Gil de Ferran clinched his first CART Series crown with third place in a race of attrition at Fontana's California Speedway.
After being delayed for a day due to rain, Monday's race finished under a caution, with Christian Fittipaldi winning the yellow flag-strewn 500-miler ahead of Roberto Moreno, de Ferran, Champ car debutant Casey Mears and de Ferran's main title-contender Adrian Fernandez after Alex Tagliani had hit the wall with just three laps to run.
Brazilian de Ferran left most of the lead battles to his Penske team mate Helio Castroneves, title outsider Kenny Brack and Williams-bound Juan Pablo Montoya, but he briefly took his turn at the front along with Moreno, Alex Barron and Mears.
Just like at Michigan earlier in the year, the race easily beat the venue's record for most changes of leader in a single race, but no single driver could take it by the scruff of the neck and dominate.
"This is what I've been after all my life," said an emotional de Ferran afterwards. In the final reckoning he beat Fernandez by just 10 points in one of the most open Champ Car seasons ever.
Only six cars were running at the finish, with Brack, Barron, Montoya, Dario Franchitti and an on-form Mark Blundell in his final race with PacWest among the drivers suffering engine blow-outs on the two-mile superspeedway.
The race wasn't without its accidents: Orial Servia and Helio Castroneves had the biggest two of the day, but although Servia walked away, Castroneves was carried out of his car with suspected neck and back injuries.
Moreno finished third in the final points, with Brack and Paul Tracy fourth and fifth.
For full results, click here.
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