IndyCar »

Opening round joy for Cristiano.

Ninth before the final round of stops began, Franchitti left the pits in third place and was within striking distance of Da Matta and De Ferran when news filtered through that the Scot had incurred a pit-lane speeding penalty and had to serve a drive-through penalty. The resulting 'slow' lap dropped a disconsolate Franchitti back to ninth, right where he was before the stops.

Up at the front, Da Matta looked very much in control and was able to keep De Ferran at least two seconds back as Tracy snatched third from Brack and began to close down the Number One machine. Brack also lost fourth place to Andretti when he ran wide at Turn One on lap 64, the Swedish driver battling an understeering car as well as badly graining Firestone tyres.

Any thoughts Da Matta may have had of an easy run to the flag came to an end on lap 67 when Fittipaldi brushed the wall, ending a miserable race for the Brazilian who was running way down in 17th at the time. The resulting caution period may have brought the entire field back together but it also reduced the amount of racing time remaining as CART's two-hour rule came into play.

Originally scheduled for 80 laps, the green flag fell for the final time on lap 73 with enough time left for five racing laps and, sensing the potential danger from behind, Da Matta quickly pulled out a one-second advantage over De Ferran on the first green flag lap. The gap back to second grew to two seconds the next lap as De Ferran fought off the attentions of Tracy and although the Canadian challenge was finally broken, the initial delay proved too much for De Ferran to recover and he crossed the line 1.982 seconds behind his countryman. A podium finish for the defending Champion was more than welcome after a winter in which he suffered two bad accidents and a weekend in which he managed to contract food-poisoning.

Tracy was more than pleased with his run through the field on a day where over-taking was risky at the best of times and he finished less than a second behind De Ferran and more than two second ahead of Andretti who ran a solid race from fifth place on the grid.

Brack felt he could have done more than his final fifth position, especially as Bobby Rahal had flown out to the track especially for the event while Jimmy Vasser battled inside the top ten all day and headed home a gaggle of cars in sixth place for the Patrick Racing team. Both Vasser and Tony Kanaan who came home seventh, were able to pass the ailing Castroneves in the closing stage after the Team Penske driver lost fourth gear and gradually began to eat into his clutch, eighth place at the flag not just reward for a competitive weekend.

Franchitti was ninth but in no mood to celebrate after a stupid mistake cost him a potential race win, Dario made too many of them last year and he must completely eradicate them if he is to sustain a Championship challenge as he did in 1999, this time over 21 rounds.

First rookie home in tenth position was Tora Takagi in Derrick Walker's Reynard-Toyota, the Japanese driver staying on the circuit throughout the race and deservedly heading home a rather lacklustre Nicolas Minassian in the best placed of the Target/Chip Ganassi Racing Lola-Toyota's. In fact, Minassian was very lucky to score points at all after several drivers hit trouble in the closing laps but his race was tame compared to that of his team-mate Bruno Junqueira.

The 24-year old reigning Formula 3000 Champion had been one of the more frequent spinners this weekend prior to the race and his resulting 20th starting position reflected his over-exuberance. However he was not at fault for his first lap rotation which really set the ball rolling as he was tapped in the rear by an impatient Alex Zanardi in Turn Seven, the CART rescue team taking two laps to restart the Brazilian who then got the safety tow rope caught in his left rear wheel and had to make a precautionary pit-stop to check for damage. He returned to the track in almost the exact same place he had first left it only stone last and well out of contention.

A further spin and some brief contact with Minassian of all people ensued as he fought to get back into contention but a nightmarish CART debut was brought to a premature end on lap 57 when mechanical problems caused his retirement.

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Cristiano Da Matta, Newman-Haas Racing, Lola-Toyota
Detroit IndyCar race start
Esteban Gutierrez IndyCar Detroit
Graham Rahal Detroit IndyCar 2017
Scott Dixon Indy 500
Sebastien Bourdais Indy 500 practice
Max Chilton Indy 500 2017
Max Chilton Indy 500 2017
Scott Dixon Indy 500 qualifying
Sebastien Bourdais headshot
Sebastien Bourdais Indy 500 practice 2017
Ed Carpenter Indy 500 practice 2
Ed Carpenter Indy 500 practice
Max Chilton IndyCar 2017
Spencer Pigot Ed Carpenter Racing 2017
Johnny Rutherford, McLaren-Honda-Andretti [Credit: McLaren Racing]
JR Hildebrand, IndyCar, Ed Carpenter Racing
Ed Jones, Dale Coyne Racing, IndyCar [Credit: Ed Jones PR]

Start the conversation - Add your comment

Please login or register before adding your comments.

Although the administrators and moderators of this website will attempt to keep all objectionable comments off these pages, it is impossible for us to review all messages. All messages express the views of the poster, and neither Crash Media Group nor Crash.Net will be held responsible for the content of any message. We do not vouch for or warrant the accuracy, completeness or usefulness of any message, and are not responsible for the contents of any message. If you find a message objectionable, please contact us and inform us of the problem or use the [report] function next to the offending post. Any message that does not conform with the policy of this service can be edited or removed with immediate effect.

© 1999 - 2017 Crash Media Group

The total or partial reproduction of text, photographs or illustrations is not permitted in any form.