CLEVELAND -- Pole-sitter Paul Tracy was able to skirt around
trouble and won Champ Car's Grand Prix of Cleveland on Sunday, one
year after a first turn crash knocked him out.
Tracy, who hadn't won on the Burke Lakefront Airport track since
1993, finished 3.113 seconds ahead of A.J. Allmendinger, who was
carried from the track on a stretcher on Saturday after a nasty
wreck during qualifying.
Oriel Servia finished third, 3.913 seconds behind Tracy, who won
for the 30th time in his career. It was also Tracy's second win
this season and gave him the lead in the series points championship
with 128, one more than two-time defending Cleveland champion
Sebastien Bourdais, who finished fifth -- 13.262 seconds back.
In brutally hot conditions, Tracy made it cleanly through the
course's treacherous Turn 1, where several Cleveland races have
been won or lost in the past, and avoided several other trouble
spots on the bumpy 2.106-mile layout.
A year ago, Tracy started on the pole but was rear-ended in the
first turn and sent to the garage.
"It was tough out there," Tracy said. "I never had a chance
where I could set my own pace. I was just chasing, chasing,
Tracy led the first 29 laps before going to the pits for the
first time. He didn't retake the lead until the 86th lap when Alex
Tagliani was forced to stop for fuel and new tires. Tagliani
Tracy then led the final five laps of the race, which was
shortened to 91 laps from 94 to accommodate TV coverage.
Cristiano da Matta, who won his first race in three years last
week at the Grand Prix of Portland, was leading the race by more
than 5 seconds on the 51st lap before making contact while trying
to pass rookie Marcus Marshall and was knocked out.
Da Matta has returned to racing in Champ Car this season after
two winless years driving in Formula One.
"We were pulling away from everyone and it looked like we would
have a shot to win, so it's very, very disappointing," da Matta
For the fifth time in six years a car was knocked out after a
crash in the course's famed first turn.
This time, Ryan Hunter-Reay was the unlucky driver after the
back of the field got tangled up trying to negotiate the hairpin.
On Saturday, race officials said they would place an orange
construction barrel in the opening turn to help eliminate drivers
from diving to the inside at the end of the opening straightaway to
get to the turn first.
However, the barrel wasn't used as race director Tony Cotman
decided to trust the drivers to behave.
"Standard starting procedures are in effect," Cotman said in a
prerace memo to drivers. "Line up in two columns as usual and do
not move out of the line until the green flag is thrown. I trust
professionalism will prevail and we will put on a great show."