Older guys making comeback

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The Independent Online

Last year's CART championship was dominated by youngsters, with 24-year-old rookie Juan Montoya winning the title and 26-year-old Dario Franchitti finishing second.

After two races this season, things have changed.

"That's a pretty good result for us old boys," Paul Tracy said after winning the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach in California on Sunday. "Those fat cat owners were writing us off and look where those young hotshots are now."

The 31-year-old Tracy, who also finished third in the season-opener last month in Homestead, Florida, took over the series lead with 34 points. Former series champion Jimmy Vasser, 34, who finished third Sunday and was fourth in Hometead, is second with 26.

Tied for third, with 20, are 40-year-old Roberto Moreno and 31-year-old Homestead winner Max Papis.

Montoya, Vasser's teammate, has just one point - winning the pole for the snow-postponed race in Nazareth, Pennsylvania - after having engine problems in both races. Franchitti, Tracy's teammate, was 11th in Homestead - good for two points - and finished out of the running on the temporary road course in Long Beach.

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HAPPY RUNNER-UP

Helio Castro-Neves came up with the third second-place run of his budding CART career and, more important, gave the once-elite Marlboro Team Penske its best finish since Al Unser Jr was second in Japan in March 1998.

The Brazilian driver, making only his second start for Penske, cried as he sat in the cockpit of his Reynard-Honda after holding off a determined effort by Vasser over the last 18 laps.

"The reason I cried, I couldn't hold my emotions," Castro-Neves said. "First, we need to remember someone really special, Greg Moore. I wish I could share this with him."

Moore, who was to have moved to Team Penske this season, was killed in a crash in the season-ending race in Fontana, California Castro-Neves was hired as his replacement.

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PASSING FANCY

Retired NFL star John Elway, the Grand Marshal for Sunday's race, gave the fans along the main straightaway a thrill before the start when he threw several autographed footballs into the stands.

Showing midseason form, Elway, who retired after leading the Denver Broncos to the Super Bowl championship two years ago, nearly threw two of five balls over the packed grandstands as the crowd cheered.

Elway, who took part in a pro-celebrity race on Saturday, then gave the traditional "Gentlemen, start your engines," command.

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PASSING THE TORCH

Moreno was never comfortable with the nickname "Super Sub," which he earned the past few years filling in for injured drivers on several teams.

But now that he has a full-time ride with Patrick Racing, Moreno can joke about it.

In the drivers' meeting on Saturday, the Brazilian driver took the floor from chief stewart J Kirk Russel and called Bryan Herta and Memo Gidley, both filling in for injured drivers, to the front.

He then presented each of them with half of a large submarine sandwich, saying, "I would like to pass on to you the Super Sub title."

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SPARK PLUGS

Honda engines have now won 46 of the 107 races in which they have been entered since the company came into CART in 1994. That includes the last 14 races on temporary street circuits. ... Pole-winner Gil de Ferran still hasn't won in Long Beach, but he again led the most laps in the race. De Ferran, who finished seventh, led 30 of the 82 laps and now has been out front for a total of 207 laps in his six Long Beach starts. ... Tracy's winning speed, slowed by six caution flags for a total of 20 laps, was 82.626 mph (132.945 kph). He earned the winner's share of $100,000.

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