CHAMPCAR/CART: Rockingham race notes

The grid order was Brack, Andretti, da Matta, Takagi, Franchitti and Junqueira. Brack made a good start from pole position and maintained his lead into Turn 1. Behind him the whole field got through the first lap cleanly but Junqueira, Kanaan and...

The grid order was Brack, Andretti, da Matta, Takagi, Franchitti and Junqueira. Brack made a good start from pole position and maintained his lead into Turn 1. Behind him the whole field got through the first lap cleanly but Junqueira, Kanaan and Fittipaldi all had bad starts and dropped places.

Brack started to pull away and was leading by 2.047 seconds by lap four. He was closely followed by a group of cars consisting of Andretti, da Matta, Takagi and Franchitti.

Fittipaldi dropped to the back of the field on lap 7 and toured slowly round for a few laps before being lapped and then making an extended pitstop. The crew removed the engine cover and examined the back of the car. He rejoined but was still well off the pace and pitted again 6 laps later.

Brack's early stint pace dropped off and the gap between himself and Andretti stabilised at around 1.5 seconds.

The first full course yellow happened on lap 15 when Paul Tracy coasted to a halt without power at the exit of Turn 2. He described what happened: "Something went wrong in the gearbox because the car lost all drive and I was just coasting."

At the restart Brack held his lead and again put in some early fast laps, pulling out 1.5 seconds in two laps over Andretti, and then Andretti closed the gap to 0.4 seconds. The pack of da Matta, Takagi and Franchitti was still close behind.

Carpentier had closely followed Kanaan since lap 2 and eventually got past on lap 30. After a 38 lap battle with Junqueira for sixth position, Tagliani slowed on lap 42 on the back straight and toured into the pitlane to retire.

On lap 46 the second full course yellow of the day was brought out to allow safety teams to remove debris in Turn 2. All the drivers took this opportunity to make their first pitstops. Brack returned in lead with Takagi jumping Andretti to second, and da Matta and Carpentier following in fourth and fifth. Dixon made the greatest improvement during the stops, moving up from tenth to sixth.

Franchitti had a poor pitstop: "I was on the rev limiter and it just stalled. I thought it was the traction control but it was the clutch". He pitted again three laps later and returned at the back of the field.

Yet again Brack pulled away immediately at the restart only to be closed in again. This time it was Takagi who closed the gap to just 0.334 seconds and even tried some unsuccessful overtaking moves.

The first contact of the race was on lap 61 when Shinji Nakano lost control at the entrance to Turn 4 and hit the outside wall. He heavily damaged the right hand side of his car and spun round onto the infield. The driver was able to walk away from the scene. He described the accident: 2I was turning in and just lost it. I lost the grip on the front as soon as I turned in."

Brack was unable to shake off Takagi at the restart and was never more than 0.6 seconds ahead. This gap was maintained until the second round of pitstops on lap 94. Twelve cars pitted as Franchitti and Manning, now out of sequence, stayed out at the front one lap ahead. Dominguez also stayed on track one lap behind and was running third. As a result Brack returned in fourth followed by Takagi, da Matta, Andretti and Carpentier. Kanaan continued his slide backwards with a slow pitstop that dropped him a couple of places.

Michael Andretti received a stop-go penalty for exceeding the pitlane speed limit during his stop. He acknowledged the penalty after three black flags and stopped on lap 103, returning at the back of the field.

Franchitti was setting a blistering pace in order to make up for the time lost during his pitstops. He put in a fastest lap of 25.383 seconds on lap 94, then improving this to 25.317 seconds on lap 104.

Franchitti and Manning made their stops on laps 110 and 114 handing the lead back to Brack who had Takagi just half a second behind him. Takagi could not get close enough to make a challenge and so decided to make an early pitstop on lap 138.

The rest of the field made their pitstops on lap 141. Brack returned still ahead of da Matta, with Franchitti joining behind after his stop on lap 144. Scott Dixon broke the pitlane speed limit during his pitstop and served a stop-go penalty. However he exceeded the speed limit again when serving this penalty and received a second stop-go penalty. "The pitlane speed deal probably needs to be changed. Why not keep it at 50mph all the way round?" said Dixon.

Takagi's gamble failed to pay off and, once the positions had settled down, he was running in fourth.

During this time Manning driving for the rookie Team St George led 14 laps on his CART debut. The rookie was currently unaware that he was leading and was very surprised when the Safety Car pulled in front of him on lap 155. Ironically the full course yellow was caused by Manning himself because his right rear wing plate had fallen off.

At the restart Brack was now hounded by da Matta and lead by just 0.6 seconds. Franchitti was close behind in third.

Kanaan had a big accident along the back straight on lap 169 and suffered heavy damage to the left-hand side of his car. He was suffering a mechanical problem and spun on his own oil. The driver was okay and able to walk away: "Something let go as I entered Turn 1...by the time I got to Turn 2 the car didn't turn and I went straight into the wall". The accident caused a full course yellow which changed the outcome of the race.

Brack led the cars into the pitlane on lap 173 but his stop was slow and he lost many places. Franchitti's was blistering and he returned to the track in the lead with Da Matta in second. Brack was ninth, his 134 lap run in front had come to an end. "It wasn't anyone's fault, it was just one of the few bad stops we've had all year", he said.

At the restart it was Franchitti fending off da Matta who was running just 0.549 seconds behind. This pressure continued all the way to the flag but Franchitti crossed the line to take his third win of the season and more significantly his first oval win. Rockingham is Franchitti's home circuit and the Scot was treated to the sound of bagpipes echoing around the circuit as he climbed out of his car. "It's great to get a win at an oval and at home" he said.

Race report: Dario Franchitti wins his first oval at Rockingham

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Michael Andretti , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Shinji Nakano