- Big Kmart/Route 66 driver Christian Fittipaldi drove to a third-place podium finish in the extended 112-lap Freightliner/G.I. Joe's 200 in Portland, Ore. It was Fittipaldi's first podium since his third place finish in the 1999 season finale...
- Big Kmart/Route 66 driver Christian Fittipaldi drove to a third-place podium finish in the extended 112-lap Freightliner/G.I. Joe's 200 in Portland, Ore.
It was Fittipaldi's first podium since his third place finish in the 1999 season finale in Fontana, Calif. Fittipaldi provisionally qualified second fastest on Friday but did not maintain the position in final qualifying on Saturday and started the race in sixth place. At the start of the 112-lap race, Fittipaldi and co. charged into turn one on the first lap. As the field bunched into the turn, Kenny Brack made contact with the rear of Dario Franchitti causing him to spin and ensuing chaos for the rest of the field. Fittipaldi narrowly avoided being stopped and moved into fourth place. Points frontrunners Jimmy Vasser and Paul Tracy were caught up in the accident as were Max Papis and Oriol Servia. The yellow caution flag came out for a few laps until the race was restarted on lap four. Fittipaldi charged into turn one and was able to pass third place Roberto Moreno for position after locking up his brakes and bringing on a large puff of white smoke from his front and rear tires. He held the position for one lap until
Moreno passed him back in the same spot in turn one. He immediately reported that his tires were flat spotted and therefore had no traction. He was able to hold off the field for a few laps but was passed on the eighth lap by Cristiano da Matta and Juan Montoya. He held sixth place until his first pit stop when he was called in early, out-of regular sequence due to the tires.
He pitted on lap 19 for tires and 18 (of 35 maximum) gallons of fuel. He returned to the race in 19th place. On lap 22 he ran the fastest race lap at that point in his quest to return to the front. Norberto Fontana was black flagged for a report of smoke which moved Fittipaldi up to 18th place. He moved into 17th on lap 26. He began moving in on Dario Franchitti over the next few laps while consistently running the fastest laps of the race and passed him on lap 31 and moved into 15th place with the help of Mark Blundell who retired with a mechanical problem. On lap 33, Patrick Carpentier pit and Fittipaldi also gained another position when he passed Bryan Herta for 13th place. As the field continued to make their first pit stops, Fittipaldi climbed up to sixth place, which he held until he made his second stop on lap 49. The crew was able to complete the stop quickly and Fittipaldi returned to the race without going one lap down to the leaders although he received a full load of fuel and returned to the race in 12th place. He immediately went to work on the next position, which was being held by Patrick Carpentier. He closed the gap in the ensuing laps and was side-by-side with him at turn one on lap 59 and successfully made the pass for 11th place. His next target was Shinji Nakano who was five seconds ahead of him. By lap 67 he had closed the margin to six-tenths of a second. As the field began making their second pit stop, Fittipaldi moved up to fourth place by lap 74 just ahead of teammate Michael Andretti. He held fourth place until lap 80 when he made his third and final pit stop. He returned to the race in 10th place and he and the team continued hoping for a caution-free race so that the others would also have to make a final race-speed pit stop. He began working to gain on Oriol Servia for ninth place. He moved into ninth place when Juan Montoya pit and subsequently retired after completing 88 laps. By lap 100, Fittipaldi had moved into fourth place as others made their final stop. On lap 105 of 112, polesitter and race leader Helio Castroneves had to make a final stop and handed the lead to teammate Gil de Ferran as well as third place to Fittipaldi. Castroneves returned to the track in position behind Fittipaldi but many seconds back. Fittipaldi held third place until the checkered flag and collected 14 points for his finish. He moved into 12th place in the standings, just 30 points out of first placed Roberto Moreno who has 68. This was the first time in CART history that Brazilians have swept the top three positions in a Champ Car race. Four of the top six drivers in the chase for the FedEx Championship Series Championship failed to score points in today's race. Following are his post race comments:
"I really earned my money today," said Fittipaldi. "I screwed up at the beginning by going in too deep and braking too late and locked up my tires and flatspotted them. I knew the two Marlboro cars were going to be tough today so I knew I wanted to be behind them going into the first corner on the restart so I tried to pass Roberto. I accomplished the pass but flatspotted my tires in the process. They were worn down to the cords and I had such a huge vibration that my teeth were rattling. I had to pay for it by passing up a chance to win the race. I waited for the first chance for me to come in, and when we did, I came in and we filled it up, and went for it. I went from wherever I was then to third. I'm happy to be here, but the mistake at the beginning of the race cost me today. Maybe things would have been different. Basically, after I saw that I had screwed up at the beginning of the race, there was no other option but to drive every other lap like I was on a huge flyer. It was enjoyable. It was one of the things that gives me great motivation about motor racing. To come from way behind, and to get by a bunch of people - but I would still rather be where Gil is right now. "Unfortunately, I had to pay for what I did and those two guys did a great job. I am glad for the points for the Big Kmart/Route 66 team. The finish is especially good considering how many races we ran well in but didn't finish well. We were in second place last week in Detroit but didn't finish the race. We are back in the Championship now. There are many more races to go and we are going to be a factor. I am looking forward to Cleveland."
- Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline driver Michael Andretti drove from his 11th place start to finish fourth in the Freightliner/G.I. Joe's 200 in Portland, Ore.
Just as Fittipaldi did, Andretti was able to get by the accident in the first turn of the first lap and moved up three positions into eighth place. He held his position until he passed Alex Tagliani for seventh place in turn one on lap 14. He held seventh place until teammate Fittipaldi made his first stop early due to flatspotted tires on lap 19. Andretti held sixth place until he briefly moved into fifth before his first stop on lap 36. He returned to the race in eighth place but was in seventh after the first round of stops were complete. On lap 49, he moved into sixth place as Fittipaldi made his second stop. He began to pursue the next position, which was reigning Champion, Juan Montoya, whom he passed in turn one on lap 67 for fifth place. He made his next pit stop on lap 69 and returned to the race in eighth place. After the remainder of the field on the regular pit stop sequence made their stops, Andretti was back in fifth place. He moved into fourth place when Fittipaldi made his final stop on lap 80. When race leader Gil de Ferran made his final stop on lap 89, Andretti, moved into third place behind polesitter and race leader Helio Castroneves and Cristiano da Matta.
He held third place until he made his final stop on lap 94 and returned to the race in sixth place. He moved into fifth when da Matta made his final stop on lap 100. When previous race leader Helio Castroneves made his final stop on lap 105, he was able to exit the pits and get on track before Andretti passed him and he was rejoining the field, therefore Andretti remained in fifth place. On lap 108 of 112, Luiz Garcia Jr. abruptly got on his brakes and Andretti ran into the rear of his car but both were able to continue. On the final lap, Castroneves ran out of fuel and dropped from fourth place to seventh, handing the position to Andretti. He collected 12 points for fourth place. Following are his post race comments:
"The car was much better in the race than it was on Friday and Saturday. We always seem to have a good racecar and not as good of a qualifying car. It was good to score some points for the Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline team and move up in the championship. The guys have been working really hard on their stops and they did some good ones today. The points got tighter since some of the front runners didn't score any here. That's exactly what we needed to happen. We really hurt ourselves by starting that far back, but it turned out all right. I think if we had started up front, things could have been a lot different, but starting in the back, we just gave away too much. I think we will be competitive in Cleveland and plan to continue our momentum. Garcia stopped in front of me and I hit him and messed up my front wing. I was trying real hard to hold off da Matta at the end because I had broken the wing and had a huge understeer, and we were lucky to hold him off. Good day for the points, though."
- Next on the Schedule: Round 9 of 20 in the CART FedEx Championship series takes place next weekend at the Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland. Andretti led one lap in 1999 before a pit lane speed penalty dropped him to 15th and he fought back to finish third. He has six podium finishes in Cleveland including a victory in 1991. Fittipaldi led in two of his Cleveland events. He pitted in the lead in 1997 when his airjack broke forcing him to ultimately finish sixth. He led 21 laps in 1998 and missed an immediate call to pit under yellow due to a broken radio and finished 11th. Both are due for a victory in Cleveland.