Hakkinen takes No. 20 at Indy

Posted: Monday, October 01, 2001

INDIANAPOLIS -- A race that started badly for Mika Hakkinen ended in his 20th career Grand Prix victory.

Hakkinen, who drives for McLaren, took advantage of two pit stops by Ferrari's Michael Schumacher to win Sunday's United States Grand Prix by 11 seconds.

''That was definitely one of the highlights of this chase,'' said Hakkinen, a two-time Formula One champion who is retiring after this season. ''Definitely winning the British Grand Prix was something I always wanted in my book, and Indianapolis, I wanted this, too.''

The victory was Hakkinen's second of the season and 20th of his career, but it did not come easily.

Hakkinen qualified second to rival Michael Schumacher of Germany, but Sunday morning Hakkinen's fastest qualifying lap was taken away because of a pit-lane infraction. That sent him to the No. 4 starting spot.

No problem.

Hakkinen's strategy was to stay on the track long enough to move into the lead, which he finally did on Lap 39. He was the last driver to pit, on Lap 46, and four laps later, Hakkinen regained the lead when Barrichello stopped a second time.

The anticipated duel between Schumacher and Hakkinen, who have won the last four points titles, never materialized because Schumacher said he was playing support for his teammate, Brazil's Rubens Barrichello.

For much of Sunday, however, it appeared as if Barrichello would coast to victory and become the second Brazilian to win at Indianapolis this year. Brazil's Helio Castroneves won the Indianapolis 500 in May.

It was clear from the start that Barrichello had a good car.

He quickly moved past three drivers in the opening laps, then chased down Schumacher. At about the midway point of Lap 5 on the 2.606-mile, 13-turn course, Barrichello finally caught Schumacher, this year's Formula One points champion. He moved inside, then zipped past.

Barrichello led until a pit stop on Lap 27 and, when Hakkinen finally stopped, Barrichello led by more than 20 seconds.

The second pit stop, however, proved costly.

When Barrichello returned, he trailed Hakkinen by 6.1 seconds.

Initially, it appeared as if Barrichello might challenge Hakkinen, as he closed by about 0.6 seconds per lap. But when his car began smoking near the end of the race, Barrichello's hopes were finished.

Only Schumacher and David Coulthard of Scotland finished within 20 seconds of Hakkinen. It was Schumacher's fifth runner-up finish of the season.

Protection One 400

KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- After two years of rebuilding his team and his confidence, the dominating Jeff Gordon is back.

The three-time Winston Cup champion solidified his points lead Sunday with his series-leading sixth victory of the season, pulling away from rookie Ryan Newman to win the crash-filled Protection One 400 at Kansas Speedway.

Gordon had to survive a wild 267-lap event on the 1.5-mile tri-oval that saw 13 caution flags and an 11-minute red flag stoppage before earning the 58th win of his career and his third in a first-time event.

Newman, who passed series runner-up Ricky Rudd for second place five laps from the end, wound up trailing Gordon's No. 24 Chevrolet to the finish line by about five car-lengths.

''The secret is a team led by Robbie Loomis,'' said Gordon, praising the crew chief who replaced his former mentor Ray Evernham after the 1999 season. ''They put an incredible car under us.

''This team is really good at new tracks, getting a lot of information and adapting quickly to a new environment. That's what has gotten us here battling for another championship and winning races.''

Gordon, who won his titles in 1995, 1997 and 1998, has also won inaugural races in Indianapolis in 1994 and Fontana, Calif., in 1997.

Rudd held off Rusty Wallace and Sterling Marlin in a three-wide battle for third at the finish. After gaining 130 points on Gordon in the last two races, Rudd slipped 10 back and now trails by 222 with eight races remaining.

The fourth-place finish was a big disappointment to Wallace, who led a race-high 118 laps but had to come back from 17th in the late going after being penalized for speeding off of pit road.

With cool temperatures -- highs in the low 70s -- and a new track, the race was punctuated by crashes. The only reported injury was to Dale Jarrett, who collided with Bobby Labonte and slammed into the concrete wall on lap 247.

The 1999 series champion was transported by helicopter to nearby Kansas University Medical Center for examination and observation after briefly losing consciousness in the crash. He was awake and alert and walked to the ambulance with help from safety workers after being removed from the car.

After blown engines took out contenders Bill Elliott and Johnny Benson, it appeared Wallace and Gordon were going to battle to the finish as they ran 1-2 late in the race.

Wallace ran into trouble, though, after Dale Earnhardt Jr., winner of last Sunday's race in Dover, Del., blew a tire and smashed into the turn two wall on lap 229, bringing out the ninth caution flag.

All of the lead lap cars made their final pit stop for gas and Wallace was caught speeding as he tried to get past Mark Martin at the end of pit road after making his stop.

Meanwhile, Rudd, who had been hanging around the rear of the top 10 most of the second half of the race, chose to take no tires and beat everyone back onto the track. Gordon, who took two tires, fell to fifth.

Another blown tire sent Matt Kenseth into the wall on lap 239 and that kept the field tight behind Rudd, with Gordon moving up to third, just behind Martin. On the next restart, on lap 245, both Martin and Gordon shot past Rudd and Gordon then took the lead for good the next time around.

Rudd followed the leader and retook second and began to close on Gordon before Jarrett's crash brought out the yellow again. By this time, Wallace was up to eighth.

On the restart on lap 256, Wallace shot to the outside of the track and passed three more cars, but his momentum was slowed when rookie Jason Leffler, who started from the pole, collided with Terry Labonte, hit the wall on the main straightaway and prompted NASCAR to red flag the event to be sure it would finish under green.

The cars, stopped on the backstretch, were refired after 11 minutes and 6 seconds and the green flag waved for the final time with six laps remaining.

Wallace made another outside move and got past Martin to fourth, but was unable to get any closer.

Meanwhile, Newman, his new Penske Racing teammate, went after Gordon, but the Ford driver was not able to put any real pressure on the veteran.

''We had a good car, a top-two or top-three car, all day long,'' Gordon said. ''I hate that for Rusty. It was a tough break for him, but I also think we had something for him there at the end.''

Newman crashed in practice on Friday and wound up driving a spare car, which was the one in which he won the pole for an ARCA race here in June. He credited the car with the strong finish.

''My car refired better on colder tires than the other cars, but I never expected to get past Ricky like that be able to hang with Jeff at the end,'' said Newman, who is running a handful of races this season and will run for Rookie of the Year in 2002.

Asked about all the crashes, Newman said, ''It was partially this being a new racetrack. It's not just the surface, it's drivers adapting to it. If you go someplace like Charlotte, unless you're a rookie you already know what to expect. But the track really came around to us halfway through the race and we were able to get two-wide and even three-wide racing.''

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