CHAMPCAR/CART: Montreal: Race report

Dario Franchitti holds off field on late restart to capture checkered flag at Molson Indy Montreal MONTREAL, Quebec, Canada (August 25, 2002) - In what has been a feast-or-famine year for Team KOOL Green's Dario Franchitti ( ...

Dario Franchitti holds off field on late restart to capture checkered flag at Molson Indy Montreal

MONTREAL, Quebec, Canada (August 25, 2002) - In what has been a feast-or-famine year for Team KOOL Green's Dario Franchitti (#27 KOOL Honda/Lola/Bridgestone), Sunday's Molson Indy Montreal yielded a feast fit for a king as Franchitti held off the series points leader Cristiano da Matta (#6 Havoline Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone) on a Lap 74 restart and claimed the ninth win of his CART FedEx Championship Series career.

Franchitti won for the second time during the 2002 campaign, marking the first time since 1999 that he has won more than one race in his career but more importantly - winning a Champ Car race in front of his mother for the first time ever. The win was his fourth in the country of Canada and moved him into a tie with Jimmy Vasser (#8 Shell Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) for 15th in career CART victories.

An early gamble on pit strategies sent da Matta into his Newman/Haas pits before anyone else and turned the event into a two-horse race as Franchitti and da Matta would spend the day leapfrogging each other, leading 78 of the 80 laps between them. Da Matta gave the lead up for the final time when he pitted on Lap 68 and appeared to be headed for a distant second-place finish as the Scotsman built a lead of 6.166 seconds with 10 laps to run.

But that advantage went up in a shower of carbon-fiber as Adrian Fernandez (#51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) crashed on the exit of Turn Seven, bringing out a full-course caution and moving the points leader to within sight of Franchitti for the Lap 74 restart. Da Matta would first have to negotiate the lapped car of Shinji Nakano (#52 Alpine/Mitsuba Honda/Lola/Bridgestone), who would pace da Matta for the first two laps of the restart before sportingly letting the leaders go by.

But Franchitti was equal to the task, and roared away to a 2.588-second win to claim the inaugural CART event on the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve - site of the Formula 1 Canadian Grand Prix. Franchitti earned his sixth podium in the year's 13 races, sending his rollercoaster year back uphill during a year that has seen him take six podiums - but finish in the top 10 just once in the other seven events.

Da Matta would stretch his series points lead to 55 over Franchitti, who also earned the point for leading the most laps of the day (43) and vaulted past Bruno Junqueira (#4 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone) and Patrick Carpentier (#32 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) for second place in the title hunt. Junqueira and Carpentier each took a hit to their championship aspirations as both drivers would exit with mechanical problems and fail to earn a point on the day.

Tony Kanaan (#10 Pioneer/WorldCom Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) would continue his recent strong run in the Mo Nunn Racing machine by storming to a third-place run. Kanaan came out ahead in one of the best on-track exchanges of the race when he fell prey to an outbraking move from Vasser on Lap 54 heading into Turn Five, but battled back to overtake Vasser on the backstretch on the same lap.

Kanaan earned his second podium of the year and took his third top-four finish in the last four races to move himself to within 11 points of the top 10 in points, a feat that is made even more impressive by the fact that the Brazilian failed to score in each of the first four races of the season.

Native Canadian Paul Tracy (#26 KOOL Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) would give the huge Montreal crowd of over 64,000 a reason to cheer by coming home in the fourth spot, scoring the highest finish of any of the eight starters that had run previously on the 2.709-mile circuit - despite the fact that his experience was over 15 years ago and was in a Formula Ford car.

Vasser would lead a Team Rahal sweep of the next two positions, taking the fifth spot for the second consecutive weekend. The former series champion moved into 11th in the points with the finish, which was his first set of back-to-back top-fives since Nazareth and Motegi last season. Michel Jourdain Jr. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) followed his stablemate to the checkered flag, scoring points for the 13th consecutive event, extending his Team Rahal record and moving himself into a fifth-place tie with Christian Fittipaldi (#11 Lilly Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone) in the standings.

Fittipaldi would snare the seventh spot with Michael Andretti (#39 Motorola Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) landing the eighth position, scoring a points-paying finish for the sixth consecutive event. Nakano would place ninth and extend his own personal-best CART streak to eight consecutive events in which he has tallied points, finishing ahead of Scott Dixon (#44 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone) who would round out the top 10 despite having to pull off course with three laps to run.

CHAMP CAR TOP-THREE QUOTES

* DARIO FRANCHITTI (#27 KOOL Honda/Lola/Bridgestone): "Races like today are always fun because Cristiano and I were on different pit strategies, so you never really knew who was going to come out in front. (When asked about winning the inaugural race in Montreal) It didn't dawn on me, and actually I didn't realize it until after the race when I was up on the podium, when [Team KOOL Green owner] Barry Green told me that number 27 won the race in Montreal. It's pretty interesting [being the first 27 to win here since the legendary Gilles Villeneuve]. (On the Canadian race fans) After I won I was taking a lap and I stopped in front of the grandstands and put the car on idle to hear the crowd. It's pretty amazing to hear a crowd cheering like that."

* CRISTIANO DA MATTA (#6 Havoline Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone): (On the pit strategy) "It didn't work. We didn't have the position we wanted when the yellow flag came out. I'm not sure if it was the best strategy, but it was the one that had the biggest percentage of working. It's not very frustrating because of the way everything came out in the points. I can't complain about anything. We had a problem in the warm up session and my guys made a change before the race. We'll take the 18 points here - 16 for second and 2 for qualifying."

* TONY KANAAN (#10 Pioneer/WorldCom Honda/Lola/Bridgestone): "We've been struggling in qualifying the last two weekends. This week we had a clean weekend but we had problems figuring out the setup of the car. The car in the race was completely different than the car we had all weekend. I had to push very hard all race. We broke a header in the race and I started to lose the clutch with about 15 [laps] to go. So I didn't want that yellow flag to come out. We crossed the finish line burning up."

NOTEWORTHY:

* A race day crowd of 64,000 pushed the three-day attendance total at Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve to 172,000. The massive crowd, when combined with the figures from Vancouver and Toronto boosts the total attendance for the three CART races held in Canada this year to over 501,000.

* Dario Franchitti led the 800th lap of his Champ Car career today and paced 43 orbits today to boost his career total to 831. The total moved him past Jimmy Vasser and into 18th place on the all-time CART laps led list.

* Adrian Fernandez and Michel Jourdain Jr. each led a single lap during the first cycle of pit stops, Fernandez leading for the first time since pacing the first 14 laps of the 2002 season in Monterrey.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Adrian Fernandez , Patrick Carpentier , Christian Fittipaldi , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Shinji Nakano , Gilles Villeneuve , Barry Green , Michel Jourdain , Mo Nunn