Takagi Fifth, Barron Sixth at 87th Indy 500; Giaffone Goes Out Early With Mechanical Trouble INDIANAPOLIS (Sunday, May 25, 2003) -- Tora Takagi was the highest-finishing rookie with a fifth place in today's 87th Indianapolis 500 while...
Takagi Fifth, Barron Sixth at 87th Indy 500; Giaffone Goes Out Early With Mechanical Trouble
INDIANAPOLIS (Sunday, May 25, 2003) -- Tora Takagi was the highest-finishing rookie with a fifth place in today's 87th Indianapolis 500 while teammate Alex Barron came home sixth and Felipe Giaffone was forced to retire early with mechanical trouble.
Takagi and the #12 Pioneer/Mo Nunn Racing Toyota-powered Panoz G Force started seventh and ran in the lead pack all day as the Japanese veteran of CART and Formula 1 capped a solid month of practice and qualifying around the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway four-cornered oval with his best IRL IndyCar Series finish in four starts this season. He was fastest of the day in practice three times this month and put himself in position to win Bank One Rookie of the Year honors for this year's 500 with his fifth-place finish. That award-winner will be announced at Monday night's Indy 500 Victory Celebration after it is voted on by a panel of racing media and IRL IndyCar Series officials. Takagi led two laps today -- Laps 168 and 169 -- as cars shuffled in and out of the pits during the final round of regularly scheduled fuel-and-tire stops. Takagi moved into a 10th-place tie with Michael Andretti in the driver standings with 80 points.
Barron, subbing for the injured Arie Luyendyk in the #20 Meijer/Mo Nunn Racing Toyota-powered Panoz G Force, made the most of his relatively short time with the team by posting the fastest second-day qualifying speed last weekend, and then finishing sixth from the 25th starting position in his second career Indy 500 today. Barron shared Bank One Rookie of the Year honors last year with Tomas Scheckter after a fourth-place finish driving for Blair Racing. The 32-year-old Southern Californian arrived at The Brickyard without a ride for the month of May, but he stepped into the Meijer/Mo Nunn Racing machine six days after two-time Indy 500 winner Arie Luyendyk called it a month as a result of lingering injuries suffered in a practice crash on May 9.
Giaffone and the #21 Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Toyota-powered Panoz G Force team suffered a disappointing end to their day after Giaffone reported a loss of power on-course and pitted on Lap 4 in an attempt to fix the problem. The Hollywood team retired the car during Lap 12 after two failed attempts to restart it in the pits. Giaffone started 16th. He dropped to seventh in the driver standings with 93.
Gil de Ferran scored his first career Indy 500 victory today, beating polesitter Helio Castroneves across the finish line and ending his teammate's two-race winning streak here. Tony Kanaan finished third behind de Ferran and Castroneves while Scheckter finished fourth, just ahead of Takagi and Barron.
The IRL IndyCar Series takes a weekend off before resuming with Round 5 of 16 races this season on Saturday night, June 7, at Texas Motor Speedway near Fort Worth.
"I am very happy with this result in my first Indy 500 race. My car was always fast this month. I wish I could have finished about two places higher, because I think we were capable of finishing at least third. But overall I am happy with being the highest-finishing rookie in the race. That is a great honor. Now I understand what everybody was trying to tell me about the Indy 500. It is a very special place and a very special race. Not just the race, but all of the nice things than happen before the race. All of the traditions. Starting with three cars in each row for the first time was not a problem for me. The most challenging thing to do was to make the right decisions about what to do on your pit stops because the track was changing all day long. But my Pioneer team did a great job with the strategy and we had a very solid finish."
"Everyone in the Meijer family is pretty happy with our result, I think. Especially when you consider we had a totally flat (left-front) tire for the last several laps, we should be happy to just finish in one piece. Sixth place definitely looks okay when you start 25th. I was confident all along that we could move to the front, and we did. We were definitely within range of the leaders in the closing laps, but we just couldn't go after it with that flat tire. We made a few adjustments to the car along the way today and we ran a good strategy. I'm really happy to have worked with the Meijer/Mo Nunn team in the relatively short time that we had together this month. Maybe somehow, some way, something will happen that will get me back into a race car some more this year. You never know."
"That was very disappointing, what happened today. I can't say I was expecting that kind of thing to happen. I think it was some sort of electrical problem because the car just lost power. I came in and we thought we could fix it. But when we tried to start the motor, it just wouldn't turn over. We tried again, and it still wouldn't turn over. So we pushed the car back to the garage and called it a day. I'm first out of the race, and we don't get many points in the championship, so that is our biggest problem with the result today. Fortunately, we have many more races to go in the season to score points."
"Well, for starters, I'm very disappointed for Felipe (Giaffone) and the entire Hollywood crew going out on the fourth lap. But if you're going to go out, the first few laps are definitely better than on the last lap. That would be cruel. Felipe and the Hollywood team will come back strong and hopefully win some races for us. On the other hand, I'm very pleased with Tora's (Takagi) performance for his first time here. He got Indy figured out pretty quickly and he drove faultlessly all month long. It was very difficult to overtake out there today, which you saw with a good many of the competitors. But Tora was definitely trying. As for Alex (Barron), I'm super impressed with his performance. We had a crew for him that hasn't had the chance to get into the groove of working race after race, and that might have hurt him a little bit. But Alex always was able to make up ground out on the racetrack. He finished the race with no air in his left-front tire and he was still running laps in the 224 (mph) range. I would just love to be able to put something together that could keep him in the series."