Elkhart Lake, Wis. Victories have come in bunches for Cristiano da Matta since late last season, but Sunday's win in the Motorola 220 was one he really needed.
Da Matta came to Road America in a three-race slump, during which he finished no better than 12th and earned only four championship points. The humbling stretch made the Brazilian set his sights lower.
"Before the race, I sat down with my engineer and my crew and decided we really needed to finish the race," he said. "Anything we could bring home today better than fifth would be good.
"During the race, I was feeling good and the car was running very well. At that point, I knew we had the pace to win."
The CART series leader won for the first time on the four-mile road course in central Wisconsin, earning his sixth win in 12 starts this season, his eighth in the last 14 races and the 10th of his career.
Paul Tracy led the most laps (24) in the race, which was extended this year from 55 to 60 laps, and pole-winner Bruno Junqueira and Alex Tagliani both were contenders to the end.
Tagliani finished 0.805-seconds about six car-lengths behind da Matta's Toyota-powered Newman-Haas Lola.
Da Matta's victory bumped a 28-point lead over Patrick Carpentier to 42 points over both Carpentier, who finished seventh, and Junqueira with seven races remaining.