Race: Brack breaks his Champ Car duck

Kenny Brack broke his Champ Car duck in dramatic style by driving his Team Rahal Lola-Ford to a close victory over Helio Castroneves in the fifth round of the CART championship at the Twin Ring Motegi oval in Japan

Race: Brack breaks his Champ Car duck

Brack's maiden CART comes in his 24th race and after coming close several times over the last year since joining the Rahal outfit after a successful Indy Racing League career. The Japanese win sees the Swede take the championship lead with a total of 49 points.

Honda has still not scored a victory on home turf in Japan, while Ford's record stands at a perfect four out of four.

The 311.148-mile race ran a t a record pace in hot, humid conditions before a record crowd of 72,000 enthusiastic Japanese fans. The 188 consecutive green flag laps ­ from lap eight to lap 193 of 201 ­ produced a blistering average speed of 178.113 mph, with the race pace pushing a staggering 205 mph. But despite the lack of incidents, the attrition rate was high, with just 13 of the 25 starters running at the finish.

The lack of yellows threw most of the usual fuel strategy games out the window, and Brack earned the win through pace alone. But he was also miserly with his fuel, which played a key part in his breakthrough victory.

"We led so many races and were so competitive in others, but we never seemed to be able to lead the last lap," Brack commented. "To be honest, it was starting to irritate me a little bit. But now we've won, so I hope we can win a few more this year. We'll have to wait and see, because it's very competitive and everything has to work very well to win in this series.

"This is great," he added. "It's a big weight off my shoulders. We couldn't get our chassis to work in qualifying. I really didn't think we had a car that could win, but (engineer) Don Halliday and Team Rahal had other ideas."

Brack gained two positions on the first lap, then kept himself in the hunt all day long. He moved up to second place after the first round of pit stops before taking the lead for good on Lap 150 of 201.

"The Shell Ford ran great, and I think fuel mileage was the key for us today," Brack said. "We were able to stretch our fuel and still be competitive. It all accumulates over the course of a race. Tony (Kanaan, who finished third) and Helio were both very competitive, and it was just a matter of who was in front at the end."

After the last round of stops, Brack led from Kanaan, Castroneves and Gil de Ferran in tight formation. But the leading duo put some ground between themselves and the Marlboro Penske pair, setting up a showdown to the finish. Kanaan lost out when he had to pit for fuel later in the contest, while De Ferran dropped out while running third due to a leaky gearbox oil line with just seven laps remaining.

"Tony closed up a lot after the last stop, and that kept my attention," Brack admitted. "I didn't know what strategy he was on, and as it turned out, he couldn't make it. But at the time, I didn't know, so I was doing everything I could to keep him behind me."

Kanaan said that once he realised he would have to make a splash-and-go fuel stop near the end of the race, he turned up the pressure on Brack to try to force him into a mistake.

"After my third stop, I knew I couldn't make it to the end," Kanaan said. "So I decided to put some heat on Kenny so he wouldn't know what strategy I was on. I would have passed him if I could have."

Nicolas Minassian crashed in Turn 4 on Lap 194, bringing out the second yellow of the day. That allowed Castroneves to make it to the finish without a fuel stop.

"Fortunately, I got a yellow," Castroneves said. "So I was able to finish second, but I think Tony and I both felt we could have won. I already have scored more points on the ovals this year than I did all of last year, so I was glad for the result. The points will be very important at the end of the season."

The Mo Nunn Reynard-Hondas of Kanaan and teammate Alex Zanardi were fast all day. Zanardi put in the race's fastest lap at 208.602 mph, but a fuel feed problem in the pits dropped him to seventh place at the end. Kanaan's third place finish earned him his first visit to the podium since he won at Michigan Speedway in July 1999.

"It's been a long time, and I'm happy to get that first podium for Mo Nunn Racing," Kanaan said. "We played with the yellows at the end, and unfortunately it came out at the wrong time. I had a car that could win, but I wasn't able to pass Brack when I was running behind him. But it was a great race, we were all very clean with each other, and it was fun from in the car. The crowd was awesome, and we put on a great show for them."

Christian Fittipaldi finished fourth after a persistent drive, while Jimmy Vasser said the Patrick team "made a silk purse out of a sow's ear" as he drove from 21st to fifth.

Local hero Shinji Nakano put on a good show for the home crowd. He battled hard before finally dropping a lap down to the leaders, and he turned the second fastest race lap on the way to an eighth place finish.

Brack's win moves the Swede to the top of the championship standings while erstwhile points leader Christiano da Matta, who was taken out of the race after a first lap accident with Bruno Junqueira, is tied for third with Paul Tracy. After qualifying second on the grid, Britain's Dario Franchitti retired on lap 126 with mechanical failure.

The next round of the series is the Miller Lite 225 at the Milwaukee Mile on June 3.

For full results, click here.

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