Originally created 09/29/03

Servia's day ends early after bumpy landing puts him in wall



MIAMI -- Oriol Servia's hopes for a breakthrough win at the Grand Prix of the Americas ended early Sunday.

Servia crashed on the 44th lap of the 135-lap race, losing control of his car when it sailed over the sizable bump entering the front straightaway. He skidded into the concrete barrier, severely damaging the right rear of his car.

Servia's was the first car to be knocked from the race. He had just changed tires in a pit stop two laps earlier, which may have changed the car's handling slightly.

"I just lost it," Servia said. "I don't know if something broke or if I just lost it because of cold tires."

Servia was in third place when the mishap occurred, well within striking distance of the lead.

"It is frustrating," said Servia, now winless in 70 career CART starts. "The car was good, but these things happen."

Servia hasn't enjoyed any success in either of two races in his adopted hometown: He finished 17th in Miami last year because of mechanical problems.

DANICA'S DRIVE: CART Toyota Atlantic Series rookie Danica Patrick wasn't impressed with her second-place finish in the season's finale Sunday, even though it matched the best finish by a woman driver in a CART-sanctioned race.

"I don't like finishing second. I was the first loser today," said Patrick, who finished 1.209 seconds behind Michael Valiante. "It's still a good result, though. It's a very difficult field. There's a lot of guys in the field who have been in it for a few years."

Patrick, 21, suffered some growing pains during her introductory year in the series. She opened with a third-place finish in Monterrey, Mexico, then failed to make another podium trip until Sunday.

The quick start to the season raised her expectations, possibly too high, she said.

"Podiums every race is what I hoped for, and that's probably why I got so angry at so many points," Patrick said. "I had some horrible races where I was so far out. ... There was a lot of races where I just wasn't very fast and I didn't know why."

An engine switch midway through the year brought more consistent results, the best of which came Sunday and secured sixth place in the final series points standings.

"I always go out there with the hope and aspiration and belief that I can win any race," Patrick said. "You have to, because that's the only way you do it. You reach for the sky and see where you end up."

VICTORY LAP: Cody Unser, the daughter of racing legend Al Unser Jr., drove the top three finishers of the CART race around the track for their victory lap Sunday.

Cody, 16, has been confined to a wheelchair for the past four years, paralyzed from the chest down by the rare spinal cord disease transverse myelitis. Only about 30,000 people nationwide have the same ailment.

She used hand controls - one working the brakes, the other the accelerator - to drive the Ford pickup around the track.

CALENDAR: CART released 15 confirmed venues for its 2004 racing season, which will be its first under new owners Open Wheel Racing.

Of the confirmed stops, 14 of them are in cities hosting CART events this year. The only new stop set is Las Vegas.

"The addition of such a strong market such as Las Vegas, where our television numbers have always been well above average, gives us even more reason to be excited about the upcoming campaign," CART president Chris Pook said.

No dates for next year's racing were announced. Negotiations are continuing with television partners to set the schedule.

SPARK PLUGS: Mika Salo held the lead for six laps Sunday, the first time he's led a CART race in his career. Another CART rookie, Darren Manning, also led four late laps and became the 14th different driver to lead a lap this season. ... Jimmy Vasser finished fourth for the second time this season, but still hasn't reached a CART podium this year. ... The average speed of 75.533 mph was the slowest at a CART race this season.