2X de FERRAN, #20X MORENO, #96X SERVIA, #16X JOURDAIN Jr., and #55X KANAAN. Last year's Miller Lite 200 winner JUAN MONTOYA is 16th after today's practice with a speed of 117.665 mph (1:09.084). Points leader MICHAEL ANDRETTI is 19th with a best lap of 117.131 mph (1:09.399). Third-place qualifier DARIO FRANCHITTI is 11th with a lap of 117.952 mph (1:08.916). CART drivers logged 316 laps during the session.
At 1:55 p.m., the National Anthem is sung.
At 1:58 p.m., the command "Gentlemen, Start Your Engines!" is given. Firestone engineers report a track temperature of 114 degrees F. and an ambient temperature of 79 degrees F. at the start of the engines.
At 2 p.m., the CART Pace Car begins to roll with the full-field of 25 cars in tow for the first of 3 pace laps.
GREEN FLAG waves on the backstretch to start the Miller Lite 200! #2 de FERRAN takes the lead, followed by #3 CASTRONEVES. #8 BRACK gets past #27 FRANCHITTI to take third. #7 PAPIS gets by #11 FITTIPALDI to take fifth place.
On Lap 1, the running order is #2 de FERRAN leading by .288 seconds, followed by #3 CASTRONEVES, #27 FRANCHITTI, and #7 PAPIS.
BLACK FLAG is shown on Lap 2 to #25 GARCIA Jr. after CART course observers report that the engine is running rough on the start.
BLACK FLAG is shown on Lap 3 again to #25 GARCIA Jr. GARCIA Jr.'s crew reports that the radio is malfunctioning and they again ask CART to Black Flag their driver.
Also on Lap 4, #27 FRANCHITTI gets by #8 BRACK to retake third position.
On Lap 5, #17 GUGELMIN spins off of Turn 7 and stalls in the grass on the outside of the corner. CART safety crews quickly get the car restarted and GUGELMIN rejoins the race but loses a lap to the leaders.
On Lap 5, the running order is #2 de FERRAN leading by .527 seconds over 33 CASTRONEVES, followed by #27 FRANCHITTI, #8 BRACK, and #7 PAPIS.
On Lap 6, GARCIA Jr. pulls into the pits and subsequently retires from the race due to a mechanical problem.
On Lap 10, the running order is #2 de FERRAN leading by .511 seconds, followed by #27 FRANCHITTI 4.397 seconds back, and #8 BRACK then #7 PAPIS.
On Lap 14, #1 MONTOYA spins at Turn 11 but keeps the car running and turns back on course. MONTOYA falls from ninth to 23rd in the incident.
On Lap 15, the running order is #2 de FERRAN leading by .480 seconds, followed by #3 CASTRONEVES, then #27 FRANCHITTI; 4.513 seconds back, then #8 BRACK and #7 PAPIS.
On Lap 18, #1 MONTOYA pits and falls a lap down to the leaders.
Also on Lap 18, #27 FRANCHITTI pits and falls from third to 22nd before he can get back on the track.
On Lap 20, the running order is #2 de FERRAN leading by .744 seconds over #3 CASTRONEVES, followed by #8 BRACK (17.003 seconds back), then #11 FITTIPALDI, and #7 PAPIS.
On Lap 23, #1 MONTOYA runs off course exiting Turn 1 and takes a rough ride before returning to the track.
On Lap 25, the running order is #2 de FERRAN leading by 1.076 seconds over #3 CASTRONEVES, followed by #8 BRACK, #11 FITTITPALDI, and #7 PAPIS.
On Lap 27, #27 FRANCHITTI pits. The car is experiencing a mechanical problem and FRANCHITTI is having trouble staying up to speed on course.
On Lap 29, #27 FRANCHITTI pits again. #97 da MATTA also pits and falls from seventh to tenth.
On Lap 30, the running order is #3 CASTRONEVES has the lead by 12.708 seconds as he rolls down Pit Road for a scheduled stop. He is followed by #8 BRACK, #2 de FERRAN, #7 PAPIS, and #6 ANDRETTI. #11 FITTIPALDI pits and falls from fourth to 11th.
On Lap 31, #8 BRACK pits and falls from second to 11th.
BLACK FLAG is shown to #27 FRANCHITTI on Lap 31 as the driver is still experiencing a mechanical problem.
Also on Lap 31, #7 PAPIS pits and falls from fourth to seventh while #6 ANDRETTI also pits and falls from fifth to ninth.
On Lap 32, #40 FERNANDEZ and #20 MORENO both pit.
On Lap 35, the running order is #3 CASTRONEVES leading by 6.972 seconds, leading by #2 de FERRAN, #8 BRACK, #11 FITTIPALDI, and #7 PAPIS.
On Lap 40, the running order is #3 CASTRONVES leading by 6.972 seconds over #2 de FERRAN, followed by #8 BRACK, #11 FITTIPALDI, and #7 PAPIS.
On Lap 45, the running order is #3 CASTRONEVES expanding his lead to 15.625 seconds, followed by #2 de FERRAN, #8 BRACK, #11 FITTIPALDI, and #7 PAPIS.
On Lap 48, #19 SALLES spins into the gravel pit at Turn 2 and stalls the car. The incident is handled with a Local Yellow Flag. SALLES subsequently retires from the race due to "offcourse".
On Lap 50, the running order is #3 CASTRONEVES leading, followed by #2 de FERRAN, #8 BRACK, #11 FITTIPALDI, and #7 PAPIS.
On Lap 55, #2 de FERRAN pits and falls from second to fourth.
On Lap 55, the running order is #3 de FERRAN leading by #2 de FERRAN, #8 BRACK, #11 FITTIPALDI, and #7 PAPIS.
On Lap 57, #8 BRACK pits and falls from second to 11th. #3 CASTRONEVES also pits but doesn't lose first place due to the huge lead the driver had built up.
On Lap 58, #11 FITTIPALDI pits and falls from second to ninth.
On Lap 60, the running order is #3 CASTRONEVES leading by 17.677 seconds over #2 de FERRAN, followed by #7 PAPIS, #6 ANDRETTI, and #40 FERNANDEZ.
On Lap 61, #5 NAKANO spins at Turn 12 and stalls the car on course.
Also on Lap 61, #6 ANDRETTI pits and falls from fourth to eighth.
Again on Lap 61, #11 FITTIPALDI pits and falls from fifth to ninth.
YELLOW FLAG waves on Lap 62 to allow CART safety workers to attend to the stalled car of #5 NAKANO. NAKANO subsequently retires from the race.
GREEN FLAG waves on Lap 66 to resume the race. #3 CASTRONEVES leads, followed by #2 de FERRAN, #11 FITTIPALDI, #7 PAPIS, and #8 BRACK.
On Lap 68, nose-to-tail contact is reported by CART course observers at Turn 8 between #6 ANDRETTI and #26 TRACY. Both cars continue on course without apparent damage to either car.
YELLOW FLAG waves on Lap 70 after side-to-side contact at Turn 8 again, this time between #32 TAGLIANI and #26 TRACY. TRACY spins around in the corner collecting #55 KANAAN and #97 da MATTA. TAGLIANI is the only driver to continue. KANAAN subsequently pits in a closed pit to have a front wing changed out and is moved by CART Race Control to the back of the pack for the restart. TRACY and da MATTA subsequently retire from the race due to contact.
GREEN FLAG waves on Lap 74 to resume the race.
On Lap 75, the running order is #3 CASTRONEVES leading, followed by #2 de FERRAN, #11 FITTIPALDI, #7 PAPIS, and #8 BRACK.
On Lap 80, the running order is #3 CASTRONEVES leading by 4.520 seconds over #2 de FERRAN, followed by #11 FITTIPALDI (5.338 seconds back), #7 PAPIS, and #8 BRACK.
On Lap 81, #3 CASTRONEVES leads by 4.697 seconds over #2 de FERRAN.
WHITE FLAG waves on Lap 82 with #3 CASTRONEVES leading by 4.517 seconds over #2 de FERRAN.
CHECKERED FLAG waves on Lap 83 for the winner of the MILLER LITE 200, HELIO CASTRONEVES! CASTRONEVES averages 107.715 mph in his win and comes home 4.424 seconds ahead of second-place GIL de FERRAN, followed by CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI (5.911 seconds back), MAX PAPIS (8.087 seconds back) and KENNY BRACK (8.860 seconds back). There were two leaders in today's race, with one lead change. CASTRONEVES led the most laps with 55, and de FERRAN led 28. There were 14 cars running at the end with nine cars on the lead lap. The Yellow Flag waved twice for a total of nine laps.
HELIO CASTRONEVES wins his second race of the season and of his CART career today in his Marlboro Team Penske Honda Reynard. CASTRONEVES' first win came at Detroit earlier this year. CASTRONEVES led a race-high 55 laps on his way to a 4.425-second victory. This is also the first time that Team Penske has finished One-Two since 1994 when PAUL TRACY won at Nazareth, followed by teammate Al Unser Jr.
GIL de FERRAN finishes second today, logging his career-best finish at Mid-Ohio. De FERRAN's previous best finish at Mid-Ohio was at sixth place in both 1997 and 1999. In addition, de FERRAN has scored CART Championship Points in 11 of his last 13 starts and has now moved into second place in the chase for the Championship.
CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI matches his season-best finish today with a third-place and a spot on the Mid-Ohio podium. FITTIPALDI previously finished third at Portland this spring. FITTIPALDI's career-best finish here at Mid-Ohio until today was a seventh place in 1996.
Honda logs their 50th career win today out of 119 races in CART competition since the manufacturer entered the series in 1994. Honda also collects their fourth win in the last five races at Mid-Ohio.
The official top five in CART Championship Series points is as follows: ANDRETTI with 125, de FERRAN with 106, MORENO with 100, BRACK with 88, and FERANNDEZ with 87.
MEMO GIDLEY, the driver of the DirectTV Della Penna Toyota Reynard is this week's winner of the Budweiser Hard Charger Award. GIDLEY improved the most of all the Champ Car drivers today in starting-to-finishing position, earning a Championship Point with a 12th place finish after a 23rd spot on the grid. GIDLEY picked up $1000 and a cold case of Bud from Budweiser, while earning his third straight points-paying position in Champ Car competition after taking the car over at mid-season.
Quotes from today's top three finishers follow:
HELIO CASTRONEVES: "Gil was tough at the start. It was going to be tough to pass him, so I just tried to stay with him because I knew we both had good cars and we could go away from the field. That was the most difficult part for me. I didn't say a word on the radio the whole race to save energy. This race track is very tough and I was just trying to stay focused. The guys did a fantastic job on the pit stops. I was doing a little bit better with my health today, and I got stronger as the race went on. I didn't have much of a problem with traffic. Towards the end when the full-course yellows came out, I just tried to stay focused and bring it home."
GIL DE FERRAN: "It's a great day for the whole team. Obviously, I'm happy to be up here on the podium. I didn't have enough to beat Helio, and had some of my own problems today, but today's performance is good and it bodes well for next week at Elkhart Lake. We were trying to save as much fuel at the beginning of the race. I could tell Helio would be tough. He was able to deal with traffic very quickly and go away, and it took me forever to deal with it. By the time I got through the traffic, he was 15 seconds up the road. On the last restart, I couldn't get past (Roberto) Moreno and (Oriol) Servia. They weren't slow, and they were not going to stop in the middle of the track to let me have a go at Helio. From then on, I just tried not to make a mistake."
CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI: "We obviously had a very good weekend. My car was good the whole weekend. We didn't change a lot from Friday to Saturday, we just lacked a little downforce. Hats off to Penske. It's obviously frustrating when it's pretty visible that their machines were better today. We've all got to get our act together to catch up. It's also great to finish first in class, and I had a nice dice with (Max) Papis and (Kenny) Brack. I was pretty happy with my day today. We just have to do our homework a little better and go on to the next one."