David Reininger - motorsport.com Homestead, Fla. (March 26, 2000) - Max Papis, driver of the Miller Lite Ford-powered Reynard, scored his first career victory in the CART FedEx Championship Series, winning the Marlboro Grand Prix of Miami ...
David Reininger - motorsport.com
Homestead, Fla. (March 26, 2000) - Max Papis, driver of the Miller Lite Ford-powered Reynard, scored his first career victory in the CART FedEx Championship Series, winning the Marlboro Grand Prix of Miami at Homestead-Miami Speedway this afternoon. Papis, whose last victory in a major auto race came at the wheel of a Ferrari sports car at Watkins Glen in 1996, finished six-tenths of a second ahead of runner-up Roberto Moreno.
Although Team Rahal's last win came just last September with Bryan Herta at Laguna Seca, this is the team's first oval track win since Bobby Rahal won at Nazareth Speedway in October of 1992.
"First of all, I'm really, really glad to be here for the first win and with Paul (Tracy) and Roberto (Moreno)," said a jubilant Papis in the post race press conference. "They both taught me several things, and I used that to beat them today."
Starting 13th, Papis moved steadily through the top ten, after picking up three positions on the first lap. With forty laps to go in the race, Papis returned to the track after completing his final pit stop to find himself in second place behind Paul Tracy.
When Tracy's Team Kool Green Honda-Reynard was balked by traffic with ten laps to go, Papis and Moreno took full advantage of the situation by relegating Tracy to third position. Papis dove to the inside of the turn with Moreno following closely behind.
"As soon as Paul was caught in traffic, I was right there to take the opportunity," Papis said. It was a great race, great competition."
Tracy was happy to salvage third place, even after leading 32 laps in the final stage of the race. "First, I'd like to say congratulations to Max. He's had a lot happen to him and it's good to see him smiling again.
"I didn't have a great car all weekend. I had a push condition in the middle of the turns and I was loose coming off, but we got good points coming out of here. It would have been better if there wasn't traffic, but this is racing. I was trying to dictate the pace and not catch a bunch of traffic, but we just had to take what we could get. To get third is a huge achievement for us."
Roberto Moreno equaled his career best finish with his runner up position driving the Visteon Patrick Racing Ford this afternoon. Moreno drove for three different teams last year, earning the nickname "Super Sub", a name he's happy to retire. "I'd like to thank (team owner) Pat Patrick for giving me this opportunity and making us title contenders. You don't know how good of a feeling it is after you spend all of this time talking to people and trying to find a ride."
Finishing fourth was Jimmy Vasser, driver of the No. 12 Toyota-powered Lola entered by Target Team Ganassi. "I had a solid car today," said Vasser. "I wanted to be quicker but I needed front wing and there was not the opportunity since we didn't get the last pit. For the first time out with the Toyota-Lola, we had good power and reliability. We had good fuel mileage, a good car, but we were a bit conservative on the wing. In the end it came down to not getting around in traffic."
Patrick Carpentier rounded out the top five.
Juan Montoya showed the Toyota engine's muscle this afternoon by jumping out to a commanding lead on the initial start. Unfortunately, his lead was short-lived, as his engine expired within 20 laps. "Today was a big disappointment," Montya said. "We had one problem this morning, so we changed the engine and were ready to race. When the race started we were running really quick, but the engine had a failure and that was it. It was a big shame because the car was awesome all weekend."
Kenny Brack became the first rookie driver since Nigel Mansell to lead a race in his first race. Brack retired from the lead on lap 54, handing the lead to another rookie driver in his first race, Alex Tagliani.
"I saw a couple of the Ford cars start smoking and then slowing," Brack said. "It was (Michael) Andretti and (Adrian) Fernandez. So I thought we might have a problem later. I was trying to hold back a little bit and save everything. But the car just started smoking.
"We came here to race up front and I think we did that. There are 20 races in this series so we have a long way to go in the season."
The CART FedEx Championship Series moves to Nazareth Speedway in Nazareth, Pennsylvania for round two in the championship on April 7-9, 2000.