TORONTO (July 18, 1999) - Dario Franchitti keyed an outstanding day for Team KOOL Green Sunday by becoming the eighth different winner in 11 FedEx Championship Series events this season with a dominating triumph at the Molson Indy...
TORONTO (July 18, 1999) - Dario Franchitti keyed an outstanding day for Team KOOL Green Sunday by becoming the eighth different winner in 11 FedEx Championship Series events this season with a dominating triumph at the Molson Indy before 72,500 appreciative fans. Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard), a consistent points producer but winless through the first 10 events of the FedEx Championship Series campaign, scored his first victory of the season when he finished 2.624 seconds ahead of Team KOOL Green teammate Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard). Christian Fittipaldi (Big Kmart Ford Swift), who earned his first career FedEx Championship Series victory at Road America last week, finished third. Franchitti averaged 85.897 miles per hour while leading all 95 laps. He became the first driver to lead every lap of a FedEx Championship Series event since his victory at Houston last year. The 21 PPG Cup points Franchitti collected for the victory allowed him to close to seven points (113-106) of rookie Juan Montoya (Target Honda Reynard) for the championship lead. Montoya finished 22nd due to contact, the second consecutive event in which he has gone scoreless. Franchitti took the lead from pole-sitter Gil de Ferran (Valvoline/Cummins Special Honda Reynard) heading into Turn 3 of the opening lap and was never relinquished the lead on the 1.755-mile temporary street course at Toronto's Exhibition Place. The victory was the fourth of his career and keyed the first one-two finish in Team KOOL Green history. Tracy completed the one-two effort with his runner-up finish from the sixth starting position. The performance represented his best finish on a road or street circuit since finishing second at Laguna Seca in 1995 as well as his best on a street course since winning at Australia earlier that year. Fittipaldi's third-place performance, coupled with last week's victory, brought him consecutive podium finishes for the first time since 1996 when he finished second at Detroit and third at Portland, respectively. Sunday's effort moved him to third in the championship with 96 points, one ahead of Newman/Haas Racing teammate Michael Andretti, who finished 26th due to contact and stands fourth with 95 points. Roberto Moreno (Motorola PacWest Mercedes), continuing his strong effort as a substitute for Mark Blundell, finished fourth to match his season best established at Gateway. Max Papis (Miller Lite Ford Reynard) finished fifth, the fourth time he has done so this season, and second in a row following an identical effort at Road America. Veteran Al Unser Jr. (Marlboro Mercedes Lola) put together an outstanding drive on a day when he established a new CART record for career starts. Unser Jr., whose 265th career start broke the record previously held by Team Rahal owner Bobby Rahal, drove from his 25th starting position to a ninth-place finish, his third consecutive top-10 effort.
DARIO FRANCHITTI, KOOL Honda Reynard: "It's about time I finished a race here. I've made it difficult on myself the past couple of years, and this is a great way to do it for Team KOOL Green. [On the start] I got bumped by somebody, Christian [Fittipaldi] thinks it was him, and that was pretty much the most eventful part of the day. I got past Gil [de Ferran] going into Turn 3 and got on with it the best I could. My radio stopped working on the last stop and [Technical Director] Don [Halliday] and [General Manager] Kim [Green] kept getting quieter and quieter, which quite frankly, is my idea of heaven. I just got on with putting my head down and getting away. The crowd's been great here the last couple of years. I think they were giving me the sympathy vote today. So it was a good win from that standpoint, too."
PAUL TRACY, KOOL Honda Reynard: "It was a great day for our team. I'm very happy for Dario and the job that his guys did. My race was a fight the whole day. I got a great job from my guys on the last stop, and that got me out of the pits ahead of Christian. I got by Patrick [Carpentier] right away, which was important because we knew he was having some problems. I knew that Dario had a good car and that barring any problem it was going to be his day, so we brought it home second and I'm happy with that. What we need is consistency in the championship."
CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI, Big Kmart Ford Swift: "No doubt, I'm happy to finish third, but above all, I'm happy for the points in the championship. This really puts us up there. Obviously, we want to keep the series tight. We have to keep piling those points up and I think we'll be there at the end of the season. Dario was very, very strong all weekend, He had a great setup and Team KOOL Green did the right job. [On this year's success] There are some years when things don't happen your way. If you ask me, am I driving any different? No. If you ask me, am I more confident? Yes, I am more confident after this many years in the series. It's just that this year, we're putting together finishes that we didn't in the past."
* Marlboro Team Penske driver Al Unser Jr. (Marlboro Mercedes Lola), an 18-year veteran of the FedEx Championship Series, added another record to his illustrious career Sunday when he took the green flag for the Molson Indy. Unser Jr. made his CART-record 265th career start, breaking a tie with another Champ Car superstar, Bobby Rahal. Rahal presented Unser Jr. with a green flag that carried historical significance for both drivers. The green flag was actually used in all FedEx Championship Series races from 1993 through 1998. Unser Jr. made 100 starts under that green flag and went on to 13 of his 31 career victories. Those victories came at Vancouver in 1993; Long Beach, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Portland, Cleveland, Mid-Ohio, New Hampshire and Vancouver in 1994; and Long Beach, Portland, Mid-Ohio and Vancouver in 1995. The green flag was last waved at last year's season-ending Marlboro 500, the final race of Rahal's stellar career.
* Dario Franchitti's victory was the fourth of his FedEx Championship Series career. All four have come on road or street courses, and the past three on temporary street circuits, including wins at Houston and Vancouver last year.
* For the third time this decade, a FedEx Championship Series driver led every lap en route to victory at Toronto. Franchitti led all 95 laps while winning Sunday while Michael Andretti led all 103 laps en route to victories in 1991 and '92.
* Adrian Fernandez (Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing Ford Reynard) made the 100th start of his CART career Sunday and joined Unser in an outstanding drive, starting 23rd and finishing sixth. The effort moved him from seventh to sixth in the championship, with 87 points.
* Christian Fittipaldi's (Big Kmart Ford Swift) third-place finish extended Brazil's points lead over the four-time defending champion United States to 167-140 in the Nation's Cup competition. Canada, buoyed by Paul Tracy's (KOOL Honda Reynard) runner-up finish, stands third with 139 points.
* Franchitti's victory was the 10th consecutive FedEx Championship Series victory for Honda on a temporary street circuit, dating to the start of last season. The wins have been scored by Alex Zanardi at Long Beach, Detroit, Cleveland, Toronto and Australia last year; Franchitti at Vancouver and Houston last year and Toronto this year, and Juan Montoya (Target Honda Reynard) at Long Beach and Cleveland this year. Honda holds a 207-174 lead over Ford Cosworth in the Manufacturer's Championship.
* Christian Fittipaldi's (Big Kmart Ford Swift) third-place finish marked the fifth consecutive time he had finished on the podium in a different country. The streak began with a third-place showing at Australia last year, followed by thirds at Japan and Brazil this year and last week's victory at Road America.
* The one-two finish by Franchitti and Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) marked the second consecutive one-two finish by teammates in a FedEx Championship Series event. Fittipaldi and Andretti finished first and second, respectively, at Road America last week.
* Roberto Moreno (Motorola PacWest Mercedes) finished fourth after starting 17th. While the effort tied a season best established at Gateway, it marked Moreno's career-best finish on a road or street circuit, eclipsing his fifth at Miami in his rookie year of 1985. The effort also marked the fifth time Moreno had scored PPG Cup points in six starts since stepping in for Mark Blundell, who continues to recover from a small fracture of the cervical vertebra sustained in a May 4 testing accident at Gateway.
The FedEx Championship Series continues with its third event in as many weeks, the Marlboro 500 Presented by Toyota, Sunday, July 25, at Michigan Speedway in Brooklyn, Mich.