Mercedes-Benz Powers Moore to St. Louis Podium Rookies Castro-Neves and Lehto Score Personal Bests Greg Moore scored his fourth podium finish of the 1998 FedEx Championship Series season at the Motorola 300, trailing rivals...
Mercedes-Benz Powers Moore to St. Louis Podium Rookies Castro-Neves and Lehto Score Personal Bests
Greg Moore scored his fourth podium finish of the 1998 FedEx Championship Series season at the Motorola 300, trailing rivals Alex Zanardi and Michael Andretti across the finish line at the 1.27-mile Gateway International Raceway oval near St. Louis. Moore's Player's/Indeck Reynard/Mercedes was the first of four Mercedes-powered cars to finish in the top 10, including CART rookies Helio Castro-Neves and JJ Lehto, who both posted the best finishes of their young Champ Car careers.
Moore started the 236-lap, 300-mile contest first but did not earn the championship point which usually accompanies the pole position because the starting grid was set based on practice times after qualifying was rained out yesterday. The young Canadian star, who entered the weekend leading the championship standings by four points, now slips to second place, two points behind winner Zanardi.
Rookie Castro-Neves, who started the Team Alumax/Bettenhausen Motorsports entry a career best eighth, finished seventh, also a personal best. Despite the lack of track time, due to inclement weather Thursday and Friday, and an understeering car, the young Brazilian put in a mature and consistent drive and was the highest finishing rookie on the day.
Another first-year Mercedes-Benz CART driver, JJ Lehto, also started and finished better than ever before. The former Formula One pilot ran as high as fourth and, despite running out of fuel on the final lap, brought the Hogan Racing Reynard/Mercedes home ninth. The Finn was the second best placed rookie of the race.
PacWest Racing's Mark Blundell struggled with an ill-handling car all day but managed to finish 10th in the Motorola Reynard/Mercedes. Teammate Mauricio Gugelmin finished 16th in the Hollywood-sponsored car, just behind Player's/Forsythe driver Patrick Carpentier, whose car was damaged in a first-lap incident with Bobby Rahal.
Marlboro Team Penske drivers Al Unser Jr. and Andre Ribeiro both had promising days end early. Unser, who started ninth and moved up to eighth despite handling problems, crashed on lap 169, while Ribeiro, who started 27th and quickly moved up to 13th, parked his Marlboro Penske/Mercedes after 106 laps, due to gearbox failure.
Mercedes Quotes Greg Moore, No. 99, Player's Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone - Third "Considering we had only about 45 minutes of practice before racing, I think we did quite well. In the beginning the car was really loose, but we improved it a lot so being on the podium is a great pump for the Player's/Forsythe team. Five laps from the end I knew we wouldn't pull off a win, but it's just nice to be here on the podium, only 2 points behind Alex in the championship going into the next race at Milwaukee."
Helio Castro-Neves, No. 16, Team Alumax Reynard/Mercedes/Goodyear - Seventh "The car had understeer all over the place since the start. Because of my inexperience, I wasn't sure how much to adjust the front wings. It was a long race. I was downshifting a lot, so I was concerned about being too hard on the gearbox. On the last pit stop, we turned the front wing up and it helped a lot, but it was too late to make a difference. The Alumax team is like a family to me. They coached me very well in the race. Using the new speedway wings was a lot of trouble, especially in turn two. I learned so much this race, though. I learned to be patient, and I learned to be consistent. I just followed the experienced guys and learned. I didn't go too easy, but I tried not to go too hard as well."
JJ Lehto, No. 9, Hogan Racing Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone - Ninth "I'm just disappointed. Ninth place was really not what we were looking for. We only had a couple of things go wrong, but they ruined the day. Ovals haven't been a problem for me, and otherwise, we've been running okay."
Mark Blundell, No. 18, Motorola Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone - 10th "It was a long race for us. Like everybody else, we had a bit of a struggle because we didn't have much track time. We didn't come out of the box too quick, which put us at a bit of a disadvantage. We had good pit stops. The guys did good work in that area, but it was tough going. (Position) ten means a couple more points, but it's not what we're looking for. We've still got some more work to do."
Patrick Carpentier, No. 33, Player's Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone - 15th "We finished in one piece. We had a flat tire and had a problem with a temperature gauge. The engine was fine, but the temperature would go really high and then drop way down. We had to come in and check to see if something was in the radiator. It was fine, so we think we had a faulty gauge. The speed was there. We were running the same speeds as the leaders. We just didn't get lucky. Early on, a guy spun and slid towards the wall. Then he came back down the track. We all hit the brakes real hard. There was no way to avoid contact. We had to change the nose and the front wing and all four tires, but after that the car was okay."
Mauricio Gugelmin, No. 17, Hollywood Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone - 16th "I wish that was a 100-miler instead of a 300-miler. That was probably the longest day of my life. We never got the handling right, and that was it. We worked a lot on it during the stops, but every time we'd fix one end (of the car), we'd screw up the other end."
Al Unser Jr., No. 2, Marlboro Penske/Mercedes/Goodyear - 19th "Today was one of those days. The car was a real handful. Coming off turn four, I got high into the marbles and hit the wall. It was unfortunate because Marlboro Team Penske did a great job all weekend. Now we're going to focus on getting ready for Milwaukee."
Andre Ribeiro, No. 3, Marlboro Penske/Mercedes/Goodyear - 20th "The Marlboro car was running very well at the start of the race. We had moved up from 27th to 13th by lap 39, and we were running faster than the leaders. On lap 45, I made a move on Bobby (Rahal) at the end of the straightaway because I thought I could complete the pass in turn one. When he closed the door on me, we made contact and I damaged my car. By the time we replaced the front wing and suspension, we were down four laps. Finally, on lap 106, we had a problem with the gearbox which ended our day."