CART Cruises At Indy. Again
May 28, 2001 | 12:00 A.M. EST
CART drivers and teams secured the first six positions at the end of the 500-mile classic, led 108 laps and took home the biggest paycheck.
Helio Castroneves won the Indianapolis 500 on his first try, handing Roger Penske Indy win No. 11. Gil de Ferran, Castroneves’ teammate, finished second. Michael Andretti, driving for Team Green, was third, followed by a trio of Target Chip Ganassi drivers in Jimmy Vasser, Bruno Junqueira and Tony Stewart.
Eliseo Salazar was the highest finishing Indy Racing Northern Light Series driver in seventh.
Andretti, however, didn’t see Sunday as an affirmation of CART’s superior talent level.
“We had to race everybody,” Andretti said. “It just seemed like the bad luck went to the IRL drivers.
“Obviously I think the CART teams are very good, but this race was incredibly competitive.”
“I don’t’ think we have to look at statistics here to say this is a CART win,” Penske said. “Certainly there’s a number of fellows out there who could drive our (CART) cars right now.”
Based on laps led, Andretti may have a point about the level of competition this year.
Castroneves was out front for 52 laps, but IRNLS driver Greg Ray controlled 20 percent of the laps, leading for 40 trips around the 2.5-mile oval. Mark Dismore led 29 laps, and Robby Gordon, driving for A.J. Foyt’s team, led 22. Treadway-Hubbard Racing’s Arie Luyendyk led one lap. CART drivers de Ferran and Andretti led 27 and 16 laps respectively. Tony Stewart, driving for Chip Ganassi, led 13.
Dismore proved he could race with the CART drivers, but he deflected the CART-IRNLS issue.
“I think everyone is way past the CART-IRL thing,” he said. “It’s just a bunch of guys driving race cars.”
The winner had a similar outlook.
“I just know that when I was here I was an Indy 500 driver,” Castroneves said.
Castroneves competed in the first IRNLS race of the season at Phoenix, and, coupled with his experience at Indy, he has been impressed by the IRNLS drivers.
“All of these guys I have a lot of respect for,” Castroneves said.
The most telling fact, however, may be that a CART driver competing at Indy for the first time won for the second year in a row. Juan Montoya gave Ganassi the Indy title last season, leading 167 of the 200 laps.
Rookies simply aren’t supposed to win the biggest race in the world. Castroneves, like Montoya, has proved otherwise.
But, Castroneves doesn’t care who he competes against as long as he wins.
“I just want to be competitive all the time,” Castroneves said.
Maybe that’s the attitude everyone should subscribe to.