Mon, Jul 21, 2003 - Page 19 News List

Gil de Ferran wins Firestone Indy 200 under caution flag


Brazil's Gil de Ferran raced to his second victory of the season, winning the Firestone Indy 200 on Saturday night under a yellow caution flag at Nashville Supers-peedway.

The Indianapolis 500 winner took the lead for the second time on lap 173 while the other leaders pitted during a caution period caused by debris on the track.

He had been trying to stretch his fuel for the final 69 laps after pitting on lap 131, but two cautions in the final six laps caused by Buddy Lazier kept him from having to worry.

The Brazilian cruised in under caution after Lazier brushed the outside wall in Turn 2, bringing out the final yellow flag just as de Ferran was taking the white flag for the final lap.

De Ferran celebrated his fourth IRL title since moving to the series last year by singing "Take me out to the ball game" in Victory Lane. He last sang that song on July 7 at Wrigley Field during the seventh-inning stretch.

He has plenty of reason to celebrate.

De Ferran has piled up the most driver points since missing the race at Motegi, Japan, in April because of a concussion and a couple of cracked vertebra suffered in a brutal crash at Phoenix International Raceway in March. He has five top-three finishes since then. Polesitter Scott Dixon finished second, followed by Helio Castroneves, de Ferran's Penske teammate, and rookie Dan Wheldon.

Defending champion Alex Barron finished fifth as a replacement for Felipe Giaffone, who is in a rehabilitation hospital after breaking a leg and his pelvis in a crash at Kansas on July 6.

De Ferran showed early signs of a strong Toyota-powered car as he led 21 laps early after passing Dixon by dipping inside him going into Turn 1 on lap 14.

The Brazilian led until lap 34 when several drivers hit the pits, and de Ferran was out in just 8.5 seconds and thought he had made it out of the pits ahead of IRL points leader Tony Kanaan. IRL ruled that Kanaan was out first. Team Penske protested, but Kanaan still used that position off the restart to lead 55 laps.

Kanaan lost his lead when finally forced to pit for gas on lap 98.

It didn't take long for trouble on the 2.1km oval where only one line has worn in on the concrete. Robbie Buhl drifted into Scott Sharp's right front tire and hit the wall in Turn 4 on the third lap. Sharp had to pit and get the nose replaced on his Dallara chassis.

"Obviously, I got together with Sharp. I was trying to go by him on the top side. How close things were and what happened, I don't know. We'll have to take a look at the replay. But it was my left rear to his right front tire," said Buhl, who did not finish a race for the fourth time this season.

The scariest moment came on the fifth caution for debris on lap 125. Greg Ray had pitted when flames, easy to see in the night sky, started flashing out of the left rear of his car. Crew members started dousing the car and Ray with water as he struggled to unbuckle himself.

Vitor Meira made the best save of the race on lap 33 when Buddy Rice touched tires, catching Meira's left rear tire. That spun Meira's car, and he skidded sideways into the opening of pit road before somehow managing to stop without hitting anything else. His crew changed his four tires, topped him off and sent him back off.

But Meira had to keep working on his car, and he was knocked out of a race for the third time this year when he brushed the wall in Turn 2 on lap 109.

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