HOUSTON (October 1, 2000) - Jimmy Vasser of Target Chip Ganassi Racing earned his first victory since the 1998 FedEx Championship Series finale and became the record-tying 10th different winner of the FedEx Championship Series season Sunday when...
HOUSTON (October 1, 2000) - Jimmy Vasser of Target Chip Ganassi Racing earned his first victory since the 1998 FedEx Championship Series finale and became the record-tying 10th different winner of the FedEx Championship Series season Sunday when he claimed the Texaco/Havoline Grand Prix of Houston.
Vasser's performance topped a Target Ganassi sweep of the top two places as teammate Juan Montoya, the defending FedEx Championship Series champion, finished second, 1.914 seconds behind Vasser. It marked the first one-two finish for Target Chip Ganassi Racing since 1998 at Nazareth, where Vasser drove to victory and Alex Zanardi finished second.
Gil de Ferran of Marlboro Team Penske finished third and added to his FedEx Championship Series lead in the process. De Ferran collected 15 championship points for finishing third and leading the most race laps (69), and takes a 153-134 lead over Paul Tracy of Team KOOL Green into Round 19 of the championship, Oct. 15 at Surfers Paradise, Australia.
Tracy, the defending Texaco/Havoline Grand Prix of Houston champion, finished fourth.
Vasser (Target Toyota Lola) and de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) were the only two leaders of the event. De Ferran led the first 46 laps from the pole before Vasser took over for five laps when de Ferran made his first of two pit stops. Vasser held the advantage until pitting on Lap 51, when de Ferran took over through Lap 74, when he made his second stop.
That allowed Vasser to reassume the advantage, and he held it for the remainder of the 100-lap event to claim his first victory since the 1998 season finale at California Speedway. It was the ninth victory of his CART career, 14th on the all-time list, and the first road or street-course win for a Toyota-powered driver in FedEx Championship Series history.
Montoya's (Target Toyota Lola) runner-up result was his second consecutive podium finish, following a victory two weeks ago at Gateway International Raceway. He has moved from 11th to sixth place in the championship in that time, with 122 points.
De Ferran recorded his sixth podium finish of the season and his fourth in the last seven events. He maintained the championship lead for the third consecutive event, and now holds it deeper into the season than any Marlboro Team Penske driver since Al Unser Jr. drove to the 1994 title.
Championship contenders Roberto Moreno (Visteon Ford Reynard) of Patrick Racing and Michael Andretti (Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Lola) of Newman/Haas Racing finished scoreless and lost ground to de Ferran in their pursuit of the championship. Moreno finished 13th, just one place out of a points-paying result.
Andretti was involved in a multi-car incident triggered when he was contacted from the rear by rookie Alex Tagliani (Player's Forsythe Racing Team Ford Reynard) on Lap 78. He managed to get restarted, but required two pit stops to repair the damage and ultimately finished 14th, two laps behind the leaders.
Moreno slipped from second to third in the championship with 131 points while Andretti drops from third to fourth, with 127.
Following the fourth-place Tracy was de Ferran's Marlboro Team Penske teammate, Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard), who finished fifth for his sixth top-five result of the season, including victories at Detroit, Mid-Ohio and Laguna Seca.
Adrian Fernandez (Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing Honda Reynard) finished seventh and stands fifth in the championship with 127 points. Montoya is sixth, followed by rookie Kenny Brack (Shell Ford Reynard) of Team Rahal, seventh with 118. Brack finished 15th but clinched the $50,000 Jim Trueman Rookie of the Year Award by taking an insurmountable 118-60 lead over Oriol Servia (Telefonica Toyota Reynard) of PPI Motorsports with two events remaining.
JIMMY VASSER, Target Toyota Lola: "It's fantastic to win again. I haven't won a race the whole time I've been teammates with Montoya. It's great to give him a present before he goes [to Formula One next season]. Maybe I'll get a paddock pass or something for the U.S. Grand Prix next year. [Former teammate, Alex] Zanardi gave me the helmet he wore from the last race he won here, and I gave the helmet from my last win at Fontana in '98 to [CART Interim President and CEO] Bobby [Rahal], because it was his last race. Zanardi really wanted that helmet, but I didn't know it at the time. I told him I'd give him my helmet the next time I won a race, and I kept getting calls from him at home saying, 'I still haven't gotten anything from you in the mail.' I can finally send him this helmet. I had a great car all weekend. I had to have a great car to beat Montoya. I've been in position to win a couple of races. I think I should have won at Long Beach, and Montoya and I dominated in Japan, but it just didn't come."
JUAN MONTOYA, Target Toyota Lola: "This weekend was pretty tough for me. We couldn't get the car right the whole weekend. I'm really happy for Jimmy. The guys did a great job. I had a little trouble with backmarkers. Towards the end, I took two shots to pass Jimmy, but my car just wasn't as fast as his."
GIL de FERRAN, Marlboro Honda Reynard: "It was a great day for us today. The car was very, very good throughout the weekend. At the beginning of the race, I was pushing really hard. The car was a little bit loose. I was able to pull away from Jimmy, but we were using a lot more fuel. During that middle stint, the car was perfect. Then, I saw Tarso [Marques]'s car pulled over there on the back straight there, and [team owner] Roger [Penske] said, 'Come in, come in, come in.' So, I did and we came out third. I was able to push them [Vasser and Montoya] a little bit because they were on a fuel economy run. But then a full course yellow came out, and it made it a lot easier for them. I just watched them battle for a little while. Toward the end of the race, Juan was slowing down and Paul [Tracy] was getting closer. It was a little tense being the meat in that sandwich for a little while. I had to push all the way through the end of the race. I was okay up until I took the checkered flag, then I thought I wasn't going to make it back. I was really tired at the end."
Jimmy Vasser (Target Toyota Lola) became the 10th different winner of the FedEx Championship Series season Sunday as the series matched a single-season record for winners established last year. This year's winners have included Max Papis (Miller Lite Ford Reynard) at Homestead, Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) at Long Beach, Road America and Vancouver; Adrian Fernandez (Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing Ford Reynard) at Rio de Janeiro; Michael Andretti (Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Lola) at Japan and Toronto; Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) at Nazareth and Portland; Juan Montoya (Target Toyota Lola) at Milwaukee, Michigan and Gateway; Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard) at Detroit, Mid-Ohio and Laguna Seca; Roberto Moreno (Visteon Ford Reynard) at Cleveland and Cristiano da Matta (Pioneer/MCI WorldCom Toyota Reynard) at Chicago.
Vasser's victory was his first in the FedEx Championship Series since 1998 at California Speedway, and his first on a road or street course since 1997 at Laguna Seca. It was the fourth win of his career on a road or street course, the others coming at Australia and Long Beach in 1996.
Vasser's triumph was the fifth for a Toyota-powered driver in the engine manufacturer's five years of FedEx Championship Series competition, and the first ever on a road or street course. All of Toyota's triumphs have come this season, including oval wins from Juan Montoya at Milwaukee, Michigan and Gateway and Cristiano da Matta at Chicago.
Kenny Brack (Shell Ford Reynard) of Team Rahal clinched the $50,000 Jim Trueman Rookie of the Year Award by taking an insurmountable 48-point lead over Oriol Servia (Telefonica Toyota Reynard) of PPI Motorsports into the final two events of the FedEx Championship Series season, at which a maximum of 44 points are available. Brack finished 15th Sunday and now stands seventh in the championship with 118 points.
Gil de Ferran led the first 46 laps Sunday, giving Honda-powered drivers an uninterrupted string of 216 laps led on the streets of Houston. Dario Franchitti led all 70 laps en route to victory in the inaugural Houston Grand Prix in 1998 while Paul Tracy, Juan Montoya and Franchitti teamed to lead all 100 laps last year.
The battle for the CART Manufacturer's Championship tightened considerably, as de Ferran's third-place finish enabled Honda to trim its deficit to Ford from 11 points (285-274) entering the event to three (293-290). Ford's top finish Sunday came from Christian Fittipaldi (Big Kmart/Route 66 Ford Lola), who took sixth. Honda has won three of the past four CART Manufacturer's titles, in 1996, '98 and '99.
Adrian Fernandez finished seventh Sunday, extending a run which has seen him score championship points in 15 of his past 16 starts, dating to his victory at Rio de Janeiro. The run also includes podium finishes of second at Toronto and Road America at third at Vancouver. He is currently fifth in the championship with 127 points.
Rookie Shinji Nakano (Avex Honda Reynard) of Walker Racing finished eighth, matching a season-best result established in his FedEx Championship Series debut at Homestead.
Alex Barron (SPORTS TODAY Ford Lola) earned the Budweiser Hard Charger Award for improving the most from start (23rd) to finish (12th) in the 25 driver field. Luiz Garcia Jr. (Hollywood/Embratel/Tang/Banco Sofisa) of Project Racing Group continues to lead the season-long Hard Charger standings, with 107 points.
Texaco/Havoline Grand Prix of Houston race officials announced the three-day attendance as 103,200 an increase of 1,700 over last year's total of 101,500.
Following a week off, the FedEx Championship Series makes its final international trip of the season for the Honda Indy 300, O