SERIES CHAMPION MONTOYA HEADLINES INAUGURAL CART ALL-STAR TEAM; MOORE NAMED HONORARY MEMBER CORAL GABLES, Fla. (February 8, 2000) __ Reigning FedEx Championship Series champ Juan Montoya of Target/Chip Ganassi, Team KOOL Green teammates Dario ...
SERIES CHAMPION MONTOYA HEADLINES INAUGURAL CART ALL-STAR TEAM; MOORE NAMED HONORARY MEMBER
CORAL GABLES, Fla. (February 8, 2000) __ Reigning FedEx Championship Series champ Juan Montoya of Target/Chip Ganassi, Team KOOL Green teammates Dario Franchitti and Paul Tracy, Max Papis of Team Rahal and Michael Andretti of Newman/Haas were announced Tuesday evening as the selections for the inaugural 1999 CART All-Star Team at the historic Biltmore Hotel.
Montoya, only the second rookie in history to win the series title, headlined the five-member all- star team by receiving the prestigious Mario Andretti Trophy as the leading vote-getter in balloting that was conducted at the conclusion of the season. The team was chosen by a select group of motorsports media, FedEx Championship Series drivers and the celebrity trio of Champ Car enthusiasts, actors Tim Allen and Anthony Edwards and 1999 Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Robin Yount. The voting process utilized a 10-7-5-3-1 point format.
Montoya earned 579 voting points in the balloting to collect the Mario Andretti Trophy, outdistancing runner-up Franchitti by 113 votes. The Mario Andretti Trophy, one of the most unique trophies in the world of sports, is a rare blend of bronze, marble and walnut that captures the essence of Andretti's personality and illustrious auto-racing career. The 38-inch, 95-pound trophy is the five-month creation of Elie Hazak, a renowned Western artist who specializes in bronze sculpture.
"Mario Andretti has always been one of my racing heroes. The confidence and skill he showed while driving are talents I hope to achieve in my CART career," Montoya said. "I am overwhelmed by this award and I hope that I can honor Mario by developing into the type of champion he was in racing."
Driving the Target Honda Reynard, the Colombian turned in a captivating rookie season in which he became the youngest champion in FedEx Championship Series history at 24 years, 4 months and 1 day. He led the series in wins (7), poles (7) and laps led (954) en route to establishing rookie records for victories and laps led while equaling the mark for pole positions.
Despite his dominance, he was unable to shake Franchitti in the most thrilling championship in the series' 21-year history. The FedEx Championship Series title race concluded in a tie for the first time in series history following the season finale at California Speedway. Montoya was crowned champion based on the first tiebreaker (wins/best finish), finishing with seven victories to three for Franchitti.
"It is an honor to be selected for the CART All-Star Team. The creation of this team is a great way to showcase the diversity and talent of the CART drivers," Montoya said. "We have made some changes for 2000, but I know that all of Team Target will rise to the challenge. I hope that I represent Team Target well this year by bringing home a fifth consecutive championship and another Mario Andretti Trophy as part of the CART All-Star Team."
Franchitti, a 26-year-old Scotsman who completed his third season, was second in the balloting with 466 voting points. Driving the KOOL Honda Reynard, he staged a dramatic bid for the title that was fueled by a series-best 11 podium performances in 20 starts, including three victories. His wins came at Toronto, Detroit and Australia, making him one of four drivers to capture multiple victories last season.
Franchitti also was one of three drivers to earn multiple pole positions, taking the top qualifying spot at Mid-Ohio and Australia. He was one of three drivers to lead the championship at any point during the season, leading on three occasions.
"Now I can say I am part of two great teams – Team KOOL Green and the CART All-Star Team. Just as it is a pleasure to work with [team owner] Barry Green and everyone at Team KOOL Green, it's a pleasure to race with guys like Juan, Max, Michael and my teammate, Paul Tracy," Franchitti said. "It's an honor to be chosen to join them on CART's very first All-Star Team. The All-Star Team is a terrific way to spotlight some of CART's leading drivers and I'm sure in the years to come earning a spot on the CART All-Star Team will be one of the highlights of any driver's career. I know it is already a highlight of mine."
The other half of the Team KOOL Green dynamic duo was the 31-year-old Canadian veteran, Tracy. Tracy, who completed his ninth season in 1999, finished third in the balloting with 281 voting points. He finished third in the championship, matching a career best he established in 1993 and equaled in '94, on the strength of a pair of victories and five other podium efforts in 19 starts.
His season included a stretch of eight consecutive points-paying performances, which was highlighted by four straight podium appearances in the run. Driving the KOOL Honda Reynard, he joined Montoya, Franchitti and Adrian Fernandez as the only multiple victors in the season.
"Like any race-car driver, I love being first so being selected as a member of CART's inaugural All-Star Team is pretty neat. And it's a lot better way to start the season than last year," said Tracy, making light of his one-race suspension that came in the 1999 season opener at Homestead. "Seriously, when you take a look at the CART All-Star Team lineup and start adding up the accomplishments of guys like Juan, Dario, Max and Michael, it's pretty impressive. Personally, I intend to add a few more race wins to the record this year."
Papis, a 30-year-old Italian who completed his fourth Champ Car season, was fourth in the balloting with 212 points after making quite an impression in his inaugural season for Team Rahal. Powered by 11 top-five finishes in 20 starts, he finished a career-best fifth in the series championship.
He was keyed by a strong second half, winning his first career pole at Chicago and notching podium finishes in three of the final four events. He established his career-best finish with a runner-up effort at Australia and matched it in the season finale at California Speedway. He was denied his first career victory at Michigan when his dominant Miller Lite Ford Reynard was leading but ran out of fuel two turns from the checkered flag. Papis also led the series in laps and miles completed and finished second to Montoya in laps led, with 328.
"It's a honor for me to be part of the inaugural CART All- Star Team, but at the same time I feel that it's a responsibility to carry the good name of our series," Papis said. "I hope that this new program will help to create a greater familiarity with us and with our sport. We all are drivers but before that we're human beings with different personalities. I believe I'm the only All Star driver who has no victories in the FedEx Championship Series, but I will try to make this up as soon as possible."
Andretti, the 16-year veteran superstar from Nazareth, Pa., was the fifth selection of the inaugural CART All-Star Team with 168 points in the balloting. Andretti, 37, finished fourth in the championship, marking the 15th consecutive season he has finished among the top 10 in the title race.
He added to his CART record for career victories with his 38th at Gateway, earned four additional podium finishes and scored points in 14 of his 20 starts. He also notched his 32nd career pole at Road America and finished fourth in the series in laps led with 237. His win at Gateway allowed him to tie Rick Mears' CART record of 12 seasons with at least one victory.
"It's an honor to be a charter member of the CART All-Star Team," Andretti said. "The competition has grown so much over the years and it is an honor to be surrounded by all of the young talent in this series and on the All-Star Team. I have many goals that I would like to reach before I retire and being awarded the Mario Andretti Trophy will now be another one of those goals. I feel like I am as competitive as ever and know that the goal is attainable. My congratulations go out to Juan on being the inaugural winner of this award."
Following the recognition of the five CART All-Star selections, CART President and Chief Executive Officer Andrew Craig announced that Greg Moore, fatally injured at the season finale, was added to the inaugural CART All-Star Team as a honorary member.
"I am extremely honored to have Greg join alongside us in spirit as part of the inaugural CART All-Star Team," Franchitti said. "His memory will always remain in our hearts and all of us will carry on his spirit."
Moore, a 24-year-old Canadian who became the youngest race winner in CART history in 1997, won the 1999 season opener at Homestead, added two other podiums and finished 10th in the championship. He also joined Montoya and Franchitti as the only drivers to lead last season's championship, pacing the field through the first three rounds of the season.
Craig presented Player's Forsythe Racing Vice President of Operations Neil Micklewright with a framed tribute of Moore that included several photographs of him on and off the track and the certificate of his honorary status on the team. A special video tribute to Moore was shown and it included the music that was chosen for his memorial service, "Courage" by The Tragically Hip.
"While it is sad to have to honor Greg posthumously, it is absolutely appropriate to recognize him in this way," Craig said. "He was a true CART All Star and will always be remembered as such."
Moore's No. 99 is scheduled to be officially retired at the season-opening Marlboro Grand Prix of Miami Presented by Toyota set for March 26 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.