Tracy wins 30th race of career
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, 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 finished fourth.
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 said.
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."
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press