CHAMPCAR/CART: Motegi: Honda Motegi race report

Franchitti finishes third in Japan. Four different Honda-powered drivers led portions of today's Bridgestone Potenza 500 at Twin Ring Motegi in Japan, but separate mechanical failures took three out of the contest, while Dario Franchitti...

Franchitti finishes third in Japan.

Four different Honda-powered drivers led portions of today's Bridgestone Potenza 500 at Twin Ring Motegi in Japan, but separate mechanical failures took three out of the contest, while Dario Franchitti finished third in today's CART FedEx Championship Series event.

Franchitti started the day in the lead pack, battling Michael Andretti for more than 20 laps. But a Team KOOL Green decision to pit late during a caution period backfired as the track returned to green flag racing just after Franchitti had exited the pits, and he was soon a lap behind the leaders. The Scot fought hard all day to get back to the front, leading seven laps, but was forced to make a final pit stop with just four laps remaining and dropped back to third place.

Tony Kanaan took the lead on the first lap and went on to set the fastest race lap and lead 72 laps today, but a broken exhaust header caused the Mo Nunn Racing entry's retirement on lap 121. Paul Tracy battled with Kanaan throughout the first third of the race, but an overheated front wheel bearing in his new Lola chassis took him out of the contest after just 84 laps.

Andretti was the fourth Honda driver to lead today's race, but the Team Motorola driver also suffered a chassis-related failure when a rear wing mount fractured on lap 115, taking him out of the race. The Fernandez Racing duo of Adrian Fernandez and Shinji Nakano also had minor chassis and handling problems, but held on to finish seventh and tenth.

Honda Fast Facts

· With today's third place finish, Dario Franchitti takes over the lead in the driver's standings

· By leading 72 laps, Tony Kanaan and Honda each earned one point for most race laps led

· The four fastest race laps were set by Honda drivers Kanaan, Tracy, Andretti and Franchitti

Dario Franchitti (#27 Team KOOL Green Honda) started 5th, finished 3rd, takes over championship series points lead: "I hate to sound bitter after finishing on the podium, but I'm just really disappointed. I just wanted to win this race so badly, for myself and for Honda, it was so important. The guys said they didn't hear or see any 'one lap to go' (before the green flag) signal, so they called me in for a stop, and then the race resumed and I went a lap down. Three or four Honda cars could have won today's race, and to lose on race strategy really hurts. We tried and tried to get the lap back, but we just weren't able. It could have been a very different story today."

Adrian Fernandez (#51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Fernandez Racing Honda) started 14th, finished 7th: "We had too many problems. I had a plenum problem at the beginning of the race and I had no power and I went to the back and it took a few laps to get the thing running right again. I had no weight jacker, it broke and then I had to turn off my speed limiter coming in and going out of the pits- it was so many things. At the end we got some points but I am disappointed, because normally we do better here in Japan. The whole thing here was to try to get the win here for Honda and unfortunately we couldn't."

Tony Kanaan (#10 Pioneer/WorldCom Mo Nunn Racing Honda) started 2nd, finished 15th (not running - exhaust header): "What can you possibly say after that ... another day in paradise? Three DNFs in a row is definitely a bad trend that we have to get over before we get into the meat of our schedule in June. I did my part. The team did its part. Once again, we have to leave here trying to believe that there is still a long, long way to go in the season and we can get over this bad streak and back into the points race. That's life ... things happen. But it's really tough to take, especially when you have a weekend as good as we had until the problem in the race. We definitely had the car to win today. It just wasn't meant to happen."

Paul Tracy (#26 Team KOOL Green Honda) started 3rd, finished 19th (not running - wheel bearing failure): "We knew this could be a potential problem: we had an upright fail on us in practice and I guess the 2002 upright is not quite good enough. Most of the other Lola runners, especially the guys who have been running them for awhile, are running last year's piece. We tried to buy some from the other teams, but they are in limited supply and we couldn't get any. So we went through everything thoroughly and rebuilt everything but unfortunately, it went away, and there went our strong run. The car was great and the engine was great, it's a shame.

-hrd-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Michael Andretti , Adrian Fernandez , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Tony Kanaan , Shinji Nakano , Mo Nunn