CHAMPCAR/CART: Vancouver: Race report

Dario Franchitti holds off Team Green stablemate Paul Tracy to earn Champ Car victory at Molson Indy Vancouver. VANCOUVER, British Columbia, Canada (July 28, 2002) - Dario Franchitti ( ...

Dario Franchitti holds off Team Green stablemate Paul Tracy to earn Champ Car victory at Molson Indy Vancouver.

VANCOUVER, British Columbia, Canada (July 28, 2002) - Dario Franchitti (#27 KOOL Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) can be forgiven for experiencing a case of déjà vu Sunday afternoon on the streets of Concord Pacific Place as he looked back in his mirrors late in the Molson Indy Vancouver only to see the visage of teammate Paul Tracy (#26 KOOL Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) right behind him.

Franchitti had been in the same situation back in 2000 as he led Tracy through the Vancouver streets, only to see his teammate make the most of an opportunity and steal the win. The 2002 edition of the Molson Indy Vancouver would start out the same as Franchitti led Tracy to the green flag on a lap 95 restart after a four-car crash, but Franchitti showed his ability to remember the past, holding off Tracy for the final laps to earn his first CART FedEx Championship Series win of the season.

Franchitti would claim the eighth win of his career by beating Tracy to the checkered flag by 1.239 seconds, leading the last 15 laps of the event. The win was the first since last year's Cleveland event for Franchitti and his second at Vancouver, making him the first driver since 1996 to win more than one Vancouver race.

The day began like five others have on the 2002 schedule, with the field chasing series point leader and polesitter Cristiano da Matta (#6 Chevron Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone). The Newman/Haas driver paced the first 35 laps of the day and was threatening to set a CART record by winning six of the year's first 10 events until an opportunity to employ some pit strategy reared its head.

Da Matta gave up the lead on Lap 36 when he led a cabal of cars down Pit Lane during a caution period for an accident involving Tora Takagi (#5 Pioneer/Denso Toyota/Reynard/Bridgestone) and Michael Andretti (#39 Motorola Honda/Lola/Bridgestone). The move would prove to be a shrewd one as those drivers that had pitted would be able to go the 100-lap distance on just one more fuel stop, while new leader Tracy would have to fuel twice before the end.

Tracy would hold his advantage for the next 28 orbits of the 1.781-mile temporary street course, but would yield the advantage to da Matta on Lap 64 when the Milwaukee winner made his second stop. The lead would last less than one lap however as both da Matta and his Newman/Haas Racing teammate Christian Fittipaldi (#11 Lilly Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone) would retire on the same lap with driveshaft trouble.

Da Matta's retirement gave the lead to Franchitti, who would give it back to Tracy four circuits later when the Scot made his last fuel stop - having stopped along with da Matta on Lap 36. Tracy roared away to a 17-second lead over his teammate, but could not stretch the advantage enough to prevent his giving the point back to Franchitti when Tracy made his final fuel stop on Lap 85.

Tracy would emerge from the pits 11.662 seconds in arrears, but saw that deficit eradicated with the wave of starter Jim Swintal's yellow flag, as a full-course caution for debris caused by Shinji Nakano's (#52 Alpine/Mitsuba Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) meeting with the tire barrier. Franchitti held Tracy off on the Lap 91 restart, only to see a four-car accident set the caution lights ablaze once again.

Adrian Fernandez (#51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) was the only driver injured in the multi-car crash. According to CART Director of Medical Affairs Dr. Steve Olvey, Fernandez suffered a large bruise and contusion on his right hip in the accident. The Mexican veteran was transported to Vancouver General Hospital where he went an ultrasound that was negative. He was also scheduled for a CT scan later Sunday evening. An update on Fernandez will be provided on Monday.   The race was red-flagged while the CART Simple Green Safety Team tended to the drivers and cleared the track, setting the stage for the Lap 95 restart that would see Franchitti hold of Tracy for the win.

The dueling was not limited to the leaders however, as Mo Nunn Racing's Tony Kanaan (#10 Pioneer/WorldCom Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) found himself within reach of his first podium of the season. But before he could spray the champagne, he had to deal with Michel Jourdain Jr. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), who had climbed from last on the starting grid to battle for the third spot. Kanaan lost the position briefly on the final restart, but outbraked Jourdain in the first turn to reclaim the spot and punch his podium ticket.

Jourdain would settle for fourth, scoring championship points for the 10th consecutive event, leaving himself in a tie with Bruno Junqueira (#4 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone) for third in the standings. Patrick Carpentier (#32 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) was able to avoid major damage during the late-race accident to round out the top five, cementing his fifth spot in the championship.

The series will take a week off before heading to Lexington, Ohio for the 11th round of the CART FedEx Championship Series on the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

CHAMP CAR TOP-THREE QUOTES

· DARIO FRANCHITTI (#27 KOOL Honda/Lola/Bridgestone):  "My head is all over the place with so many things [emotions] going on. It was a great weekend for Team KOOL Green. Our pit stop strategy worked and I'm sure Paul [Tracy] would have liked to have been here (sitting in the winner's seat). It [the yellow at the end] put a whole new spin on the race though. My lead went from almost 12 seconds to nothing. I was a bit worried on the restart. Paul was right behind me but I didn't think he would try to overtake and risk a one-two finish." (On what this win means to him) "I've waited almost two years to say 'This one's for you Greg [Moore].' A couple of years ago I wanted to win this race for him as a mark of respect. It's a small thing, but I'm glad we could do it." (On the Vancouver fans) "When you show up here on a Friday for the first round of practice and the stands are full, it's special. Anyone who leaves here and has any negative thoughts on CART should go in and see a doctor."

· PAUL TRACY (#26 KOOL Honda/Lola/Bridgestone):  "I'm happy for Dario on his first win of the season, but I'm a little bit sad because I was winning this race. It was a bit of a role reversal from last year but still a one-two finish for Team KOOL Green." (On what Greg Moore meant here) "I know the feeling I had when I capitalized here in 2000. It was great to see [Greg's father] Ric filled with emotion on the podium. That summed it up." (On the future of CART) "This is what CART's future is. We showed it today. This is great racing, with great fans and great people involved."

· TONY KANAAN (#10 Pioneer/WorldCom/Mo Nunn Racing Honda/Lola/Bridgestone):  "I've been having a tough year. We have had mechanical difficulties in the first five races. But when you expect the least you get the most I guess. I kept the faith and never gave up on it." (On his battle for third with Michel Jourdain) "He was fair and I was fair and I got it, so I'm happy of course. Michel and I were just fighting for position late in the race. He was thinking about the championship and so was I. We came out on top today."

NOTEWORTHY:

* Dario Franchitti became the sixth different winner on the CART trail this season by claiming victory at Vancouver Sunday.

* Honda swept the podium for the first time this season, marking the first time that the manufacturer has claimed the top three spots in a Champ Car race since Helio Castroneves, Gil de Ferran and Franchitti turned the trick at Laguna Seca in 2000.

* Michel Jourdain Jr. extended his point-scoring streak to 10 consecutive races with a fourth-place finish at Vancouver. He is the first driver since Raul Boesel in 1993 to open the season with 10 straight points-paying finishes.

* Cristiano da Matta led the first 35 laps of Sunday's event before giving up the point to Paul Tracy, meaning that no driver has ever led every lap in the 13-year history of the Vancouver race.

* Michael Andretti made his 300th career Champ Car start Sunday, placing him fifth among all-time Champ Car drivers. He celebrated the day by receiving a special award at the beginning of the day, then followed it up with a sixth-place run, which moved him up to seventh in the series standings.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Michael Andretti , Bruno Junqueira , Raul Boesel , Adrian Fernandez , Christian Fittipaldi , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Tony Kanaan , Tora Takagi , Shinji Nakano , Greg Moore , Cristiano da Matta , Michel Jourdain , Mo Nunn