Adrian Fernandez beat Bryan Herta by 0.0716 of a second at the Delphi Indy 300 yesterday in Joliet, Ill., for his second victory in a month, but it was overshadowed by a scary crash late in the race that sent Buddy Rice's car skidding upside down along the track.
"When I see an accident, the first thing I say is, 'Is everybody okay?' " Fernandez said. "I have lost personal friends in situations like this. So the main thing for you is to know that the driver is okay."
Rice was unhurt, but for a few minutes it didn't look so good.
The Indianapolis 500 winner was running fifth on Lap 186 of the 200-lap race when Darren Manning's right front tire touched Rice's left rear as they came out of the second turn. The impact turned Rice's car sideways and lifted it into the air.
The car did a backward somersault over Manning's car before the nose hit the track. The body of the car then slammed into the wall and came down on the roll hoop, a safety feature that is behind that cockpit below the on-board TV cameras. According to IRL rules, the role hoop must be five inches above the driver's helmet.
"I don't know really, I was just hoping for it to stop," Rice said when asked what was going through his mind. "All I had was sparks and stuff flying by me the whole time."
The car slid upside down along the track for several hundred yards before finally coming to a stop in the middle of a backstretch. Rice's crew called to him, but there was no response.
It was eerily similar to the crash in Texas last year that left Kenny Brack with a broken back -- a crash that got Rice his ride with the Rahal Letterman team.
"You know everybody is thinking about Kenny's crash," Rice said. "But the car moved up in the air and [I] just grabbed my seat belts and held on. It's not something I want to be doing every week, but it was okay considering what could have happened."
A hush fell over the Chicagoland Speedway as safety crews rushed to Rice's car. As soon as they lifted the car, though, Rice popped up. His helmet had scorch marks on it, but Rice was unscathed.
* FORMULA ONE: Rubens Barrichello won the Italian Grand Prix in Monza, overcoming an unscheduled early pit stop to finish ahead of world champion Michael Schumacher in a 1-2 showing by Ferrari on its home track.
Barrichello has won this race two of the last three years, and now has eight Formula One career victories. The performance by Ferrari sparked celebrations by thousands of Italian fans who displayed the team colors with red caps and shirts. "It was a very exciting Grand Prix," Barrichello said. "It was magic, not boring contrary to what many people say about Formula One."
The Brazilian started from the pole but had to pit stop after five laps to change tires and change his aerodynamic settings to complete the 53-lap race. He finished 1.3 seconds ahead of Schumacher. The teammates drove a parade lap wheel to wheel after crossing the line, raising their arms to salute the crowd.
* CHAMP CAR: Patrick Carpentier drove onto the undulating hills of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and instantly became the driver to beat, leading most of the practice sessions, taking the provisional pole and dominating the Bridgestone Grand Prix of Monterey in California for the second straight year.
It wasn't quite as easy as the race in June 2003, when he started from the pole and led every lap. But, once Carpentier did take the lead Sunday, inheriting the top spot when Michel Jourdain Jr. made a pit stop on Lap 41, he was overpowering.
The race was shortened from its scheduled 80 laps on the 2.238-mile, 11-turn road circuit to 79 by Champ Car's 1-hour 45-minute time limit for road races.