Festa Opens IRL IndyPro Series Campaign With Runner-Up Finish While Teammate Festa's Bid for Victory Foiled By Late Wreck HOMESTEAD, Fla. (Sunday, March 26, 2006) Cheever Racing's maiden voyage as part of the IRL IndyPro Series came within ...
Festa Opens IRL IndyPro Series Campaign With Runner-Up Finish While Teammate Festa's Bid for Victory Foiled By Late Wreck
HOMESTEAD, Fla. (Sunday, March 26, 2006) Cheever Racing's maiden voyage as part of the IRL IndyPro Series came within 19-thousandths of a second of victory today at Homestead Miami Speedway as young drivers Chris Festa and Nick Bussell both had legitimate shots at winning the season-opening Miami 100, with Bussell ultimately scoring a close, runner-up finish.
Bussell, the 23-year-old from Grand Rapids, Mich., who started from the eighth position, took the lead for the first time on a brilliant restart on Lap 60 of today's 67-lap event around the 1.5-mile speedway oval. He got around Jay Howard, who had led the previous 53 laps, and then did his best to hold off hard-charging veteran Jeff Simmons the rest of the way. Bussell and Simmons traded leads during the last seven laps, but Simmons was able to slingshot around the outside of Bussell off the final turn and beat him across the line by inches in the second-closest finish in series history.
Festa, a 20-year-old from Atlanta, qualified sixth and settled into third position by Lap 5, just ahead of the fourth-place Bussell, and stayed in close pursuit of the front-running Howard and Jonathan Klein in a four-car train for the next 49 laps. But on Lap 54, Klein drifted up the track, Festa slipped alongside him on the inside, and the two made contact and slid down into the inside wall. Neither driver was hurt, but their day was done.
Next up for the IndyPro competitors is next weekend's Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
"Right now, I feel disappointed at coming so close to a win and not getting it. On the other hand, it was a great start for our brand new team and I'm looking forward to some really good things this year. It took a lot of work for most of the race to get the car to work just right. I was taking care of my tires for the end of the race and was able to stay right there with the top three. I definitely was working best in clean air, so I took a conservative line around the track for most of the race, which helped me at the end. Then, on the (Lap-60) restart, I absolutely had to get around Jay (Howard) because I needed the clean air. I managed to get around the outside of him, then got down to the bottom pretty easily. Unfortunately, Jeff (Simmons) and all his experience got the better of us. That's the second time he's gotten me on the last lap of a race! I think we've definitely got a good thing going here with Cheever Racing. Our best days are ahead of us, for sure."
"I don't know what to say. It was just one of those things. I'll take part of the blame because I maybe shouldn't have put myself in that position with so many more laps to go. We had a really good race car. Better, for sure, than the two cars we were following all race long. I was just patiently sitting back there, biding my time, and waiting for the right moment to try and get around them. (Jay) Howard came down really low, Jonathan (Klein) went up high for the clean air, and I saw a chance to get by. Unfortunately, there wasn't enough room for the both of us, there was contact, and that was the end of it. I feel really disappointed, but I know I had a good car and I know we'll be back. Live and learn. I'm glad our next race at St. Pete is only a week away."