ROOKIE POINTS LEADER MONTOYA DOMINANT CHOICE OF FIVE-MEMBER CART MIDSEASON ALL-STAR TEAM DETROIT (July 24,1999) - Rookie FedEx Championship Series points leader Juan Montoya of Target/Chip Ganassi Racing is the early prime candidate for the ...
ROOKIE POINTS LEADER MONTOYA DOMINANT CHOICE OF FIVE-MEMBER CART MIDSEASON ALL-STAR TEAM
DETROIT (July 24,1999) - Rookie FedEx Championship Series points leader Juan Montoya of Target/Chip Ganassi Racing is the early prime candidate for the inaugural Mario Andretti Trophy as the dominant choice among the national voting committee for the CART Midseason All-Star Team announced today.
Montoya, a 23-year-old Colombian who has a FedEx Championship Series-leading four wins and four poles, collected 389 points as he more than doubled the next highest vote-getter on the CART Midseason All-Star Team.
The voters awarded 10 points to their top selection, seven for second, five for third, three for fourth and one for fifth. The voting was conducted by a committee comprised of a select panel of motorsports media, FedEx Championship Series drivers and the celebrity trio consisting of actors Tim Allen and Anthony Edwards, and 1999 Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Robin Yount.
Montoya will look to retain his all-star position in the second half of the 20-race FedEx Championship Series season and pace the official postseason balloting for the inaugural 1999 CART All-Star Team. The Champ Car driver who earns the most points on the ballots will be awarded the Mario Andretti Trophy, the showcase award for the CART All-Star Team. The trophy is a tribute to one of auto racing's legends, Mario Andretti, and renowned Western artist Elie Hasak has been commissioned to create the trophy. The four other team members will receive Hasak-made trophies as well and the group will be recognized in a post-season ceremony.
"When I joined the Target team, I knew we would have a good year but this has been unbelievable," Montoya said. "I always want to keep pushing, be at the front and win races, but I never expected to be in the position that I'm in. Now we are fighting for points and maybe a championship. I'm a little surprised at all of the attention. Honestly, it takes a lot of getting used to. But winning awards means we are doing well as a team and that makes me happy. Drivers like Mario are the reason we are here, so it feels good to be in position to get this award. I'd like to thank everybody involved for putting me in a position to win."
Five different teams, four countries and three different engine manufacturers are represented among the five drivers selected to the midseason squad that possesses a mix of youth and experience. Montoya (Target Honda Reynard) is joined on the midseason team by Gil de Ferran (Valvoline/Cummins Special Honda Reynard) of Walker Racing; Michael Andretti (Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Swift) of Newman/Haas Racing; Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard) of Team KOOL Green; and Helio Castro-Neves (Hogan Racing Mercedes Lola) of Hogan Racing.
Montoya was the overwhelming choice among balloters with 389 points. He has been situated atop the FedEx Championship Series points race since Round 4 at Nazareth. He is the series leader in three key categories - victories, poles and laps led. He has four victories - Long Beach, Nazareth, Rio and Cleveland - and is currently the only driver in the series with multiple wins. His series-high four poles have come at Nazareth, Gateway, Portland and Cleveland. He has led 610 laps, which is 455 more than his nearest competitor and already has tied the CART rookie record established by Alex Zanardi in 1996.
De Ferran, a 31-year-old Brazilian in his fifth season, was second in the balloting with 190 points. He is currently fifth in the championship (88 points) on the strength of a victory at Portland and podium finishes at Japan (2nd), Milwaukee (3rd) and Cleveland (2nd). He also is second in the series with two pole positions (Japan, Toronto).
Andretti, a 36-year-old American in his 16th season, is third with 186 points. He is currently fourth in the championship with 95 points. Andretti's season has been highlighted by a victory at Gateway, podium efforts at Homestead (2nd), Cleveland (3rd) and Road America (2nd), and a pole position at Road America. He ranks fifth in laps led with 110.
Franchitti, a 26-year-old Scotsman in his third season, is fourth with 91. He vaulted to second in the championship - just seven points behind Montoya with 106 - on the strength of his dominating victory at Toronto in which he led all 95 laps. In addition to his win, he has five other podium performances. He finished second at Long Beach and Rio, and third at Homestead, Gateway and Portland. He also ranks fourth in laps led at 119.
Castro-Neves, a 24-year-old Brazilian in his second season, is the surprise choice of the group, securing the fifth and final position with 71 points. He is currently 16th in the championship with 21 points but has been hampered by a rash of bad luck and mechanical difficulties. He has been able to produce a season-best runner-up finish at Gateway and a pole at Milwaukee, but the telling statistic of his success is laps led. Despite the troubles, he ranks fourth in the series with 126 laps led.
The second five in voting were Christian Fittipaldi of Newman/Haas Racing (45 points); Adrian Fernandez of Patrick Racing (29); Paul Tracy of Team KOOL Green (24); rookie Cristiano da Matta of Arciero-Wells Racing (23) and Roberto Moreno of PacWest Racing (23).