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Wimmer passes dried-up Keller to win BGN finale at Homestead

©Associated Press
November 17, 2002

HOMESTEAD -- Scott Wimmer won for the fourth time in the past eight races when leader Jason Keller ran out of gas Saturday and Wimmer coasted past to capture the Ford 300, the Busch Grand National season finale.

Wimmer, who also won last weekend in Phoenix, was one of a handful of drivers to pit for gas in the waning laps at Homestead-Miami Speedway. He made his stop with 12 to go. Keller gambled and tried to stretch his fuel but ran his tank dry with one lap to go.

"I ran out of fuel off Turn 4 coming to take the white flag," Keller said. "We had to go for it. We did not come to Homestead to finish second and that was my only shot of it. We were just one lap short."

Hank Parker, who lost his sponsor last week and most likely will be out of a job next season if money doesn't materialize, finished second. Joe Nemechek was third and was followed by Greg Biffle, who wrapped up the Busch series title last weekend, and Bobby Hamilton.

Keller had to coax his Ford Taurus around the track for 15th place.

Wimmer ran upfront the entire race and had a late lead but gave it up on Lap 186 of 200 because his Bill Davis Racing team told him he couldn't make it on fuel. So he stopped for a splash, went back onto the track and worked his Pontiac up to second before Keller ran out fuel.

MEXICO GP: Despite losing more teams and drivers, CART series officials promised exciting new drivers, closer races and at least one new team in 2003 as they prepared to close out the season in Mexico City.

"You're going to see a whole different level of competition on the racetrack," CART president Chris Pook said during the final day of qualifying for today's race.

Bruno Junqueira claimed the pole with the fastest time on both days of qualifying in his Lola-Toyota. Christian Fittipaldi will start beside him.

Dario Franchitti, the No. 3 qualifier, complained that erratic red flag decisions by officials robbed him of his fastest lap and contributed to his spin and crash later on an oily track.

The Scottish driver complained a "knee-jerk reaction" to a harmless spin by Tora Takagi brought out a red flag just as he was almost finished with his fastest lap. But when Team Kool Green teammate Paul Tracy blew an engine on Turn 11, "one of the fastest most dangerous corners of the circuit" they did nothing for two laps.

"I went off and had a big accident and only then there was a red flag brought out. The track was incredibly dangerous," he said.

It is a bittersweet time for the series that long dominated American open-wheel racing. It is inaugurating a major new race, expected to draw more than 100,000 spectators, in North America's largest city. But it also is the final CART event for top drivers, teams and enginemakers.

The losses include driving champion Christiano da Matta (to Formula One), engine builders Toyota and Honda and longtime CART team leaders such as Barry Green. Missing from the track will be names such as Andretti and Fittipaldi.

Only a handful of the current 19 drivers are firmly committed to return, but Pook promised talented new drivers "with fire in their blood."

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