CART shows muscle, respect

Indy 500 notebook

After sweeping top six, drivers compliment rival IRL's performance

Auto Racing

May 28, 2001|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

INDIANAPOLIS - The Championship Auto Racing Teams who competed in yesterday's Indianapolis 500 were in perfect position to gloat last night - but they didn't.

For the second year in a row, a CART driver won the 500 and yesterday, the top six finishers were driving for CART teams.

"We raced the IRL guys all day," said third-place Michael Andretti. "They just ran into some bad luck and it just happened that six guys from CART wound up ahead of them."

Winner Helio Castroneves and runner-up Gil de Ferran felt the same, noting some of the strongest runs of the day came from the IRL's Mark Dismore, Robby Gordon and Robbie Buhl.

"I don't think we need to look at statistics," said winning owner Roger Penske. "Unfortunately a lot of the good runners had problems. Going in, you couldn't pick a favorite and a number of drivers out there could certainly drive our cars.

"The important thing is that we all get together. We need one open wheel series so we can get to the level we all deserve to be."

Castroneves put it this way.

"I was an Indy 500 driver today, not a CART driver," he said. "It is a race, a unique race and everyone in it is on the same level."

Woe is Andretti

Andretti had a wonderful race car, but a bad day.

"Finishing third is nice - great - but not what we were here for," he said after parking his Motorola/Archipelago. "I just want to know why the Penskes came back here the same year I did."

Andretti appeared to have the strongest car, but also had problems: a flat tire forced him to the back of the field, a collision with the rear end of Tony Stewart's car on pit road broke his car's front wing, and then two mistakes were made on the last pit stop.

He led 16 laps to increase his total number of laps led here to 398 - the most by a non-500 winner.

Stewart's adventure

The first leg of Stewart's double-duty could have been better, the Winston Cup driver said before heading for Charlotte, N.C., and last night's Coca-Cola 600 stock car race.

"It's easy to see why this team won last year," said Stewart, who finished sixth for the Chip Ganassi team that won the 500 with rookie Juan Montoya. "Today, they had a driver that made too many mistakes. So it's my fault."

Stewart said he asked his team to take off some of the "downforce," a request that made the car unstable. He was also hampered by leg cramps. But, he recouped to take third in the Coca-Cola 600.

Wrapping up

The last time two teammates finished first and second in the 500 was 1997, when Arie Luyendyk led Scott Goodyear across the line. ... The 1.7373-second margin of victory is the sixth-closest in 500 history. ... Castroneves started 11th. The only other driver to win from that starting spot was Gordon Johncock in 1973. ... Castroneves led just once, but it was the last 52 laps. He is the 17th winner to have led only once during the race.

Coming of age

Rookie winners of the Indy 500:

Year ....................... Driver

1911 ....................... Ray Harroun

1913 ....................... Jules Goux

1914 ....................... Rene Thomas

1926 ....................... Frank Lockhart

1927 ....................... George Souders

1966 ....................... Graham Hill

2000 ....................... Juan Montoya

2001 ....................... Helio Castroneves

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