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Opening round joy for Cristiano.

Behind Minassian in the final points-scoring position was a lacklustre Max Papis who only scored a point when Scott Dixon, Bryan Herta, Michel Jourdain Jr and Adrian Fernandez hit late race problems. Dixon led the race between laps 22 and 38 on his CART debut as he, Fernandez and Herta tried a different fuel strategy to the leaders and chose not to pit with the rest of the field on lap 21 after Moreno had brought out the caution. Both Herta and Fernandez surrendered their second and third spots to Brack shortly after the re-start on lap 29 but Dixon resolutely stuck to his guns in the PacWest Racing Reynard-Toyota until making his stop on lap 38.

The 20-year old New Zealander took the final re-start in tenth but was forced to back off in the final laps as his tank ran dry, eventually finishing 13th and one place away from a Championship point. Herta came home 16th after a precautionary late stop while Fernandez, who held almost God-like status amongst the 150,000 fans that crammed their way into the stands on race-day, sadly retired his self-owned Reynard-Honda from 12th place three laps from home when he ran out of fuel.

Fellow Mexican Jourdain Jr in the Herdez Bettenhausen Lola-Ford should have inherited what would have been a tremendously popular 12th place in the absence of Dixon, Heart and Fernandez only to find himself running out of fuel and eventually dropping to 17th, the last car on the lead lap.

Of those who failed to finish, Zanardi eventually called it a day after an uncharacteristic drive that included contact with Junqueira, Andretti and Shinji Nakano while both Player's/Forsythe Reynard-Ford's suffered engine failures while running in top ten positions.

The Fed-Ex teams now have almost a month to prepare for the next round of the series around the streets of Long Beach on April 8th and although there is still a loooong way to go, you can bet that Da Matta and the rest of the Newman-Haas team will be cherishing what is by now a rather familiar feeling, leading the points table after the opening round. The question is, can they sustain it?

Related Pictures

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Cristiano Da Matta, Newman-Haas Racing, Lola-Toyota
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Max Chilton Indy 500 2017
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Johnny Rutherford, McLaren-Honda-Andretti [Credit: McLaren Racing]
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Ed Jones, Dale Coyne Racing, IndyCar [Credit: Ed Jones PR]

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