Miami: Da Matta is new champion!

Cristiano da Matta put a dream finish on a dream year by winning in his adopted hometown of Miami on Sunday. Toyota's new Formula 1 driver for 2003 won his seventh race of the season to clinch the CART championship for him and Newman-Haas Racing with three rounds left to be run.

Miami: Da Matta is new champion!

Da Matta started the race from sixth on the grid and benefited from a clash between front-row starters Tony Kanaan and Scott Dixon on Lap 19 of 105. The accident eliminated Dixon and prompted CART to send Kanaan to the back of the pack as a penalty for an unjustifiable risk.

Several drivers took advantage of the full course yellow to pit on lap 21 - the first lap that would enable them to complete the distance with two pitstops with a 42-lap pit stop window. That handed the lead to da Matta, who then fought it out with Dario Franchitti and Newman-Haas team-mate Christian Fittipaldi.

Meanwhile, the Ganassi team made a crucial mistake and brought Bruno Junqueira in a lap early, meaning he would have to make one more stop than everyone else prior to the end of the race. The man closest to da Matta in the title chase would eventually finished fifth

The three leaders caught traffic, allowing Paul Tracy to catch up before the next round of pitstops. Toward the end of the second stint, da Matta was able to pull out a three-second gap over Franchitti, which enabled him to hold the lead through the final round of pit stops on Laps 84.

Both Team Green drivers struggled with their cars and had incidents late in the race that dropped them out of contention for the win. Franchitti finished 10th and Tracy 12th. Another late full course yellow for a skirmish between Junqueira and Kanaan limited the average speed to 68.723 mph - the slowest dry race in CART history.

Da Matta crossed the line 0.734 second ahead of team-mate Fittipaldi. Jimmy Vasser finished a strong third after passing more cars on the track than anybody else, while Alex Tagliani and Junqueira were the only other drivers on the lead lap.

Cristiano da Matta Lola-Toyota
Christian Fittipaldi Lola-Toyota
Jimmy Vasser Lola-Ford
Alex Tagliani Reynard-Ford
Bruno Junqueira Lola-Toyota
Michel Jourdain Lola-Ford
Adrian Fernandez Lola-Honda
Michael Andretti Lola-Honda
Tony Kanaan Lola-Honda
Dario Franchitti Lola-Honda

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