BROOKLYN, MI., (July 23, 2000) â€“ Team KOOL Greenâ€™s Dario Franchitti made his first podium appearance in a 500-mile race by finishing third at todayâ€™s Michigan 500. Franchitti was only 1.621 seconds behind the winner, as Juan Montoya ...
BROOKLYN, MI., (July 23, 2000) – Team KOOL Green’s Dario Franchitti made his first podium appearance in a 500-mile race by finishing third at today’s Michigan 500. Franchitti was only 1.621 seconds behind the winner, as Juan Montoya out-dueled Michael Andretti to win by four-hundredths of a second. Montoya’s second win of the season came on a day when the lead changed hands 55 times.
Paul Tracy, who won the pole with a record-setting lap yesterday, was one of 10 drivers to lead (8 laps). Tracy fell back early as he dealt with an understeering car, dropping to 14th after 27 laps. Franchitti was not fairing any better in 17th. As the KOOL cars began to handle better, both drivers began to move forward. On lap 101 many cars pitted under yellow for an incident involving Kenny Brack and Christian Fittipaldi. Tracy came out in fourth and Franchitti sixth after the third round of pit stops. On the re-start on lap 107, Tracy bolted to the front to begin an exchange for the lead with Helio Castroneves. Tracy then began to conserve fuel.
The 500-mile race began to take on a different complexion, as teams tried to determine fuel strategies to make it to the end. The fifth round of stops for most drivers came under yellow after Alex Tagliani crashed on lap 161 while leading. When the green fell on lap 171, Tracy went from third to first to lead three laps before returning to fuel conservation mode. Many drivers were trying to save fuel and Tracy sprang back into the lead on lap 177 for five more laps before Castroneves took over on lap 182. The Brazilian stretched his lead to as much as 12 seconds on a different fuel strategy. His efforts were ruined by the fifth caution of the day when Fittipaldi went off course on lap 221. Castroneves pitted under the caution to top up on fuel, as did Tracy and Montoya.
The final 20 laps were truly a showdown between Andretti and Montoya. They drafted and exchanged the lead seven times over the last 12 laps. Franchitti spent much of this time racing for third position with Max Papis before Papis fell out with a mechanical failure. Franchitti could not close the gap as Montoya egded Andretti at the finish. Tracy finished seventh.
Andretti does however move into the championship lead with 104 points, as Roberto Moreno did not finish the race and drops to second with 90. Tracy’s seventh moves him into third overall with 80, followed by Gil de Ferran with 75 and Montoya with 74. Franchitti, meanwhile, is now 11th with 58 points.
PAUL TRACY, #26 TEAM KOOL GREEN HONDA/REYNARD/FIRESTONE:
(Started 1st / Finished 7th ; Currently 3rd in the standings with 80 points)
“We were marginal on fuel towards the end, so we decided to make an extra stop just to play it safe. I think that the strategy would have been alright if the guys in the back had just kept up with the lead pack on the re-start. But by the time the green flag fell we were half a straigthaway behind, so we were screwed. By the time I was free of the slower guys, I was three-quarters of a straight behind. You just can’t make that up.
“We were saving fuel the whole race. That’s why we dropped back on the start. We had to dial the KOOL car in some, but mainly I was just trying to save fuel and not lose touch with the leaders. In the end, we picked up some solid points and kept our momentum up going to Chicago next week.”
DARIO FRANCHITTI, #27 TEAM KOOL GREEN HONDA/REYNARD/FIRESTONE:
(Started 4th / Finished 3rd ; Currently 11th in the standings with 58 points)
“It was an interesting day out there – very exciting racing. The KOOL car became very good towards the end. It was kind of strange in the middle of the race with everybody trying to stay behind each other to do the draft and save some fuel. It was pretty boring at that point, but it really picked up over the last 10 laps. It was really exciting, but I didn’t have enough to catch up to Juan (Montoya) and Michael (Andretti). It was fun trying. “There was a lot going on out there with guys making hard contact. I actually ran over some debris a couple of times, which always concerns you. We cut three tires, but fortunately we were able to stop right away and change them.”