MADISON, Ill. (September 17, 2000) - Defending FedEx Championship Series champion Juan Montoya of Target Chip Ganassi Racing, the series' dominant oval performer who has been consistently victimized by misfortune this season, watched others...
MADISON, Ill. (September 17, 2000) - Defending FedEx Championship Series champion Juan Montoya of Target Chip Ganassi Racing, the series' dominant oval performer who has been consistently victimized by misfortune this season, watched others succumb to misery Sunday as he drove to victory in the Motorola 300 at Gateway International Raceway.
Montoya (Target Toyota Lola) inherited a lead of nearly one lap when leader Michael Andretti (Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Lola) of Newman/Haas Racing - himself nearly a lap ahead - sustained a mechanical failure just 39 laps from the conclusion of the 236-lap event. Montoya went on to an 11.804-second victory over Patrick Carpentier (Player's Forsythe Racing Team Ford Reynard) of Player's Forsythe Racing, whose runner-up effort matched a career-best FedEx Championship Series result established here in 1997 and matched last year in Vancouver.
Montoya averaged 155.519 miles per hour en route to the triumph, obliterating the previous race record of 125.725 mph set by Alex Zanardi in 1998. His victory from the pole moved him from 11th to eighth place in the championship with 106 points, just 31 behind championship leader Gil de Ferran of Marlboro Team Penske.
De Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) finished eighth and collected five points to maintain his first-ever championship advantage entering the event. He holds a 137-129 lead over Roberto Moreno (Visteon Ford Reynard) of Patrick Racing, whose third-place finish moved him from sixth to second in the title chase.
Andretti stands third at 126, followed by Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) of Team KOOL Green, who watched a possible podium finish evaporate due to a gearbox failure late in the event. Tracy's 122 points place him in fourth while Adrian Fernandez (Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing Ford Reynard) of Patrick Racing rounds out the top five with 121.
The top six championship contenders are separated by a mere 19 points in the closest points race in FedEx Championship Series history.
Montoya's victory was his third of the season, following triumphs at Milwaukee and Michigan, and the 10th of his career, tying him for 10th place in CART history with Tom Sneva, Johnny Rutherford and Bobby Unser. It was his second win from the pole this season and fifth of his career.
Montoya and Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Jimmy Vasser (Target Toyota Lola), who shared the front row, traded the lead for the first 66 laps before Andretti spent the first of his two stints on the lead from Lap 67 through Lap 123. Montoya returned for a brief, seven-lap stay on the point and Carpentier spent two more laps in front before Andretti took over again from Laps 133-196, when his day came to a premature end.
Carpentier, out of sequence, took over briefly following Andretti's exit and led for three more laps before having to pit for the final time. That handed the lead to Montoya who remained in front for the balance of the event and recorded the 33rd victory for a Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver since the start of the 1996 season.
Carpentier collected the third runner-up finish of his career. He established the milestone at Gateway in 1997 and matched it at Vancouver last year. Moreno's third-place effort represented his fifth podium result of the season, including a victory at Cleveland, runner-up performances at Homestead and Portland, and third at Japan.
Rounding out the top five drivers were fourth-place Cristiano da Matta (Pioneer/MCI WorldCom Toyota Reynard) of PPI Motorsports, who recorded his seventh top-four result of the season, including his first career victory at Chicago. Oriol Servia (Telefonica Toyota Reynard), da Matta's PPI Motorsports teammate, finished fifth, the best oval-track result of his rookie campaign.
JUAN MONTOYA , Target Toyota Lola: "You never know what's going to happen. I think it's pretty good. The car was working pretty good today. We were a little loose. We knew it was going to be loose, and we did a little bit with tire pressures, but we were still a little loose. Michael [Andretti] was pretty tough ahead of us. With as many races as I gave up this year, it's nice that someone gives me one. Being 31 points behind, we're not that into the thick of things with three races to go, but it's getting better."
PATRICK CARPENTIER , Player's Forsythe Racing Team Ford Reynard: "We came in Friday and had a struggle with the car, but the Player's team did a great job with the car on Saturday. In the race, we had a little push, but the team worked with the car and got it neutral, and I was still pretty fast. I tried to catch Juan [Montoya], but it was almost impossible. I did all that I could, but we ended up second, and we'll take it. We see what happens. I'm talking to a few teams for next year, and we'll see what happens. It was a good day today, that's all that matters."
ROBERTO MORENO , Visteon Ford Reynard: "It was a terrible warmup this morning. I got in the car and I couldn't drive it. I went out, did two laps, and couldn't drive it. Then, I went out, did three laps, and I couldn't drive it. We kept trying to approach the understeer problem we had all weekend, and went too far. We went back to what we had on Friday, and it worked, which was a surprise. [Patrick Racing General Manager] Jim McGee did another great strategy, and it paid off. He's just great on that. Towards the end, he asked me to save fuel and I did that. It was just a great day after coming from nowhere in the morning. It's great, what can I say? It paid off, finally. It's tough when you're running strong and you have gearbox problems, and we've had that since Long Beach. But we fixed that, and hopefully it doesn't happen again. It's good to be back in the championship!"
* Defending FedEx Series champion Juan Montoya (Target Toyota Lola) of Target Chip Ganassi Racing continues to make his mark in the CART record book despite the brevity of his two-year career. Sunday's win was the 10th of his career, tying him for 10th in series history with Tom Sneva, Johnny Rutherford and Bobby Unser. Michael Andretti is the CART career victory leader with 40 while A.J. Foyt is the all-time Champ Car career victory leader with 67. The win from the pole was the fifth of Montoya's career, moving him into a tie for sixth in CART history with Bobby Unser. Rick Mears is the CART career leader with 15 wins from the pole. Montoya, with 84 laps led Sunday, boosted his series-leading total to 788, which already ranks fourth in CART history for single-season laps led. Michael Andretti holds the CART record with 1,136 laps led in 1992 while is 1991 total of 965 ranks second and Montoya's rookie record of 954 set last year ranks third.
* Toyota has been the dominant engine manufacturer on ovals this season, having won four of the eight ovals events this season, including the last four in a row (Gateway, Chicago, Michigan, Milwaukee). The engine manufacturer also has led 49 percent on the laps on oval events this season (795 of 1,620).
* Toyota had three drivers among the top-five finishers Sunday for the first time in the engine manufacturer's five-year history in the FedEx Championship Series. Montoya earned the win while PPI Motorsports teammates Cristiano da Matta (Pioneer/MCI WorldCom Toyota Reynard) and Oriol Servia (Telefonica Toyota Reynard) finished fourth and fifth, respectively.
* By leading 84 laps in the Motorola 300, Montoya has led at least 21 or more laps in seven of the eight ovals. The only oval Montoya did not lead a lap was Rio in Round 3.
* Montoya has made eight short oval starts in his two-year FedEx Championship Series career and he has claimed four wins.
* Michael Andretti (Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Lola), the defending race winner who led 120 laps, has led a lap in every Gateway event. Andretti led 66 laps in 1997, 133 in '98 and 91 in '99. He is the career laps led leader at Gateway with 410 in four starts.
* Adrian Fernandez (Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing Ford Reynard) finished 10th to score championship points for the 14th time in his past 15 starts, dating to a victory at Brazil. He also owns podium finishes of second at Toronto and Road America and third at Vancouver. He stands fifth in the championship with 121 points, 17 behind leader Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske.
* Oriol Servia (Telefonica Toyota Reynard) of PPI Motorsports won the Budweiser Hard Charger Award for showing the most improvement from start (18th) to finish (fifth).
* Motorola 300 runner-up Patrick Carpentier (Player's/Indeck Ford Reynard) of Player's Forsythe Racing led five laps Sunday, marking his first time on the lead this season and first since leading one lap last season at Gateway. Jimmy Vasser (Target Toyota Lola) of Target Chip Ganassi Racing led for only the second time on an oval this season, leading 27 laps in the Motorola 300. The other time this season he led on an oval was Round 3 in Rio, where he led one lap.
* With his start, Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) of Team KOOL Green gained sole possession of ninth in place for career starts in CART history. Tracy made his 149th start, breaking a tie with the late Scott Brayton. Al Unser Jr. is the CART starts leader with 273. Mario Andretti holds the all-time Champ Car mark for career starts with 407.
After a weekend off, the FedEx Championship Series resumes with the Texaco/Havoline Grand Prix of Houston on Sunday, Oct. 1, from the streets of downtown Houston, Tex.