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Grand Prix Americas, Miami USA 2003

       The heat and humidity of Florida were almost unbearable on the streets of downtown Miami for the 2003 Grand Prix Americas, but that didn't prevent Mario Dominguez (#55) and Roberto Moreno (#4) from driving to the first 1-2 finish in the history of the Herdez Competition racing team. Piloting identical Ford-Cosworth/Lolas on Bridgestone Potenza tires, the Herdez duo drove clean and steady, avoiding the pitfalls that befell a number of early race leaders. The newly-rebuilt Herdez Competition team goes way back with CART racing through the lean years as Bettenhausen Motorsports, but on this sunny Sunday in Miami, the teammates grabbed the glory and the trophies as they swept the top two podium spots in the Grand Prix Americas Presented by Sportsbook.com. Dominguez (#55) had his first ChampCar win in the 2002 season under monsoon conditions in Surfers Paradise, Australia.

The CART ChampCar pictures are below. View other images from the 2003 Miami Grand Prix Americas weekend. Click these links to see pictures from the ALMS and the Trans-Am series. A gallery of other race weekend images is available at the Miami event home page.
       Mika Salo (#27 PK Racing ) came back from losing a lap at his first fuel stop and slid past an incident or 5 to claim the third spot. Coming over the pond from Formula One, this was only Mika’s second ChampCar race start. This makes him the first driver since Nigel Mansell to earn a podium finish in one of his first two series starts. (Nigel splashed the bubbly at his 1st race, the season opener of 1993. ). The 3rd spot also gave the rookie PK Racing team its first-ever podium, and is the team’s highest finish of the 2003 season, so far.

       Adrian Fernandez put the #51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex car on pole for the 2003 Grand Prix Americas Presented by Sportsbook.com. This is his first pole position of the 2003 season and his 4th ChampCar career pole. He last led the field to the green flag at Milwaukee in 2002. . Bruno Junqueira (#1) and Oriol Servia (#29) were 2nd and 3rd on the grid for the race start.

       The 2003 Miami Grand Prix Americas event defied the pre-race predictions and ended up as one of the wildest affairs of the season campaign so far. Things go off the a hot start when the first pass for the lead came in the first corner. Bruno Junqueira (#1 ) dived under polesitter Adrian Fernandez (#51) to take the lead, but Fernandez battled back just one lap later with a pass in Turn 1. The reclaimed lead would hold for the next 88 trips around the streets of downtown Miami.

       If the front of the pack wasn’t suspenseful, there was plenty to keep fans entertained directly behind them. Oriol Servia (#20), Paul Tracy (#3) and Sebastien Bourdais (#2) played trade and tag. Tracy was trying to protect his 2003 ChampCar series poibts lead from the Newman/Haas Racing pair.

       Servia was first on the trailer when he lost control on the lap 44 restart, ending his day sitting against the wall with a damaged suspension. Tracy and Bourdais would be next to go home early 24 laps later. Bourdais tried to pass Tracy for third coming through Turn One. Because Bourdais did not totally complete the pass, Tracy saw room to try an inside move in Turn Two. Both went spinning, ending the race for both drivers.

       That crash gave an opportunity to Junqueira (#1) to erode Tracy’s CART championship points lead that was 17 points at the start of the day. That opportunity evaporated in Miami stream on Lap 93 when Junqueira went inside pole sitter Adrian Fernandez (#51) in Turn One. Instead of finding a place to pass, Bruno found the ass rear of Fernandez’s Lola. Both went spinning out and ending their chances for victory. The Junqueira / Fernandez spin also collected the luckless Tiago Monteiro (#7) who had just come out of the pits after contact with Michel Jourdain Jr. (#9). Jourdain inherited the lead after the Fernandez crash, but was penalized by CART Stewards for the Pit Lane incident, and promoting Darren Manning to the lead. Manning’s lead would be short-lived however as Dominguez Moreno and Salo would all charge past the British rookie and into the lead for the finish. Along the way to the end of the race, the field had a restart with 12 laps to go when local Florida hero, Ryan Hunter-Reay (#31 ) expired on track.

       Behind the 1-2-3 podium partiers were Ryan’s teammate Jimmy Vasser (#12 ) and Mario Haberfeld (#34 ) to round out the top five finishers list. Bruno Junqueira finished 9th and did trim a few points off of Paul Tracy’s season points lead. With 3 races to do, Tracy leads Junqueira by 13 points, Jourdain by 33. Tracy teammate Patrick Carpentier (#32) keep his slim title hopes alive by finishing 6th, making him the last of the five drivers that are statistically still alive in the 2003 ChampCar season championship

       The Miami Grand Prix Americas was the 16th of the 19-race 2003 ChampCar Series for 2003. It was broadcast on CBS at either 1:00 pm ET live or 4:30 pm ET tape-delay depending upon the market. The 2003 Miami Grand Prix Americas continued the season-long trend of increasing Nielsen ratings for ChampCars on CBS TV. Miami drew the season's highest ratings so far as 1.45 million households tuned in to see Mario Dominguez take his win. The race was seen live in 85 markets and tape-delayed in the rest of the country. The last three races of the 2003 season will be broadcast on SPEED Channel, worldwide. The Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford title may be ponderously long, but the audience for CART events has more than doubled from the beginning of the season. CBS has already committed to a return to the series for next season, announcing that it will carry as many as 10 races in 2004.
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