Tracy fights from 17th to podium

Team KOOL Green driver Paul Tracy won the 'Budweiser hard charger award' for his amazing drive from 17th on the grid to third at the finish, at Round 1 of the CART championship last weekend

Tracy fights from 17th to podium

Tracy complained of handling problems during qualifying at the 1.5 mile Homestead oval which landed him closer to the back of the field than the front. However, as the race approached two-thirds distance, it seemed Tracy might win, the Canadian taking the lead with 41 laps remaining.

"It's always difficult to move up through the field because the pace at the back is the same as the front. I did my fastest laps when I was about 13th or 14th, rather than when I was leading," claimed Tracy.

However, the traffic on the Miami circuit was rapidly becoming a problem, and when chasing Max Papis got better luck with the backmarkers, he passed the team Green driver. A similar situation further round the same lap relegated Tracy to third behind Roberto Moreno.

Tracy was disappointed not to have won, but paid tribute to his team, for improving the car's handling and achieving quick turnarounds during pitstops.

"We had the chance to win this thing, but I'm really happy to get third when we had a 10th place car," he conceded. "We didn't have a great car, but my guys were fantastic with the pit stops. We made great time on my in and out laps, which really bumped us up. I've got to thank the guys at Team KOOL Green. They did their job and made the car a lot better for me today.

"It's great to get big points at the first race," Tracy acknowledged - this being the first race of the season, Tracy holds third place overall with 14 points.

Dario Franchitti, the team's other driver also made big gains during the race, to score points from even lower on the grid than team mate Tracy. Franchitti returned to his Champ Car this weekend, after recovering from a fractured pelvis and head injuries sustained during a crash in CART Spring Training, also at Homestead.

"It was a pretty long day out there," said Franchitti, who finished 11th. "The KOOL car was good on its own, but bad in traffic. That's how the leaders managed to put me down a lap. It was frustrating, but it was good to get the mileage. I think it will help us going into Nazareth, having tested really good there. We'll look for a better result there.

Regarding the possible long term effects of his earlier injuries, Franchitti insisted these did not affect his race.

"I felt fine, except for a small bump when they dropped the car off the air jacks and it bottomed out pretty hard. I leaned heavily on the area of my injury and I felt it. After that though, it wasn't a problem and I'm feeling fine. I feel as good after the race as I did when the race started."

Visit AUTOSPORT.com on Wednesday for Dario Franchitti's exclusive on-line column

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