WEST ALLIS, Wis., June 3, 2001 - Walker Racing rookie driver Tora Takagi finished the Miller Lite 225 at the Milwaukee Mile in 20th place today after being retired from the race by Chief Steward Chris Kneifel. Tora, in the ...
WEST ALLIS, Wis., June 3, 2001 - Walker Racing rookie driver Tora Takagi finished the Miller Lite 225 at the Milwaukee Mile in 20th place today after being retired from the race by Chief Steward Chris Kneifel.
Tora, in the #5 Pioneer/DENSO Special/ Toyota/Reynard/Firestone car started the race in 19th place based on CART FedEx Series Championship points after qualifying was rained out on Saturday, and was running in 12th position during the race before becoming involved in an incident on his 133rd lap.
Tora was in 12th place at the time and was running times as quick as the first and second-place cars that were directly ahead of him before the accident occurred when the third-place car driven by Jimmy Vasser attempted to pass him on the inside going into turn one. Both cars made contact with each other and Vasser's machine was sent into the turn one wall.
CART Chief Steward Chris Kneifel excluded Tora Takagi from the conclusion of the race for blocking (CART Rule 8.12) and unjustifiable risk (CART Rule 8.13) regarding his incident with Jimmy Vasser on Lap 133. Tora was credited with 134 laps completed.
"Tora initiated the contact and it was uncalled for," Kneifel said. "Tora was a lapped car and Jimmy was running third at the time. Prior to the contact, Jimmy made a couple of legitimate overtaking attempts and then, as they crossed the start/finish line, Jimmy pulled alongside Tora, who then began to squeeze him. We will not tolerate such actions."
The move to exclude a driver during an event was not unprecedented and happened as recently as last season. Additionally, Alex Tagliani, was penalized a loss of position on Sunday by Kneifel for blocking Alex Zanardi on the final laps (CART Rule 8.12).
"It was unfortunate that this happened," said Tora. "I was trying very hard to run with the guys in front of me and was trying to race with Jimmy Vasser when we hit. With only two hours of practice this whole weekend and one half-hour of warm-up this morning before the race, we didn't have much time on this track at all."
Walker Racing owner Derrick Walker was spotting for his rookie driver at the time of the incident high above the start-finish line, and had an eagle eye's view of the track.
"From the spotter's position," Derrick said. "Tora was running as quick as the leaders and we were focusing on unlapping ourselves. Tora unfortunately touched Jimmy Vasser while trying to protect his corner."
Round seven of the CART FedEx Championship Series will be contested on June 17 on the streets of Detroit during the Tenneco Automotive Grand Prix of Detroit. The race will be broadcast ABC beginning at 2 p.m. (ET).