2001 Harrah's 500
|Race 11 of 21 in the 2001 CART season|
|Date||July 22, 2001|
|Official name||Harrah's 500 Presented by Toyota|
|Location||Michigan International Speedway, Brooklyn, Michigan|
|Course||Permanent racing facility|
2.000 mi / 3.219 km
500.000 mi / 804.672 km
|Driver||Kenny Bräck (Team Rahal)|
|Time||Field set by practice times; 31.330|
|Driver||Patrick Carpentier (Forsythe Racing)|
|Time||32.547 (on lap 130 of 250)|
|First||Patrick Carpentier (Forsythe Racing)|
|Second||Dario Franchitti (Team Green)|
|Third||Michel Jourdain Jr. (Bettenhausen Racing)|
The 2001 Harrah's 500 Presented by Toyota was a Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) race held on July 22, 2001, at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan, before a crowd of 40,000 spectators. It was the eleventh round of the 2001 CART season, the 32nd running of the event, and the last time the race was held as part of the CART series as it moved to the rival Indy Racing League in 2002. Forsythe Racing's Patrick Carpentier won the 250-lap event with a 0.243-second margin of victory over Dario Franchitti of Team Green and Bettenhausen Racing driver Michel Jourdain Jr. was third.
The season points leader going into the race, Kenny Bräck, was awarded the pole position when qualifying was cancelled due to rain. The starting grid was determined by the fastest lap times from the third practice session. He led until his teammate Max Papis overtook him on lap six. Papis and Bräck exchanged the lead for six laps, which ended when Bräck strengthened his hold on the position. The lead changed 60 times among ten different drivers, with Papis leading the most laps (83). On lap 248, Carpentier moved to the first position, and he held it until Franchitti and Jourdain overtook him on the final lap. Carpentier's lapped teammate Alex Tagliani got ahead of Franchitti and Jourdain to provide him with drafting assistance at the exit of turn four, allowing him to pull away and claim his first CART victory.
The result allowed Bräck to still lead the Drivers' Championship with 83 points, but he failed to finish after a collision with his teammate Papis on the 233rd lap. Franchitti's second-place finish advanced him from fourth to second and lowered Bräck's lead to three points. Hélio Castroneves kept third, while Michael Andretti fell to fourth after his engine failed. His teammate Cristiano da Matta took fifth from Gil de Ferran. In the Manufacturers' Championship, Honda increased its lead over Toyota to 20 points, while Ford Cosworth kept third with ten races left in the season.
The Harrah's 500 was confirmed as part of CART's 2001 schedule for the series in August 2000. It was the 32nd consecutive year that Michigan International Speedway had held a race in the series and the eighth round of the season to occur in the United States. The Harrah's 500 was the 11th of 21 scheduled races for 2001 by CART, and was held on July 22. Before the race, Team Rahal driver Kenny Bräck led the Drivers' Championship with 83 points, ten ahead of Michael Andretti in second and a further three in front of Hélio Castroneves in third. Dario Franchitti was fourth on 65 points, ahead of fifth-placed Gil de Ferran with 58 points. Honda led the Manufacturers' Championship with 158 points; Toyota was second on 142 points, twelve ahead of Ford Cosworth in third.
It was announced in June 2001 that Michigan International Speedway would not hold a CART race for the 2002 season. The track's president Brett Shelton said the circuit and its parent company International Speedway Corporation (ISC) sought to pursue other alternatives. It was later reported that Michigan International Speedway had asked for relief from the event's sanctioning fee, estimated to be around $2 to $2.5 million, to alleviate the financial losses from decreasing track attendance. Other reasons included the lack of promotion of the event by the ISC and CART compared to the promotion of an ARCA stock car race held at the same track. Andretti had mixed feelings on not returning to the track, saying from a spectator viewpoint, it would be a loss for television. However, he spoke of his relief at CART not returning to Michigan International Speedway, citing series regulations on top speeds. Michigan International Speedway went on to hold a race in the rival Indy Racing League (IRL) (later IndyCar Series) from 2002 to 2007.
For the Harrah's 500 and the season-ending Marlboro 500 in November, a reduction of permissible manifold value pressure from 37 in (940 mm) to 36 in (910 mm) was mandated by CART after the series and its engine manufacturers reached an agreement over how the problem should be dealt with when Toyota complained that Ford Cosworth and Honda developed a turbocharger pop-off valve technology improvement at the Tenneco Automotive Grand Prix of Detroit in June. CART also instructed all teams to run a new version of the Handford device, which had a 3 in (76 mm) extension to the backboard below the rear wing. It lowered the overall top speed of all cars by adding drag. Another alteration to the cars was the introduction of an extended "pop-off" value case extension of 3⁄4 in (19 mm) to the base of the manifold pressure relief valve. CART chairman and CEO Joseph Heitzler said he was pleased the issue had been resolved but regretted the position it presented to its partners. "CART's position that it is our duty as a sanctioning body to provide strong leadership to our members, under the rule book, while maintaining a process enabling them to make informed decisions. Our conversations over the past three weeks have strengthened our determination in both these regards."
Practice and qualifying
Three practice sessions were held before the Sunday race: two on Friday and one on Saturday. The first session ran for 105 minutes, the second 75 minutes, and the third 60 minutes. A half hour test session for rookie drivers scheduled for mid-morning on Friday was delayed twice. There was a thick fog that later lifted, and a major technical problem with the communication loop in race control that prevented direct contact with teams. These delays shortened the test session from half an hour to ten minutes. Alex Zanardi topped the session with a time of 34.563 seconds, followed by Bruno Junqueira and Scott Dixon. In the first practice session, Bräck was fastest with a lap time of 31.809 seconds. The Canadian duo of Patrick Carpentier and Alex Tagliani were second and third. Roberto Moreno, Cristiano da Matta, Castroneves, Oriol Servià, Junqueira, Maurício Gugelmin, and Max Papis rounded out the top ten drivers. 45 minutes in, the first caution was waved for officials to inspect the track because several teams reported cut tires after examining them on pit road.
As he was being overtaken by Carpentier in his right, Moreno lost control of his car on the exit of turn two due to turbulence that removed downforce from his car. His front-left tire made contact with Franchitti's front-right wheel. This sent Moreno broadside down the track, and heavily into the left-hand tyre barrier with the left-front corner of his car at approximately 175 mph (282 km/h). The impact cracked the interior of Moreno's helmet, but a HANS device prevented him from sustaining more serious injuries, and from being rendered unconscious. Moreno's car ricocheted off the wall and stopped around halfway down the back stretch. The session ended early with 17 minutes to go because of the heavy damage to the tire barrier, which course officials repaired. Moreno was transported to the infield care center via stretcher, and was declared fit for participation in the second practice session.
Papis paced the second practice session with a lap time of 31.853 seconds, followed by Tagliani, Bräck, Paul Tracy, Bryan Herta, Tora Takagi, Tony Kanaan, Christian Fittipaldi, Memo Gidley, and Andretti. The first caution came after seven minutes when course observers located a loose bolt in the groove of turn one, since the track had been inspected and cleaned. Gugelmin's right-front tire was cut by debris on the track, prompting a second caution for a track inspection and clean-up. With a time of 31.330 seconds, Bräck was quickest in the final practice session. Second to tenth were Papis, Takagi, Tracy, and Kanaan, Michel Jourdain Jr., Herta, Shinji Nakano, Fittipaldi, and Gugelmin.
During the session, Max Wilson spun leaving turn one at approximately 219 mph (352 km/h), and slid below the white line denoting the boundaries of the track. The transition from the banked turn to a flat surface removed his front wing, and he crashed heavily against a right-hand side concrete barrier before stopping in the centre of turn two. Wilson was transported via helicopter to Foote Memorial Hospital, complaining of pains to his left ribs. Although X-ray examinations found that Wilson was not injured, his team Arciero-Blair Racing withdrew from the race because his car could not be repaired, and they had no spare vehicle after a crash at the preceding week's Molson Indy Toronto. Franchitti caused the second caution after the plenum flew off his car's top, and lodged in his rear wing in turn two. He stopped at the bottom of the next corner with smoke billowing from his car. It was removed from the track by the trackside safety crew who then cleaned the circuit.
Saturday afternoon's qualifying session was due to last two hours starting from 12:00 EDT (UTC+04:00). Plans were made to begin qualifying with the slowest driver in the weekend's combined practice sessions going out first and the quickest competitor heading out last. Rules stipulated that each driver was restricted to two timed laps, and the competitor who won the pole position earned one point towards the Drivers' Championship. Seven drivers ventured onto the track to set a lap time before rain stopped all on-track activity after 28 minutes. Rain stopped for about half an hour before it returned to the area. The session was officially cancelled by CART chief steward Chris Kneifel at 3:00 p.m. local time after attempts to make the track driveable again were unsuccessful. Kneifel elected to use the lap times from the third practice session and not the drivers' order in the seasons' points standings to set the race's starting order. This was the second time in the 2001 season that qualifying was cancelled due to inclement weather. The decision gave Bräck his fourth pole position of the season. Due to the lack of qualifying, he was not awarded a point in the standings as was customary for pole winners. He was joined on the grid's front row by his teammate Papis. Takagi started third, Tracy fourth, and Kanaan fifth. Jourdain, Herta, Nakano, Fittipaldi, and Gugelmin rounded out the top ten.
The drivers took to the track at 09:30 a.m. local time for a half hour warm-up session in warm, dry and sunny weather conditions that went incident-free. Vasser was driving faster than he had done over the weekend and set the fastest with a lap of 32.404 seconds. He was 0.029 seconds faster than Papis in second position. Tracy, Takagi, Kanaan, Bräck, Herta, Andretti, Fittipaldi, and Castroneves followed in the time sheets to round out the top ten fastest drivers.
Weather conditions at the start of the race were partly cloudy. The air temperature ranged between 92 to 93 °F (33 to 34 °C) and the track temperature was from 120 and 129 °F (49 and 54 °C). An estimated 40,000 spectators visited the track to observe the action. The race began with the waving of the green flag at 1:46 p.m. Bräck steered left to the bottom grove with his teammate Papis behind him. Papis overtook Bräck for the lead on the back stretch on the first lap. On lap three, Takagi lost third to Kanaan. Bräck retook the first position from his teammate Papis three laps later. The two exchanged the lead for the next seven laps after that until Bräck assumed his hold on the position. On the 15th lap, Adrián Fernández's engine suddenly lost power, and he went to pit road. Changes to some of the components on his car failed to rectify the problem, making him the race's first retirement. Papis returned to first place after passing his teammate Bräck on the following lap. He enlarged his small lead to 0.533 seconds by lap 20. Herta got ahead of Bräck to move into second place two laps later. He kept the position until Kanaan assumed it on the 26th lap. In the meantime, at this point Bräck was running in sixth place, while Andretti moved into third place by lap 28.
Through laps 31 to 34, Kanaan tried to get past Papis to become the new leader, but he could not do so. Green flag pit stops began on the 35th lap when Papis went to pit road. Kanaan took over the lead, but he lost it to Gidley on lap 36. A malfunctioning fuel nozzle on lap 38 dropped Tracy three laps behind the leader. Herta took the lead on lap 39, only to lose it to Fittipaldi on the next lap. As Fittipaldi was going to make his first pit stop on the 41st lap, he spun and stalled his car on the entry to pit road. Trackside workers could not restart it and he was pushed to his pit stall. Gidley regained the first position when Herta entered pit road on the next lap. Gidley extended his advantage over Papis to 1.047 seconds by the start of lap 50. Six laps later, Papis reduced the gap to nothing and overtook Gidley to reclaim the lead. On lap 60, Gidley returned to the first position. Papis retook the lead on the 63rd lap. He lost it to Gidley two laps later. The leaders began the second round of pit stops on lap 75 when Papis and Andretti made their stops. Gidley made his stop on the next lap, giving the first position to Bräck who held it until the 81st lap, when Herta got three laps more fuel mileage to get back to first.
After the pit stops, Bräck returned to the first position. Carpentier had fluctuating turbocharger boost pressure in the opening laps of the race, losing him as much as 1.5 in (38 mm) of turbocharger boost and top speed down the circuit's two straights. He later fell two laps adrift of the leaders because of this mechanical problem. On lap 97, de Ferran pulled off the track at turn one to become the second retiree with a loss of power in his vehicle's engine, caused by an electrical fault. Bräck's lead of 0.172 seconds was reduced to nothing when the first caution was prompted on the 100th lap for debris on the back stretch. On the following lap, CART race control determined that Gidley had moved past Bräck before the caution came out. All drivers elected to make pit stops during the caution. Racing resumed on lap 112 with Gidley leading. Kanaan turned to the inside line on the front stretch to move from fourth to first on the run to the first corner. However, Gidley overtook Kannan to retake the lead on the back stretch. Kanaan subsequently fell to fifth by the 121st lap as Papis got by Bräck for second on the lap. Six laps later, Papis returned to the first position. He led for one lap as Gidley regained the position. Papis did overtake Gidley to lead lap 129, and Gidley did the same to Papis on the following lap.
On lap 130, the lapped Vasser drove to the side of the track on the back stretch to retire with an unspecified mechanical problem. Bräck got back to the front of the field on lap 139 but was passed by Gidley who led the next lap with a gap of 0.038 seconds over Papis. On lap 142, Franchitti got ahead of Gidley to take over the lead. Gidley moved back past Franchitti to retake the first position on the next lap. On lap 147, Gidley made a pit stop, promoting Franchitti back to the lead. Gidley emerged in sixth place. However, he was shown a black flag on the 148th lap, incurring a drive-through penalty because he was observed speeding on pit road. Gidley took the penalty immediately. On lap 150, Papis lost the lead to his teammate Bräck. The second caution was prompted when debris was located on the track two laps later. Papis had just passed his teammate Bräck again for the first position. Nakano became the fourth retirement when his engine failed on that lap. Papis led the field at the restart on lap 160. Jourdain moved into second as Bräck fell to fourth by the 171st lap. However, Bräck moved back into second five laps later. In the meantime, Kanaan retired with an alternator failure after three pit stops did not result in a successful repair.
His teammate Zanardi lost engine power because of a voltage issue. He slowed before retiring on lap 180. Papis drove back to first on the lap. On lap 181, Andretti passed Jourdain to move into the third position. Four laps later, Andretti went to pit road to retire with an engine problem. Franchitti took over third place because of Andretti's retirement. He moved to second on lap 189. On the next lap, Franchitti got ahead of Papis to reclaim first place. Bräck returned to the lead on the 196th lap. He held it for the next six laps until Papis passed him when he made a pit stop on lap 202. On the following lap, Franchitti took back the lead when Papis made his pit stop. Jourdain took the lead on the 205th lap holding it until Franchitti overtook him. Two laps later, the lead went to Bräck. He maintained it for four laps until Franchitti passed him. Carpentier got back onto the same lap as Franchitti by overtaking him on lap 213. On lap 215, the fourth caution was given; a mechanical failure at the rear of Fittipaldi's car sent him up the turn four banking, and into a concrete wall heavily. He slid down the banking and into the infield grass as a plume of flames erupted from his car. Fittipaldi was uninjured. During the caution, all cars on the same lap as the leader, including Franchitti, chose to make pit stops on lap 219.
Bräck won the race off pit road to lead at the lap 225 restart. Jourdain got past Bräck at the bottom of turn one to assume the lead, but he was passed by Papis on the back stretch. On the 231st lap, Herta steered right to get by Papis for first with Bräck gaining positions on the middle lane. A two-car crash on lap 233 triggered the fifth (and final) caution. Bräck got ahead of his teammate Papis on his right leaving turn four. As Bräck was about to complete the pass, he appeared to slide in the wake of the turbulent air being created, and his left-hand side wheels came into contact with the right-hand side wheels of Papis' car. Bräck careened into an outside concrete barrier, and Papis spun sideways at about 220 mph (350 km/h) through turn four after he could not correct the slide. Papis crashed heavily into a wall at the entry to pit road. Both cars rested beside each other at the pit lane entry. Both Bräck and Papis clambered out of their cars uninjured. Seven laps later, racing got back underway with Herta leading Carpentier. Herta drew clear to lead by two-tenths of a second but risked being drafted by other drivers with more momentum.
Two laps later, Franchitti turned right to retake the lead as Herta's pace lessened and he fell to fourth. Until the 248th lap, Franchitti and Jourdain exchanged the first position twice every lap; Franchitti drew clear in turns one and two, while Jourdain led in turn three. But it was Franchitti who held the advantage by the time the duo crossed the start/finish line. Carpentier got ahead of Franchitti and Jourdain at the first turn to become the new leader on lap 248. He only held the position for a short time as Franchitii and Jourdain moved back into first and second, but Carpentier got the lead each time at the start/finish line. On the final lap, Carpentier led Franchitti and Jourdain on the exit of turn one and onto the back stretch. Franchtti drafted Carpentier and overtook him entering turn three. The lapped Tagliani drafted all three cars to move ahead on the inside line before going up the track. That meant Jourdain went up the banking, and Franchitti slowed in the turbulent air to avoid hitting him. Carpentier glimpsed space to drive through and steered right in turns three and four.
Leaving the final corner, his teammate Tagliani provided Carpentier with drafting help, allowing him to pull away and claim the first win of his career in his 79th CART race by 0.243 seconds. It was Carpentier's first racing victory since the 1996 Atlantic Championship race at Laguna Seca. Both Franchitti and Jourdain were separated by a photo finish in the duel for second. Since the official scoring system which rounded out to three decimal places proved inconclusive, series officials reviewed photographic evidence to determine the finishing order. Franchitti was found to have beat Jourdain by about 2 in (51 mm). A malfunctioning air jack system dropped Da Matta off the lead lap but good fuel mileage enabled him to finish fourth. Fifth-placed Herta got back into the draft but he could not use it to move up the field. Tagliani, Tracy, Castroneves, Junqueira, Dixon, Servià, Moreno, Takagi, Gidley, and Gugelmin were the last of the classified finishers. There were 60 lead changes among 10 drivers during the course of the race. Papis' total of 83 laps led was the most of any competitor. Carpentier led once for a total of three laps.
Carpentier appeared in victory lane to celebrate the first win of his career in front of the crowd; the win earned him $100,000. He spoke of his delight with the win and was crying on his way to pit road:
"It's been a long time coming and today we were a lap down, were struggling at the beginning of the race and I never thought I would win this one. There were some races (in the past) that we thought we had a serious chance of winning and today for awhile we didn't think so. You need everything to win a race. You need yellow flags to work for you and you need to have a good car, a car that lasts and good pit stops with the team. Then with good luck and good timing, everything worked out for us today."
Franchitti congratulated Carpentier on his win and was generous over coming second, "It was an eventful day. For the first time in my career I started last because of the way they decided qualifying. I was really lucky to not go a lap down. It's not last to first, but last to second isn't too bad, and we picked up some good points." Jourdain said of his third-place finish, "What an unbelievable race. My team did a great job, and we gained positions in the pits. On the last lap, I was sure it was going to be Dario and I. Pat was there the whole time, but then Alex appeared from nowhere. I think Dario and I should both get points for second."
Tagliani's manoeuvre on the last lap that led to him providing Carpentier with drafting assistance attracted criticism from Franchitti and Jourdain, but both refused to voice their anger towards him. Franchitti stated his belief that in the event any driver went a lap down, it was up to that person to attempt to remain in front of the competitor by having sufficient driving standards, "It's different at a superspeedway than it is at a smaller oval like Chicago, but at that point, at the end of the race when there are five guys on the lead lap, I think it would be nice to fight it out amongst ourselves. But it's very difficult to police something like that." Jourdain spoke of his feeling that the manoeuvre was "pretty dangerous" because it had the potential to create a multi-car accident, "I was sure we were both gone. I was really scared at that point because I thought the four of us (Tagliani, Jourdain, Franchitti and Carpentier) were going to crash. It was an eight or a nine on a 10 scale – very dangerous." Carpentier responded by noting that while the manoeuvre was dangerous, it aided in his victory, "I think it was a risky move, but in a series as competitive as we have today, one point or two points can make a huge difference at the end of the year. If he was racing for points with Paul, hey, it's racing."
Media and series reactions to the race were positive. Autoweek's Bill McGuire wrote, "It might have been the last 500 mile CART race at Michigan International Speedway, but it was certainly one of the best." Charles Googe of The Albuquerque Tribune spoke of a "thrilling" race in his first half of the season awards for the newspaper, and the Daily Herald's Mike Spellman opined that the round was a good way of attracting people back to open-wheel racing. Spellman reported Bräck lobbied CART to visit more high-banked circuits because of the excitement it provides for the fans with continuous side-by-side racing, and the driver noted the large amount of passing, something that is not seen in Formula One. The reporter for the Associated Press said that the high level of competition witnessed (167 unofficial lead changes) was atypical of all CART races held at the track since the introduction of the Handford device in 1998. In his report for Knight Ridder/Tribune, Steve Crowe wrote, "More than 100,000 empty seats seemed to scream, "Good riddance." But the 25,000 or so who braved the sweltering Sunday farewell party had reason to rave, "Good show." Former CART chief steward Wally Dallenbach Sr. said of the event, "it was the darnedest race I've ever seen."
The final positions left Bräck still at the top of the Drivers' Championship with 84 points but his gap was lowered to three points due to Franchitti's strong finish advancing him to second. Castroneves' eighth place result enabled him to advance to third, while Andretti's engine failure dropped him from second to fourth. Da Matta rounded out the top five in the standings. In the Manufacturers' Championship, Honda (with 174 poimts) enlarged their lead to 20 points over Toyota. Ford Cosworth continued to maintain third place with 148 points with ten races left in the season.
|1||8||Kenny Bräck||Team Rahal||31.330||229.812||—|
|2||7||Max Papis||Team Rahal||31.483||228.695||+0.153|
|3||5||Tora Takagi||Walker Racing||31.591||227.913||+0.261|
|4||26||Paul Tracy||Team Green||31.609||227.783||+0.279|
|5||55||Tony Kanaan||Mo Nunn Racing||31.626||227.661||+0.296|
|6||16||Michel Jourdain Jr.||Bettenhausen Racing||31.676||227.301||+0.346|
|7||77||Bryan Herta||Forsythe Racing||31.726||226.943||+0.396|
|8||52||Shinji Nakano||Fernández Racing||31.752||226.757||+0.422|
|9||11||Christian Fittipaldi||Newman/Haas Racing||31.766||226.657||+0.436|
|10||17||Maurício Gugelmin||PacWest Racing||31.784||226.529||+0.454|
|11||1||Gil de Ferran||Team Penske||31.789||226.493||+0.459|
|12||18||Scott Dixon||PacWest Racing||31.877||225.868||+0.547|
|13||6||Cristiano da Matta||Newman/Haas Racing||31.890||225.776||+0.560|
|14||66||Alex Zanardi||Mo Nunn Racing||31.893||225.755||+0.563|
|15||40||Jimmy Vasser||Patrick Racing||31.896||225.734||+0.566|
|16||12||Memo Gidley||Chip Ganassi Racing||31.949||225.359||+0.619|
|17||20||Roberto Moreno||Patrick Racing||31.950||225.352||+0.620|
|18||39||Michael Andretti||Team Motorola||31.976||225.169||+0.646|
|19||3||Hélio Castroneves||Team Penske||32.041||224.712||+0.711|
|20||51||Adrián Fernández||Fernández Racing||32.170||223.811||+0.840|
|21||32||Patrick Carpentier||Forsythe Racing||32.218||223.478||+0.888|
|22||4||Bruno Junqueira||Chip Ganassi Racing||32.244||223.297||+0.914|
|23||22||Oriol Servià||Sigma Autosport||32.260||223.187||+0.930|
|24||33||Alex Tagliani||Forsythe Racing||32.261||223.180||+0.931|
|25||27||Dario Franchitti||Team Green||32.660||220.453||+1.330|
|WD||25||Max Wilson||Arciero-Blair Racing||No time||No Speed||—1|
The starting order was determined the fastest laps in the third practice session after rain cancelled qualifying.
Standings after the race
- Note: Only the top five positions are included for the drivers' standings.
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2001 Molson Indy Toronto
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2001 Target Grand Prix of Chicago
2000 Michigan 500
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