MOTEGI, Japan (May 19, 2001) - Kenny Brack of Team Rahal, owner of 11 top-five finishes but no victories in his first 23 FedEx Championship Series starts, finally broke into the victory column Saturday when he recorded his first career triumph in...
MOTEGI, Japan (May 19, 2001) - Kenny Brack of Team Rahal, owner of 11 top-five finishes but no victories in his first 23 FedEx Championship Series starts, finally broke into the victory column Saturday when he recorded his first career triumph in the Firestone Firehawk 500 before an event-record crowd of 72,000 at Twin Ring Motegi.
Brack (Shell Ford Lola) grabbed the lead on Lap 150 of 201 and maintained it to the checkered flag for a 3.650-second victory over polesitter Helio Castroneves of Marlboro Team Penske. With the 20 points he earned for the triumph, Brack took over the FedEx Championship Series points lead for the first time in his two-year career. At 49 points, he leads Castroneves (47) by two heading into Round 6 of the championship, the June 3 Miller Lite 225 at The Milwaukee Mile.
Brack, winner of the 2000 Jim Trueman Rookie of the Year Award, scored Team Rahal's first FedEx Championship Series victory since Max Papis won the 2000 season opener at Homestead. It was Brack's first open-wheel victory since the 1999 Indianapolis 500. He averaged a race-record 178.113 miles per hour en route to the triumph, eclipsing the 176.195 miles per hour averaged by Adrian Fernandez en route to victory in 1999.
Brack also claimed Ford's fourth consecutive victory at Twin Ring Motegi, following victories by Fernandez in 1998 and '99 and Michael Andretti last year. He also extended Ford's run of victories on 1.5-mile ovals to seven in the past eight events, dating to Andretti's 1997 victory at Homestead.
Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard), who led a race-high 84 laps from the pole, recorded his second podium finish of the season and his fourth-points paying result in as many 2001 starts. He also matched his career-best performance on an oval, established at Milwaukee in 1998 and equaled at Gateway in 1999.
Tony Kanaan (Hollywood Honda Reynard) of Mo Nunn Racing finished third and brought the second-year Mo Nunn team its first-ever podium finish. The podium result represented Kanaan's first since recording his lone FedEx Championship Series career victory at Michigan International Speedway in 1999, when he drove for Forsythe Championship Racing.
Brack, Castroneves and Kanaan dominated the event to the point that they combined to lead 199 of the 201 laps contested. In addition to Castroneves' race-high total of 84 laps led, Brack led 75 and Kanaan led 40.
Christian Fittipaldi (Kmart Toyota Lola) of Newman/Haas Racing finished a season-best fourth in the 300th CART start for that storied team (see related note below). He was followed by Jimmy Vasser (Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard) of Patrick Racing, whose fifth-place result moved him into a third-place points tie with Cristiano da Matta (Texaco/Havoline/Kmart Toyota Lola) of Newman/Haas Racing and Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) of Team KOOL Green.
Da Matta and Tracy had shared the points lead entering the event, but neither scored Saturday. Now the threesome, which includes Vasser, is deadlocked at 40 points each heading to Milwaukee.
Da Matta exited on the opening lap due to contact with rookie Bruno Junqueira and finished 25th while Tracy exited due to a mechanical failure after completing 77 laps and finished 18th.
KENNY BRACK, Shell Ford Lola: "It's great. It's a big weight off my shoulders. We've been close so many times, but we didn't manage to do it until today. It was a great run. The Shell Ford ran great; I think fuel mileage was the key. We didn't have any problem going to the end. Tony [Kanaan] kept closing on me and I didn't know he couldn't make it to the end, so I did everything I could to hold him off. And I had good racing with Helio, too. Very close ... very fair. It was a very exciting race for me. There was a lot of overtaking, and I got overtaken, too. When I looked at past races here, I noticed that the leader at Lap 170 was traditionally the driver that went on to win the race. That crossed my mind when we got to that point today. I wanted to keep that tradition going."
HELIO CASTRONEVES, Marlboro Honda Reynard: "[About an unreported car problem at the start of the race] I didn't know about it. I asked in the beginning, 'Are we OK?' and they [the crew] said, 'Oh, we're fine.' I guess they lied to me, but it's good. Sometimes the drivers don't need to know everything that's going on. There are times when they just need to stay focused on what's going on in front of them. It was a great race. I was really asking for more fuel at the end, but it's a great result for Marlboro Team Penske, especially for me on an oval. I'm really happy with the result, especially for what it means in the championship at this point in the season."
TONY KANAAN, Hollywood Honda Reynard: "I'm happy to be back [on the podium]. It has been a long time. I'm happy to give the first podium to Mo Nunn Racing. I had a good car throughout the race. We were playing the yellows at the end, unfortunately it came out at a bad time for us. I think we could have finished second, but I don't know if we could have passed Kenny [Brack] at the end. It was fun to be in the car today. I'm disappointed that we couldn't win for Honda, but me and Helio [Castroneves] are going to have a long time in this series, and we'll look forward to another opportunity."
* Kenny Brack (Shell Ford Lola) owns top-five finishes in three of four starts this season and has scored championship points in 10 of his past 13 FedEx Championship Series starts, dating to a fourth-place finish at Chicago last season. His previous top-five results this season have been fifth at Mexico and second at Nazareth. Overall, Brack owns 12 top-five finishes in 24 career FedEx Championship Series starts, and he has scored championship points in seven of 10 career starts on ovals, including podium finishes of third at Nazareth last year and second at Nazareth last week.
* Kenny Brack is the FedEx Championship Series leader in laps led, with 228, including 200 on ovals. He has led at least one lap in three of four starts this season, including 28 at Mexico and a race-high 125 at Nazareth last week.
* Michael Andretti of Team Motorola established the CART record for career starts when he made his 274th at Saturday's Firestone Firehawk 500. Andretti's historic start eclipsed his longtime racing rival Al Unser Jr., who made 273 career starts from 1982-99. Andretti's first career start came at Las Vegas in 1983 in a race won by his father, Mario. His last 129 starts have come consecutively, dating to the 1994 season opener at Australia, which he won. Michael Andretti is also CART's all-time leader in victories (40) and laps led (6,409) and is second in career pole positions (32). His 274th start ranks him fourth in all-time Champ Car history (1909-present). Mario Andretti, Michael's father, is the all-time leader with 407 starts. Andretti finished 23rd Saturday, completing 33 of 201 laps before exiting due to a mechanical failure.
* The Newman/Haas Racing Team appeared in its 300th CART event at Saturday's Firestone Firehawk 500. The Newman/Haas team, co-owned by Carl Haas and Academy Award-winning actor Paul Newman, debuted in the 1983 CART season opener at Atlanta, with Mario Andretti behind the wheel. In the interim, the team has recorded 59 race victories and 62 pole positions - ranking second in CART history in both categories - and has won three driving championships, with Mario Andretti (1984), Michael Andretti (1991) and Nigel Mansell (1993). "Eighteen years, so many highlights that it's hard to single out any one special," Newman said of the milestone, "but certainly amongst them [are] Mario's first win in 1983; our first championship in 1984; creating the first father/son team with Mario and Michael; Michael's first championship ; enlisting Formula One champion Nigel Mansell to drive for us ... they're all memorable moments and in total an accomplishment equaled by very few teams. The cohesiveness of the Newman/Haas group and the loyalty of everyone to the team has been touching and rewarding. The fact that Carl actually gave me a cigar once is probably the highlight of all those years. Of course, he took it back before I smoked it, but still it did not completely eliminate the exhilaration of the moment."
* Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard) scored championship points for the 11th time in his past 12 FedEx Championship Series starts with his runner-up performance. Included are victories at Mid-Ohio and Laguna Seca last season and Long Beach this season. By finishing second, earning the pole position and leading the most laps, Castroneves scored 18 championship points this weekend, one fewer than he scored on ovals during the entire 2000 FedEx Championship Series campaign.
* Tony Kanaan (Hollywood Honda Reynard) has led a combined 104 laps in his past two FedEx Championship Series starts on ovals. He led 64 at Nazareth and 40 Saturday.
* Helio Castroneves' runner-up performance allowed Honda to move into a tie with Toyota for the lead in the CART Manufacturer's Championship. Honda and Toyota have 70 points each, followed by Ford Cosworth, which capitalized on Brack's victory to move to 52. Toyota's top finish Saturday came from Christian Fittipaldi, who finished fourth.
* Christian Fittipaldi's fourth-place finish allowed him to extend a run that has seen him score championship points in 18 of his last 19 FedEx Championship Series starts on ovals, dating to a seventh-place finish in the 1998 season finale at California Speedway. Included is a victory in the 2000 FedEx Championship Series season finale, also at California Speedway.
* Scott Dixon (Powerware Panasonic PacWest Toyota) of the PacWest Racing Group finished ninth Saturday to add to his lead in the Jim Trueman Rookie of the Year race. Dixon, who became the youngest race winner in CART history with his victory at Nazareth at age 20 years, nine months and 14 days, holds a 24-11 lead over Bruno Junqueira (Target Toyota Lola) of Target Chip Ganassi Racing in the race for the rookie award. Dixon has led laps in three of his first four FedEx Championship Series starts, including 14 at Mexico, 36 at Nazareth and one Saturday.
* In addition to Tony Kanaan's third-place finish, the second-year Mo Nunn Racing team also received a points-paying performance from two-time FedEx Championship Series champion Alex Zanardi (Pioneer Honda Reynard), who finished seventh. It marked Zanardi's first scoring performance since his return to the series from a two-year absence following his back-to-back title winning seasons of 1997-98.
* Shinji Nakano (Avex/Alpine Honda Reynard) delighted the home crowd with an eighth-place finish, matching a career-best established at Homestead last year. The five championship points scored by Nakano are the first in the history of newly formed Fernandez Racing.
The FedEx Championship Series continues with Round 6, the Miller Lite 225, on Sunday, June 3, at The Milwaukee Mile in West Allis, Wis.