For the second straight year in Miami, CART veteran Jimmy Vasser kept his head as others around him lost theirs to bring the #12 American Spirit Team Johansson Reynard-Ford home in fourth place in the Grand Prix Americas Presented by Sportsbook.com.

After racing through the field to finish on the podium during the inaugural Bayfront Park event last year, Vasser was confident that he could translate an eleventh place qualifying effort into a top result come raceday.

Even with extensive modifications to the 1.15-mile street circuit, passing was tough in Sunday's 135-lap race and combined with the underdeveloped Reynard chassis at his disposal, Vasser turned to his decade of CART experience to help him move up the order to fourth place.

Knowing that he didn't have the car under him to make any passing moves without a great deal of risk, Vasser focused on lapping cleanly and consistently as eight of the ten drivers who started in front of him found trouble of some sort during what was a stiflingly hot afternoon in Florida.

In fact, had it not been for his own small mistake just after the lap 100 restart Vasser would have been celebrating a second straight Miami podium but his turn one slip up allowed Mika Salo to creep through and take third while Vasser and the closely following Mario Haberfeld narrowly avoided collecting one another.

After his moment, Vasser successfully held off Haberfeld for the remaining 35 laps to claim his best finish since Long Beach.

"We gave it a good shot today," said the 1996 CART Champion. "My goal was to stay clean and finish the race, I knew if I could do that I would have a solid result. I am glad it is over, I wouldn't want to do another 135 laps, the conditions out there were really tough. I designed an air conditioning system for my car, it helped, but I think I will stick with my day job. I needed these points today, a podium would have been nice, but I am please to walk out of here in fourth."

Things didn't go as smoothly for Vasser's teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, who entered the race hoping for a good performance in front of his home crowd. However after a steady start Hunter-Reay lost two laps during his first pit stop and then retired from tenth place on lap 118 when he made contact with one of Miami's unyielding tyre barriers.

"I had a good solid start and was fighting for position," stated the Boca Raton resident gloomily. "Unfortunately on my first stop we had a problem that cost us a ton of time, two laps in fact. I was leaving the pit lane and had the throttle down all the way to the pit lane speed limiter and the car died. Once we got re-started, we re-set our pit launch setting to a higher setting, which worked for all of the rest of my stops.

"I had a solid race from there, I was running 10th and with just ten laps to go, I clipped the rim on the wheel and I bent the tow link. I am really bummed out about it. It was my home race and a huge weekend for me; I would have loved to have given my friends, my family and all of my fellow Floridians a top-five finish today. We fought hard, it was a long day, it was unbelievably hot out there, my face literally felt like it was burning, I don't think I have ever been so hot in my life."

Considering the Reynard chassis, both driver's poor performances in qualifying and the lack of overtaking opportunities, team boss Stefan Johansson was pleased with the overall results.

"Our results today are much better than we expected considering our starting positions and the difficulty of passing here," said the Swede. "We had a taste of the podium with Jimmy today; it is a pity we couldn't get there. He fought a great race, the conditions were not ideal and he did a fantastic job. Our first order of priority was to stay out of trouble and finish the race and he did an excellent job. Ryan was unfortunate in his first stop, and then again at the end, it was a tough weekend and he hung in there, having never run here, he ran hard all weekend."

 

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