LEXINGTON, Ohio (August 12, 2001) - Helio Castroneves of Marlboro Team Penske climbed the trackside fencing in his customary victory celebration, and made an even bigger climb back into the thick of the FedEx Championship Series championship hunt...
LEXINGTON, Ohio (August 12, 2001) - Helio Castroneves of Marlboro Team Penske climbed the trackside fencing in his customary victory celebration, and made an even bigger climb back into the thick of the FedEx Championship Series championship hunt Sunday when he captured the Miller Lite 200 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard), the reigning Indianapolis 500 champion, successfully defended his 2000 title at Mid-Ohio while claiming his third victory of the season, tying Kenny Brack of Team Rahal for series-high honors. More importantly, the 21 points he collected for the victory (20 points) and leading a race-high 44 laps (1) pulled Castroneves within a single point of Brack (104-103) in the battle for the coveted Vanderbilt Cup and the $1 million bonus that accompanies the series championship.
Brack (Shell Ford Lola), who held a 104-82 lead over Castroneves entering the weekend, finished 20th and scoreless Sunday, seeing his hopes of a points-paying result vanish in contact with teammate Max Papis (Miller Lite Ford Lola) on the - of - laps. Brack was able to continue after an off-course excursion, but finished three laps down and scoreless for the third time in his past four events.
Castroneves, meanwhile, keyed a repeat of last year's performance by Marlboro Team Penske at Mid-Ohio, when he won from the outside pole and pole-winner Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) finished second. Castroneves averaged 107.180 miles per hour and finished 1.568 seconds ahead of his teammate en route to the victory.
De Ferran's runner-up effort had a substantial impact on his championship status as well, moving him from fifth to third in the title race with 89 points. The defending FedEx Championship Series champion and winner of the 2000 Mario Andretti Award, de Ferran recorded his fourth podium finish of the season and his second in row, following third at Chicago.
Third-place went to Patrick Carpentier (Player's/Indeck Ford Reynard) of Player's Forsythe Racing, whose third consecutive podium finish was unprecedented in his five-year FedEx Championship Series career. The run, which includes Carpentier's first career FedEx Championship Series victory at Michigan, has moved Carpentier from 21st to eighth in the FedEx Championship Series championship, with - points.
De Ferran led the first 28 laps from the pole before Castroneves took over for a 26-lap stint on the lead (Laps 29-54) following the first round of pit stops. When the caution flag came out on Lap 51for a single-car incident involving Adrian Fernandez (Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Honda Reynard) of Fernandez Racing, all of the leaders made their final pit stops save for Oriol Servia (Sigma Autosport Ford Lola), who stayed on track and led the subsequent 11 laps (Laps 55-65).
Castroneves, running second, inherited the lead when Servia made his final pit stop on Lap 66, and maintained it for the balance of the 83-lap event. The victory was his third of the campaign, his earlier triumphs having come from the pole at Long Beach and Detroit.
Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) of Team KOOL Green finished fourth for his best result since third at Nazareth in Round 4. Tony Kanaan (Hollywood Honda Reynard) finished fifth, his third scoring performance in four events and his best result overall since third at Japan.
The Miller Lite 200 was Round 13 of 21 in the 2001 FedEx Championship Series. The series visits seven countries and four continents during the season and climaxes with the season-ending Marlboro 500 Presented by Toyota on Sunday, Nov. 4 at California Speedway in Fontana, Calif. Thanks to a partnership between Marlboro, Toyota, CART and California Speedway, the winner of the season finale will collect $1 million, one of the richest paydays in all of motorsports. Christian Fittipaldi (Kmart Toyota Lola) of Newman/Haas Racing is the defending event champion. An additional $1 million, as well as the prestigious Vanderbilt Cup, will be awarded to the driver who wins the FedEx Championship Series championship.
* Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard) earned the sixth victory of his FedEx Championship Series career Sunday, all of which have come on road or street circuits. He has posted back-to-back victories at Detroit and Mid-Ohio in 2000 and 2001, in addition to wins at Laguna Seca last year and Long Beach this year.
* Helio Castroneves' victory was the fifth of the season for Honda, a series high, and its fifth win at Mid-Ohio in the past six events, dating to 1996. Honda's other victories this season have come from Castroneves at Long Beach and Detroit, Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard) at Cleveland and Michael Andretti (Motorola Honda Reynard) in Toronto. Honda's run of success at Mid-Ohio includes victories by Alex Zanardi (1996, '97), Juan Montoya (1999) and Castroneves (2000, 2001). Castroneves' victory Sunday extended Honda's lead in the CART Manufacturer's Championship to 212-185 over Ford Cosworth.
* Helio Castroneves became the sixth driver to win back-to-back FedEx Championship Series events at Mid-Ohio, joining Bobby Rahal (1985, '86), Michael Andretti (1990, '91), Emerson Fittipaldi (1992, '93), Al Unser Jr. (1994, '95) and Alex Zanardi (1996, '97). Fittipaldi, who also won in 1988, leads all Champ Car drivers at Mid-Ohio with three victories.
* Marlboro Team Penske drivers led 72 of 83 laps Sunday, giving them a combined 155 of a possible 166 laps led in the past two FedEx Championship Series events at Mid-Ohio. Helio Castroneves led a race-high 44 laps Sunday, while Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) led the first 28 from the pole. De Ferran also led 28 laps from the pole last year, while Castroneves led the remaining 55 en route to the checkered flag. Castroneves improved his laps-led total for the season to 365, including a series-high 213 on road or street courses.
* Thanks to Gil de Ferran's (Marlboro Honda Reynard) runner-up finish Sunday, Marlboro Team Penske has finished one-two in three of the past six FedEx Championship Series events contested on permanent road courses, dating to last year at Mid-Ohio, where Helio Castroneves and de Ferran finished first and second, respectively. They also finished first and second, respectively, at Laguna Seca last year.
* Patrick Carpentier (Player's/Indeck Ford Reynard) recorded his third consecutive podium finish Sunday, tying a Forsythe Racing team record established by Jacques Villeneuve in 1995 and equaled by the late Greg Moore in 1998. Carpentier's streak began with his first career FedEx Championship Series victory at Michigan last month, followed by a runner-up finish at Chicago. Player's Forsythe Racing owns an active streak of four consecutive podium finishes, including a career-best runner-up effort for Alex Tagliani (Player's/Indeck Ford Reynard) at Toronto.
* Oriol Servia (Sigma Autosport Ford Lola) of Sigma Autosport led Laps 55-65 Sunday, marking the first time in his two-year career he had led laps on a road or street course. The 11 laps led also established a career-high for Servia, whose only previous stints on the lead came for two laps each at Michigan in 2000 and 2001.
* Helio Castroneves' victory was the 45th CART race win for a graduate of the Dayton Indy Lights championship since Paul Tracy claimed the first at Long Beach in 1993. The victory, the sixth of Castroneves' career, moved hi into third place on the list of Indy Lights grads with the most Champ Car wins, trailing Tracy (18) and Adrian Fernandez (7). The victory was the fifth of the season for a Lights graduate, following wins by Castroneves at Long Beach and Detroit, Cristiano da Matta (Texaco/Havoline/Kmart Toyota Lola) at Mexico and rookie Scott Dixon (Powerware Panasonic PacWest Toyota) at Nazareth.
* Alex Tagliani of Player's Forsythe Racing finished seventh Sunday, giving him a streak of six consecutive points-paying results, dating to a 12th-place finish at Milwaukee. The scoring streak is the longest active skein in the FedEx Championship Series and includes finishes of ninth at Cleveland, a career-best second at Toronto, sixth at Michigan and sixth at Chicago. He stands 15th in the FedEx Championship Series, with 44 points.
* Patrick Racing and Dorricott Racing announced Sunday morning that Townsend Bell, who went on to win Sunday's Dayton Indy Lights Championship event at Mid-Ohio, would conduct a Champ Car test for the Patrick Team at Mid-Ohio on Monday. Bell, who leads the 2001 Dayton Indy Lights championship, owns six career victories in two years of Indy Lights competition. The test will be overseen by Patrick Racing General Manager Jim McGee, and 1996 FedEx Championship Series champion Jimmy Vasser, who drives for Patrick's FedEx Championship Series team, will be on hand to advise Bell. "Townsend is a talented, up-and-coming young driver," said Patrick Racing owner Pat Patrick. "He has earned this test with our team and we are pleased to be able to provide him with the opportunity. Patrick Racing is very happy with our current driver lineup featuring Roberto Moreno and Jimmy Vasser, but we are always on the lookout for new talent. This is not the first time we have tested a young driver, nor will it be the last."
The FedEx Championship Series continues with Round 14, the Motorola 220, next weekend, Aug. 17-19 at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis.