Lilly driver Fittipaldi finished 12th in the Bridgestone Potenza 500 while Havoline Driver da Matta retired in 13th place with mechanical failure. - Lilly driver Christian Fittipaldi drove from his 16th place start to a 12th place finish in the...
Lilly driver Fittipaldi finished 12th in the Bridgestone Potenza 500 while Havoline Driver da Matta retired in 13th place with mechanical failure.
- Lilly driver Christian Fittipaldi drove from his 16th place start to a 12th place finish in the 201 lap Bridgestone Potenza 500 and scored one point toward the Championship. At the start of the race, he moved into 15th place after passing Scott Dixon but returned to 16th one lap later. He reported to the crew that the car was extremely loose and subsequently dropped as low as 19th place by lap 10 while he worked with the sway bar inside the cockpit in an effort to improve the handling of his race car as well as the other adjustments available. By lap 22 he was in 17th place but was lapped by the leader on lap 28. He held 17th place until he moved into 15th place before his first of five minimum pit stops on lap 38. The team made adjustments to the tire pressures, front wing angle as well as the other areas that are allowed to be altered during a race and sent Fittipaldi back on track. Due to a quicker pit stop, Fittipaldi gained one position over his teammate in 14th place and moved up to 12th after he passed Mario Dominguez and Michel Jourdain a few laps later. He held the position for most of the stint until he made his second stop on lap 76 and returned to the race in 16th place as the field was making their stops. At this point in the race, he was three laps down to the race leader. He moved into 15th place when Paul Tracy retired from the event with mechanical failure. He reported to the crew that he was experiencing understeer in his race car and the team made further adjustments on his next stop on lap 93. Prior to his stop he had moved up to 10th place and returned to the track in 15th. He ran between 15th and 13th place from lap 94 until his next pit stop on lap 125. He returned to the race in 13th place and remained there until he moved into 12th on lap 137. His final pit stop came on lap 156 and he returned to the race in 12th place, which he held until the checkered flag. He finished the event eight laps down to winner Bruno Junqueira, who scored his second win in the series for Target/Ganassi Racing. Fittipaldi earned one point for his 12th place finish. Following are his post race comments:
"It was a very hard race to only score one point," said Fittipaldi. "The car was pushing on the first stint but we were able to bring it back to life on the second stint but by the middle of the stint the car was bad again. It got worse as the race went on after that. It was the hardest race I have driven on an oval. We have a month until the next race and the team is going to work hard to improve our oval setup to make it as good as our road and street course setup. It's good that a Toyota won this race but it would have been better if it was my Toyota."
- Havoline driver Cristiano da Matta never ran higher than his eighth place start and completed 186 of 201 laps before he pulled into his pit box and retired with a mechanical failure in the Bridgestone Potenza 500. After failing to score points toward the Championship, he lost the lead to Dario Franchitti who finished third and is seven points ahead of da Matta, who fell to third place. He struggled with an ill-handling racecar for the majority of the race, which at 311.1 miles is the longest to date so far this season, and was 12 laps down to the leader when he drove into the pits to retire from the event. After earning his highest starting spot at the track of eighth place da Matta held his position until lap 25 when he steadily dropped back to 15th place and relayed to the pits that his car was difficult to drive before he made his first pit stop on lap 38. He returned to the race in 16th place before making another stop on lap 44 so that the team could check the race car for problems. Da Matta was sent back on track in 19th place when the team failed to find a problem but was told that he could return to the pits when the car became too difficult to drive. He moved from 19th place into 14th by lap 122 after Paul Tracy, Max Papis, Kenny Brack, Michael Andretti and Tony Kanaan retired due to mechanical failure. He moved into 13th place on lap 137 after Townsend Bell's crash and held the position through his next pit stop on lap 176 and until he drove into the pits on lap 186 to retire from the race in 13th place. Following are da Matta's post race comments:
"We had a chance to score some good points but didn't get any and the entire team is disappointed with our performance in the race," said da Matta. "We knew our oval setup was not as good as our road and street course setup before we even got here but we thought we had made some improvements with it after the first day here. The car was not good in the race. Once it started the car got worse and worse. The team is very experienced and we are going to work hard to make our oval car as competitive as our road and street course car. The Toyota engine ran well today but we just didn't have the car working good to make the most of it."
- Testing in May: Although the race schedule shows no events for the month of May, Newman/Haas Racing has a busy agenda in order to challenge for their fourth CART FedEx Championship. On May 7-8 the team will test at the Milwaukee Mile oval with Havoline driver da Matta behind the wheel. On May 13-14 both da Matta and Lilly driver Fittipaldi will head to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car course for a test on the road course. Fittipaldi will travel from the Mid-Ohio test to Portland, Ore. for advance promotion of the G.I. Joe's 200 which will take place on June 16. He scored his top finish of 2001 in Portland with his dominating run to third place on a rain soaked track. Round 4 of 20 in the CART FedEx Championship Series will take place June 2 for the Miller Lite 250 at the Haas-promoted Milwaukee Mile. NHR has won six events at the historic track.