INDIANAPOLIS,Â Ind. (May 26, 2002)Â - Paul Tracy and Team Green 7-Eleven may have won today's 86th running of the Indianapolis 500. Â Then again, maybe they didn't. The $64,000 question revolves around the precise instant the Indianapolis ...
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (May 26, 2002) - Paul Tracy and Team Green 7-Eleven may have won today's 86th running of the Indianapolis 500. Then again, maybe they didn't.
The $64,000 question revolves around the precise instant the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's caution lights went on following a crash involving Laurent Redon and '96 Indy 500 winner Buddy Lazier on Lap 199 of 200. If, as Tracy and Team Green believe, the caution lights came on moments after the Canadian passed race leader Helio Castroneves in Turn Three, then the #26 Team Green 7-Eleven Dallara-Chevrolet won the Indianapolis 500.
However, if Indy Racing League officials' split second call in the heat of the moment proves correct, and Tracy completed the pass an instant after the caution lights blazed, then their original call to shuffle the order and place Castroneves in front at the checkered flag will be upheld.
After reviewing video taps of Lap 199, Team Green filed an official protest of the results with IRL officials.
"This is the Indy 500 and we all badly want to win it," said Team Green owner Barry Green. "I was very pleased with not only Paul's performance but the whole team's performance today. What a tremendous job they all did. I guess I can say that today is how our month has gone. At this point I'm relying on Brian Barnhart, (IRL vice president operations) he does a tremendous job and I'm hoping he has all the information he needs to make the correct call."
On the one hand, everything rides on the outcome of the decision. A ruling favorable to Tracy would result in the biggest win of his illustrious career and a second Indy 500 win for Team Green to go along with Jacques Villeneuve's triumph in 1995.
On the other hand, regardless of the outcome, Tracy and Team Green delivered a performance worthy of the victory.
"It was a great run for the #26 Team Green 7-Eleven crew," said Tracy. "We didn't have a great car today but I caught Helio (Castroneves) on the last lap and passed him on the back straight going into Turn Three. I passed him on the outside and somebody said it was under yellow but the green was still up. In my eyes I saw the green so we're going to protest and see what happens. It was a hard race today and it was tough to pass. The Team Green 7-Eleven crew did a great job and gave me a chance for the win."
Teammate Dario Franchitti experienced a frustrating Indy 500 debut, coming home three laps down in 19th spot after encountering bad luck in the early going. Debris from a crash punctured a tire on Franchitti's #27 Team Green 7-Eleven Dallara-Chevrolet-Firestone necessitating an early pit stop and costing the Scot a lap. Franchitti and his crew Green spent the rest of the day playing catch up, but their gambling pit stop strategy wound-up costing them two more laps.
"It was a hard day for us," Franchitti said. "We went a lap down early when we had a flat tire after the first incident. The Team Green 7-Eleven car was really good and I was happy but we went a lap down and then we had some bad luck with our strategy."
Two laps down already, Franchitti gave Castroneves and Tracy plenty of room to lap him again at the beginning of fateful Lap 199. Thus he had a bird's eye view of Tracy's fateful pass.
"I didn't want to influence the result of the race," said Franchitti. "I would love to help my teammate but that's not the right way to play things, so I just wanted to get out of the way. I was half-a-straight behind Paul (Tracy) and Helio (Castroneves) and Paul had passed him on the outside before the yellow came out. I saw the yellow lights as soon as they came on and Paul was past him, so in my view Paul was past him."
It remains to be seen whether or not the IRL officials see things the same way.