CHAMPCAR/CART: Newman/Haas Racing Laguna Seca race report

Fittipaldi Finished Ninth In The Yellow-Filled Shell 300 At The Honda Grand Prix Of Monterey While Da Matta Retired After Racing Incident With Franchitti - Kmart driver Christian Fittipaldi moved from a disappointing 19th place starting...

Fittipaldi Finished Ninth In The Yellow-Filled Shell 300 At The Honda Grand Prix Of Monterey While Da Matta Retired After Racing Incident With Franchitti

- Kmart driver Christian Fittipaldi moved from a disappointing 19th place starting position to run as high as fifth place and finish ninth in an event that was filled with eight different yellow-flag situations and was shortened from 83 laps to a two-hour timed event that comprised 76 laps. Twenty-fifth place starter Max Papis made his first of five pit stops (compared to the average of two stops) during a caution period on lap four and ultimately drove to victory after a total of 29 laps under caution played into his strategy. Fittipaldi jumped past rookie Casey Mears and veteran Mauricio Gugelmin on the first lap as well as gained a position after Kenny Brack and Michael Andretti came into contact but continued. By lap three, he was in 13th place after teammates Patrick Carpentier and Alex Tagliani collided. He held the position until his first pit stop on lap 18 during a caution period for Roberto Moreno and Michel Jourdain who had separate incidents. He returned to the race in 17th place but moved up to 11th by lap 36 after the first round of stops were completed. By lap 38, he moved into sixth place after drivers began making their second stops and moved into fifth place on lap 43 after Max Papis made another pit stop. He held the position until he made his second stop on lap 50 during the fifth of eight caution periods for Michael Andretti who spun. He returned to the race in 11th place but moved up as those who had yet to pit made their stops. By lap 53, he was in 11th place after he passed Mauricio Gugelmin and later teammate Cristiano da Matta made contact with Dario Franchitti and retired from the race. On lap 59, Fittipaldi made slight contact with Franchitti, who received a punctured tire and retired from the race, moving Fittipaldi into 10th. Temporary race leader Adrian Fernandez made his out-of-sequence pit stop and Fittipaldi moved into ninth place on lap 61, which he held until the race ended after 76 laps. He collected four points for his finish but dropped from 13th to 14th place in the standings after Jimmy Vasser gained the spot after a fifth place finish.

Christian Fittipaldi:
"You don't just need a good car in these races, you need a crystal ball," said Fittipaldi. "We spend a lot of time and energy trying to figure out how to finish a race in as few pit stops as possible but the guys who end up winning or finishing well make the most stops because of the way the yellows fall. (On incident with Dario Franchitti:) I completely misjudged the distance and my front wing hit his tire and he ended up getting a puncture. It was my fault. The car was okay but not great by any means. At one point in the race, the track was so slippery that no one's car was good. I got a good start and passed (Casey) Mears, (Mauricio) Gugelmin and someone else. We got a few points today but we lost one position in the standings. We should be competitive in Australia and Fontana though."

- Texaco/Havoline/Kmart driver Cristiano da Matta came to Monterey in hopes of scoring his second victory of the season as well as the second victory in a town named Monterey after winning the season-opener in Monterrey, Mexico. Unfortunately the race was filled with caution laps as a result of numerous incidents and the timing of the yellows favored Max Papis who started second from last and was able to pit early and subsequently out-of-sequence and win the event due to the timing of the yellows. Da Matta moved up from his eighth place qualifying position to seventh after fifth place qualifier Bryan Herta's car failed to pass a post qualifying inspection. He held seventh place until lap 18 when he moved up to fifth after second place runner Helio Castroneves made his first stop and fifth place runner Roberto Moreno spun on course. He held fifth place until lap 33 when he moved into fourth after Tony Kanaan made his first stop. On lap 35 he was in third place after Paul Tracy pit. He made his first stop on the following lap and returned to the race in 10th place behind drivers who were out of sequence. By lap 39 he was in ninth place and moved into eighth on lap 43 after eventual winner Max Papis made an out-of-sequence stop. He was in sixth place on lap 50 when the majority of the field made their second and final pit stops during the caution period for Michael Andretti who spun. At this time 15th place runner Max Papis moved into third. Da Matta returned to the race in 11th place behind Dario Franchitti. He successfully passed Franchitti in a succession of tight corners but Franchitti immediately regained the position. As he was almost clear of da Matta's car he took the racing line and the two cars touched sending da Matta into the tire barriers but Franchitti continued. He retired in 20th place and did not score points toward the championship. He held his sixth place in the Championship but is now 79 points back from leader Gil de Ferran (179) with two races to go and 44 points maximum available.

Cristiano da Matta
"I had just passed Dario and he passed me back but we ran out of room and the front of my car touched the back of his car just enough to send me into the tires," said da Matta. "It was just a racing accident. It's a shame because we need to finish these races, and finish as high as possible. The car was okay but it was so slippery. I told the guys over the radio at the beginning of the race that I thought there would be a lot of yellows because it was so slippery. I just wish one of them wasn't for me."

- Next up: The series will make its final international trip of the season when they travel to Surfers Paradise, Queensland, Australia for the Honda Indy 300 on October 28. The 2001 season-finale Marlboro 500 will take place on November 4 in Fontana, Calif. Kmart driver Christian Fittipaldi is the defending winner.


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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Max Papis , Adrian Fernandez , Roberto Moreno , Alex Tagliani , Christian Fittipaldi , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Tony Kanaan , Mauricio Gugelmin , Bryan Herta , Kenny Brack , Cristiano da Matta , Michel Jourdain