Andretti claims seventh Molson Indy

There's something about Toronto that brings out the best in Michael Andretti.

Recovering from a first-lap incident that dropped him to last place, the veteran driver patiently worked his way through the pack thanks to numerous caution flags and proceeded to take a record seventh checkered flag at the Molson Indy in Toronto.

"Just an awesome day, a perfect day for Team Motorola, they did an awesome job," said Andretti.

Many racing fans had dismissed Andretti's day as all but done after he collided with Scott Dixon on the first lap to force him into last in the field of drivers.

But showing the patience and veteran experience that allowed him to be so dominant on 1 -mile temporary street course at Exhibition Place in the past, Andretti used strategic pit stops to make his way through the pack.

A sun-drenched record crowd of 73,628 watched Andretti weave his magic, moving up to 15th, then 10th until he claimed the lead with 25 laps left and cruised to victory.

"We took advantage of being in the back by getting a couple of pit stops on some of those yellows because we really didn't have any track position to give up," Andretti said of his first win this season 41st of his 18-year auto racing career. "It put us in a different strategy and as the race wore on I think it began to work because many guys were saving fuel and I was able to go for it.

Maybe the fact that Andretti pulled off another victory at this course shouldn't surprise even the biggest auto-racing fan.

2001 Toronto Molson Indy
Finish Name Laps
1 Michael Andretti 95
2 Alex Tagliani 95
3 Adrian Fernandez 95
4 Alex Zanardi 95
5 Scott Dixon 95
6 Paul Tracy 95
7 Mauricio Gugelmin 95
8 Max Papis 95
9 Shinji Nakano 95
10 Tony Kanaan 94
21 Patrick Carpentier 52
This is the course where he has been most successful in his career. In addition to his seven wins, he has finishes of fifth or better in 11 of 14 starts. He also won here last year.

But this was memorable day for other drivers as well.

Until Sunday, Canada's Alex Tagliani hasn't had a lot to cheer about this season.

In what can be called a breakthrough performance from the 28-year-old Lachenaie, Que., driver, Tagliani threatened Andretti at one point and finished in career-best second place.

Tagliani started in fifth spot on the starting grid and made his way to second on the 32nd lap before falling back to 17th spot when he decided to take a pit stop.

But the young driver made his way back through the pack and finished just 2.741 seconds behind Andretti.

"It's good for Player's, it's good for the guys and it gives us a break," said Tagliani, who has finished just five of nine races this season. "Now everyone is more calm and hopefully we're on a roll.

Molson Indy Facts
Average Speed: 83.375 miles per hour Time of Race: 1 hour, 59 minutes, 58 seconds Margin of Victory: 2.741 seconds Cautions: 11 for 31 laps Lead Changes: 4 among 5 drivers
"I've have had a hard time this year making people believe that the Player's team was stronger than last year and that we had a faster car. We just haven't had a lot of luck this year. We had a good car almost everywhere but it's just that we needed a break and it's good that it was here in Toronto."

Adrian Fernandez finished in third position, followed by Alex Zanardi and Dixon.

There's something about racing in Toronto that brings out the best in hometown native Paul Tracy as well.

Ranked a disappointing 11th in the CART points standings this season, Tracy staged a remarkable comeback, dropping from ninth to 24th on the 10th lap after hitting Spain's Oriol Servia.

Instead of giving up, he steadily made his way up through the pack and finished in sixth place.

"I locked the brakes up and slid into the back of Servia and basically took myself out of contention for the win," Tracy said. "I'm pretty pissed off at myself.

"We got lucky in the end with a lot of guys crashing," he said. "A lot of guys fell out and we were able to get some points. With 15 laps to go I didn't think I was going to be able to get some points because I was sitting 16th."

Patrick Carpentier of Joliette, Que., looked like he was headed to a Top-10 finish, running seventh through 51 laps, until he lost control of his car. He ran into a tire barrier, severely damaging his rear wing and nose.

"There was a bump on the road (in Turn 1) that I didn't see," explained Carpentier, who sits 21st with only 15 points after nine races this season. "I locked the rear wheels and couldn't make the turn.

"I was more on the inside than I usually am and I braked a little too late," he continued. "The back of the car flew up."

For a time, it didn't look like anyone wanted to win this year's race as a number of leaders were forced to withdraw due to car trouble.

Helio Castroneves, who already has six wins this season, was sitting in second position at the starting grid, and looked like he was in a position to win the race around lap 64, but he was forced to withdraw two laps later due to engine trouble.

Castroneves was one of 14 cars that didn't finish the race.

After earning points in seven of his last eight races, CART points leader Kenny Brack was looking to extend his lead in the standings this weekend. But things didn't go as planned for Brack as an electrical shortcut filled his cockpit with smoke and he was forced out of the race.

Brack now leads Andretti by just nine points in the overall CART standings.

Gil de Ferran, who earned his first pole position of the year on Saturday, led for 49 laps, but couldn't stay in the race after crashing with Brazilian Cristiano da Matta on the 77th lap.

Dario Franchitti, the 1999 winner, was sitting in second position at one point until mechanical failure forced him out after 33 laps.