After a pre-season injury and resulting slow start in the 2000 CART FedEx Championship Series, Dario Franchitti celebrated a return to championship-contending form today with a second place finish in the Firestone Firehawk 500 here at the Twin...
After a pre-season injury and resulting slow start in the 2000 CART FedEx Championship Series, Dario Franchitti celebrated a return to championship-contending form today with a second place finish in the Firestone Firehawk 500 here at the Twin Ring Motegi circuit in Japan.
Franchitti moved steadily up through the field from the drop of the green flag for the 500-kilometer contest, reaching 8th place by the halfway mark and 4th by the final round of pit stops. Passing Roberto Moreno on a lap 177 restart, Franchitti challenge d eventual race winner Michael Andretti the rest of the race, but was unable to find a way past in the final laps.
Teammate Paul Tracy also progressed up through the field to finish sixth today and maintain his early-season lead in the championship points standings. Gil de Ferran started fifth for Marlboro Team Penske, but had his efforts hampered by an electronics problem in his tranmission and was unlucky to pit just before a caution flag, which dropped him off the lead lap to a ninth-place finish.
Helio Castro-Neves finished 13th, just out of the points in the second Team Penske Honda. The Brazilian ran in the top ten early in the day, but fell back in the second half with oversteer and a severe vibration that left his hands numb by the end of the race. In his first race back since being injured in a testing crash in March, Walker Racing's Shinji Nakano raced to 14th in his first home country CART event for the series rookie of the year candidate.
After two consecutive overseas races, the CART FedEx Championship returns to the U.S. on May 27 to complete the snow-interrupted Nazareth Speedway event.
DARIO FRANCHITTI (#27 Team KOOL Green Honda) Started 17th, Finished 2nd, (best finish of '00):
"We struggled again in qualifying this weekend, but I knew we had a good race car. The car was really good on new tires and restarts and that helped us move up the field. I made a small mistake on the last restart, though. I went high in turn 4 to try and get a run on Michael (Andretti), but got too high, out of the groove and lost ground as a result. I can't say enough about the Honda engine today, we had gr eat power all day long. It would've been nice to get around Andretti, but he's been doing this a long time and knows how to stay in front. But it was a good day all around. It's good to be on the pace again and nice to get some momentum."
PAUL TRACY (#26 Team KOOL Green Honda) Started 20th, Finished 6th, continues to lead the championship with 56 points to 42 for Jimmy Vasser:
"Considering where we started, sixth is a great result for us today. We fought and fought all day long and picked up some valuable points. The start was pretty wild because my car was really loose. It was loose on all the restarts and I couldn't commit (to a pass) when running behind anyone. That was our biggest problem today. I couldn't get underneath guys and I couldn't stay close in the corners."
GIL de FERRAN (#2 Marlboro Team Penske Honda) Started 5th, Finished 9th:
"We had an electronics problem with the transmission system. One of the sensors failed right at the start of the race and that held us back all day. The car actually was handling well. Under the circumstances I would've been happy with a top six finish but the yellow flag that came out after our last pit stop put us down a lap."
HELIO CASTRO-NEVES (#3 Marlboro Team Penske Honda) Started 14th, Finished 13th:
"It was a real long race, we picked up some kind of vibration after the first stop, and it just got worse as the race went on. My hands are numb and my vision is blurred right now. The car was pretty good at the start, but became very loose after the first stop. I had oversteer at both ends of the track and was just hanging on. We finally got rid of the oversteer at the last pit stop and even with the vibration I was able to pass two cars on the last lap. I was hoping to get a couple of (championship) point today but we came up a little short."
SHINJI NAKANO (#5 Avex Group/Walker Racing Honda) Started 11th, Finished 14th. second career oval race, first race back since injured in at testing crash at Milwaukee:
"I feel okay, I'm in pretty good shape. The car needed to be a little bit more consist ent today. On full tanks, the car was loose in turns 1 and 2, but had a push in turns 3-4. It would get better as the fuel load lightened and was very good at the end of a run. But I had (handling) problems after each pit stop. I nearly brushed the tur n 4 wall twice, and once I slid up and bumped wheels with (Helio) Castro-Neves."