MONTREAL -- Dario Franchitti slowed Cristiano da Matta's momentum a bit, holding off the runaway CART series leader Sunday to win the inaugural Montreal Molson Indy.
Franchitti won a strategic battle in the 80-lap race at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, making one less pit stop than da Matta and crossing the finish line 2.588 seconds - about half the last straightaway - ahead.
"The car was faultless today and the guys from Team Kool Green were on it in the pits, which is what it takes to win races," said Franchitti, who had gone through some frustrating moments in the pits this season. "We had nothing go wrong today."
It was the first experience for most of the CART drivers on the 2.709-mile, 14-turn road course on which the Formula One series has competed since 1978. The demanding track was particularly hard on brakes.
"There were a couple of anxious moments there with a long brake pedal, but I think everybody had the same problem with the hard braking on this track," Franchitti said.
Franchitti and da Matta swapped the lead several times on pit stops and it appeared the Scottish driver, who made his last stop on lap 63, was home free when he found his Honda-powered Lola out front by nearly 5 seconds after da Matta made his final stop on lap 68.
Da Matta got one last shot at the leader, though, when Adrian Fernandez crashed on lap 71, bringing out the third and final caution flag of the race.
On the restart on lap 75, Shinji Nakano, a lap down, was between the two leaders and da Matta didn't get by until Nakano moved over to let him go on lap 76. By that time Franchitti was ahead by 2.6 seconds.
"The yellow came out at just the wrong time and that put it back in Cristiano's hands, but it all worked out," Franchitti said. "He got caught in traffic and I got a little gap and that was it."
"Dario was pretty strong on the restart and I had the tires I used back in the first stint, so I wasn't in the best shape I could be," da Matta said. "It's the kind of situation that you had to look at the scale how much the championship is important and how much a race win is important.
"Looking at the big picture, second place was very good for us today, maybe more important than some of the other wins."
It was the second victory of the year and ninth of his career for Franchitti. He moved past Patrick Carpentier and Bruno Junqueira to take second place in the championship, albeit a daunting 56 points behind da Matta with six of 19 races remaining.
Da Matta started from the pole for the seventh time in 13 races this season and was shooting for his seventh win, but his pit stop on lap 12 gave Franchitti all the edge he needed.
Team strategy dictated that da Matta do four pit stops, while Franchitti did only three.
"It's not very frustrating, especially the way everything came out in the points for us," da Matta said. "Strategy sometimes is a little bit of a game. You have to bet on what more often is going to go right, especially in the situation we are at.
"I can't complain about anything. I'm happy. We had an engine problem during the warmup and the guys did a great job changing the engine. They did it in less than two hours. The car ran all day and I believe we had the speed to fight for the win."
Tony Kanaan finished third, followed by Paul Tracy, the highest finishing of three Canadians. Only 10 of the 18 starters were running at the end of the high attrition race.
The event began with a crash on the second turn when Tracy bumped fellow Canadian Alex Tagliani from behind, Tagliani hit Scott Dixon, who in turn banged into Kenny Brack. Brack, who has been knocked out of four races in the first two laps this season, was bumped off the track and done for the day.