Mexico City: Brack finally wins for Ganassi

Sunday's Champ Car finale in Mexico City started out slowly but a flurry of late-race activity produced a popular winner in Kenny Brack. The Swede put an unsatisfactory season behind him to win his first CART road race by 3.987 seconds over Cristiano da Matta and Bruno Junqueira, who clinched second in the championship.

Mexico City: Brack finally wins for Ganassi

Patrick Carpentier and Dario Franchitti finished fourth and fifth, but the Scot was left fretting about a slow final pit stop in which he dropped from first to fifth. That left him a disappointed fourth in the overall season standings behind Carpentier.

Tony Kanaan made a banzai start to take the lead from fourth on the grid. Four turns later, pole man Junqueira made a lunge for the top spot but put a wheel on the grass and dropped to ninth place. Bruno then lit into a strong comeback drive that ultimately resulted in a podium finish and the $500,000 prize for finishing as runner-up to da Matta in the point race.

Kanaan led Christian Fittipaldi and Franchitti through the first 20-lap stint, and the order remained the same upt to the second round of pits stops. But a malfunctioning clutch caused leader Kanaan to leave his pit with the fuel hose still attached, sparking a pit fire that left four of his crewmen with minor injuries. The Brazilian was later called in for a stop-and-go penalty that dropped him to eighth at the finish.

Kanaan's misfortune left Franchitti out front, and he extended the margin to more than six seconds until the yellow flew for Michael Andretti's 150-mph crash at the exit to the esses. The American star, who had been running sixth, was shaken but uninjured in what was his final Champ Car race.

On Lap 53, the bunched up pack pitted under yellow. Franchitti slightly overshot his pit and the resultant slow stop dropped him to sixth place behind temporary leader Michel Jourdain Jr, Brack, da Matta, Carpentier and Junqueira.

Jourdain was required to pit on Lap 62 of 73, handing the lead to Brack, who easily held on to the finish to win what might have been his final Champ Car race. Junqueira managed to get by Carpentier on the final restart, but the order otherwise remained the same to the end.

"We certainly finished the year the best way possible," said Brack after his fifth career CART win. "It's been a strange season, but it's nice to finish this way. It's also fantastic to finally get a road course victory. I thought it wasn't going to happen."

Brack refused to confirm his plans for 2003, though it is widely he believed he will rejoin Team Rahal but move to the Indy Racing League.

Behind Junqueira, Carpentier drove a steady race to nail down third in the standings, while Franchitti was able to beat Tora Takagi, Scott Dixon and Kanaan across the line.

Paul Tracy appeared to have the fastest car on the day, but he ruined his chances by spinning himself and Jimmy Vasser off at the first turn. Tracy lost a lap in the incident; Vasser recovered to finish 11th, while his Team Rahal colleague Michel Jourdain fared best amongst the trio of Mexicans in the race. Jourdain got out of sequence on his pit stops, but he thrilled the Mexican fans by leading nine laps on his way to a 13th place finish.

Attendance was announced as 174,866 for the race and 351,972 for the weekend, both CART records. CART drew a record 2.67 million fans in 19 races this year.

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