Rio 400 Notes Rio De Janeiro, Brazil - The Rio 400 was the final start for Hiro Matsushita (Panasonic/Duskin Reynard Toyota) in CART competition. Matsushita, the first Japanese driver to compete regularly in the ...
Rio 400 Notes
Rio De Janeiro, Brazil - The Rio 400 was the final start for Hiro Matsushita (Panasonic/Duskin Reynard Toyota) in CART competition. Matsushita, the first Japanese driver to compete regularly in the FedEx Championship Series, made 117 starts during his career, tying him with Kevin Cogan for 13th place on the CART career list. He started 26th and finished a season-high 15th Sunday. "I tried not to think about it [the last race] too much during the week, but rather focus on doing my best, just like every other race weekend. Of course, I will miss many things that I do as a driver, such as the camaraderie among fellow drivers. However, I will continue to work with the team and sponsors at the remaining events." Matsushita will continue to be involved in Champ Car racing as the president of Swift Engineering, one of four chassis suppliers to the FedEx Championship Series.
Greg Moore's (Player's/Indeck Reynard Mercedes) victory allowed him to extend his PPG Cup championship lead to four points over Alex Zanardi (Target Reynard Honda), the Rio 400 runnerup. Moore entered the Rio 400 with a 51-50 lead over Zanardi and managed to extend it via his third career victory. Adrian Fernandez (Tecate/Quaker State/Labatt Reynard Ford) maintained third place in the championship with 55 points after finishing third. Jimmy Vasser (Target Reynard Honda) moved from fifth to fourth with 39 points, followed by Bryan Herta (Shell Reynard Ford) with 37 points.
Moore and Zanardi are tied for the FedEx Championship Series season earnings lead with $270,000, followed by Fernandez ($210,000), Vasser ($179,250) and Michael Andretti ($153,750).
Moore's victory allowed Canada to close to 85-72 of the United States in the Nation's Cup competition. Italy is third with 67 points, all scored by Zanardi.
Mercedes-Benz scored its first victory of the season to tighten the Manufacturer's Championship. Honda leads a tight battle with 87 points, followed by Ford Cosworth with 80 and Mercedes with 76.
Reynard holds a 103-35 lead over Swift in the Constructor's Championship. No rookie scored PPG Cup points Sunday, leaving Tony Kanaan (LCI Reynard Honda) with a 22-6 lead over Helio Castro-Neves (Alumax Aluminum Reynard Mercedes) in the Jim Trueman Rookie of the Year standings.
Firestone's podium sweep was its third in a row, following top-three finishes at Long Beach (Zanardi, Dario Franchitti and Herta) and Nazareth (Vasser, Zanardi, Moore).
Moore's five laps led allowed him to continue as the only FedEx Championship Series driver to lead all five events this season. He also is the only driver to complete every lap (814) and every mile (1,162.681) this season.
Moore also became the fifth winner of the year following Andretti (Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Swift Ford at Homestead), Fernandez at Japan, Zanardi at Long Beach and Vasser at Nazareth.
Moore's victory allowed him to continue an impressive performance record off the North American continent. He finished second last year at Australia and Rio de Janeiro, and was third at Australia in his rookie season of 1996. He also held the lead at Rio de Janeiro with 16 of 133 laps remaining during only his second career start in '96 before being victimized by engine problems. "I don't know why, but when we get outside North America we tend to do very, very well," Moore said.
When Zanardi led the first 11 laps Sunday, it gave him 1,000 for his FedEx Championship Series career and making him the 13th driver in CART history to reach that milestone. Zanardi went on to lead a race-high 117 of 133 laps Sunday to push him past Johnny Rutherford and into 12th place with 1,106 laps. He sits 176 laps led behind 11th place Al Unser (1,282). The 117 laps led were the second-most Zanardi has led in any FedEx Championship Series event, trailing only the 134 he led in The Inaugural U.S. 500 in 1996 at Michigan Speedway.
Richie Hearn (Budweiser/Ralphs Swift Ford) drove from the 28th and last starting position to a career-high seventh-place finish. He also led Laps 78-81, his first stint on the lead since last year at California Speedway. Hearn's four laps led doubled his previous career total in FedEx Championship Series competition.
Franchitti (KOOL Reynard Honda) earned the second pole position of his FedEx Championship Series career Saturday, and the first for a Barry Green-owned car since Jacques Villeneuve's pole at Laguna Seca in 1995.
The top four qualifiers, including Franchitti, Zanardi, Kanaan (LCI Reynard Honda) and Gil de Ferran (Valvoline/Cummins Special Reynard Honda) were all Honda-powered, a first for the engine manufacturer in its five years of CART competition.
Zanardi's second-place qualifying effort marked his 19th front-row start in 37 FedEx Championship Series career appearances.
Arnd Meier (BAAN Business Software/Total Tel Lola Ford) qualified 19th Saturday, his first top-20 qualifying effort in 15 career starts. He finished 14th..
For the 12th consecutive event, the Marlboro Pole Award rollover bonus went unclaimed at Rio, meaning another $15,000 will be added to the rollover pot for May 23 Motorola 300 at Gateway International Raceway outside St. Louis. A win from the pole at that event will be worth $205,000, a record for the award's six-year history.
Source: CART Online