DE FERRAN'S FUEL GAMBLE PAYS OFF WITH VICTORY AT BUDWEISER/G.I. JOE'S 200 PRESENTED BY TEXACO/HAVOLINE PORTLAND, Ore. (June 20, 1999) - Walker Racing's Gil de Ferran utilized a high-rolling, pit-stop strategy...
DE FERRAN'S FUEL GAMBLE PAYS OFF WITH VICTORY AT BUDWEISER/G.I. JOE'S 200 PRESENTED BY TEXACO/HAVOLINE
PORTLAND, Ore. (June 20, 1999) - Walker Racing's Gil de Ferran utilized a high-rolling, pit-stop strategy Sunday at Portland International Raceway and had the gamble pay off in long odds as he captured the Budweiser/G.I. Joe's 200 Presented by Texaco/Havoline for his first win since 1996. While de Ferran's chief competitors Juan Montoya and Dario Franchitti were playing the fuel conservation game to complete the 98-lap event in two pit stops, team owner Derrick Walker opted for de Ferran to utilize all the horsepower of his Valvoline/Cummins Special Honda Reynard. The theory behind the fuel-guzzling move would be that de Ferran could build an insurmountable lead and a late third pit stop for a splash of fuel while the other competitors remained out would not foil the victory plans. The strategy worked to perfection as de Ferran bolted to a commanding 29.024-second cushion over Montoya, the FedEx Championship Series points leader who was situated in second, with nine laps remaining and then headed to the pits for fuel. The Walker Racing pit crew performed solidly and de Ferran exited the pits with an 11.656-second advantage over Montoya. He then rolled to a 4.393-second win for his third career triumph and first since Cleveland in 1996, a span of 49 races between victories. De Ferran, who averaged a race record 107.457 miles per hour, led the final 39 laps of a race-high 43 en route to the first win for Walker Racing since Robby Gordon won at Detroit in 1995. It also was the first victory for Goodyear tires since Michael Andretti won the 1998 season opener at Homestead. De Ferran led a Honda charge in which the engine manufacturer swept the top three finishing positions - matching its first podium sweep in its history established at Houston last year - and four of the top five. Montoya (Target Reynard Honda) notched his fourth podium effort of the season and seventh points-paying finish in eight starts with the runner-up performance. The finish also allowed him to maintain the FedEx Championship points lead he gained following his victory at Nazareth in Round 4. Montoya entered Sunday's Round 8 event with a two-point lead and exited with a five-point advantage, 90-85, over Franchitti. Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard) kept Montoya within his sights by capturing the final podium spot. The third-place finish was his fifth podium and seventh top-eight effort in eight events. Adrian Fernandez (Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing Ford Reynard) thwarted Honda's drive for a top-five sweep with a fourth-place effort. Team KOOL Green had a strong overall outing, coupling Franchitti's third place with a fifth-place effort by Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard). Following Montoya (90) and Franchitti (85) in the FedEx Championship Series points race are de Ferran with 71, Greg Moore (Player's Forsythe Racing Mercedes Reynard) with 69 and Fernandez with 65.
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING
GIL de FERRAN, Valvoline/Cummins Special Honda Reynard: "It was obviously a very good day. It was a bit messy at the start. I had Bryan [Herta] on my left side going into the festival curves and I battled him through there and was able to come out in third, but we lost a lot of time to Juan and Helio. After that, we had a couple of yellows [caution flags] that bunched us up, and the Valvoline/Cummins team did a fantastic job in the pits, especially on the stop where I came in second and came out first in front of Juan. Once I was up to speed, [team owner] Derrick [Walker] kept telling me to save fuel, and obviously I wasn't doing a good enough job of that, so he said 'Let's go to position eight' [the highest fuel setting] and go for a gap. After that, I just concentrated on driving every lap as hard as I could. When we came in for the splash and go, I was worried: 'Is it gonna work? ... Is it not gonna work?' But we came in and got out with about an eight-second lead, and I was able to hold it the rest of the way."
JUAN MONTOYA, Target Honda Reynard: "[On his spin] The car was very slippery on cold tires. I was just too slow. I put the car in third gear and there was no response and it just came around. [On his fuel strategy] Last time [when he ran out of fuel while challenging for the lead in Japan], we played it the other way around and it didn't work, so we tried going a different way today. But it was tough to hear every time you went by 'You must save more fuel ... You must save more fuel,' when I was already running half-throttle on the straights."
DARIO FRANCHITTI, KOOL Honda Reynard: "During the first two stints of the race, I was driving as hard as I could, trying to pick up as many places as I could. During the last leg, I was trying to save fuel, and so was Juan [Montoya]. We would both run hard for awhile, then we would both back off for awhile. Finally, I was hoping to catch him unawares and turn it up and blow by him, but he saw me coming at the last minute and I wasn't able to get by him. I'm happy to finish where I did considering where we qualified. Third place after starting 12th is good. It certainly helps us in the points, so we'll go to Cleveland next week and go at it again."
* When Juan Montoya (Target Honda Reynard) took the lead on Lap 31, it marked the sixth consecutive FedEx Championship Series event in which he had led at least a lap, dating to his victory at Long Beach in April.
* Four of Sunday's top-five finishers were powered by Honda, including de Ferran, Montoya, Franchitti and fifth-place Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard). Honda's podium sweep was the second in its five-year Champ Car racing history, following a podium sweep by Franchitti, Alex Zanardi and Tony Kanaan, respectively, at Houston last year.
* De Ferran, Montoya and Helio Castro-Neves (Hogan Motor Leasing, Inc. Mercedes Reynard) are the only FedEx Championship Series drivers to have led laps during oval and road course events this season. * Six countries were represented among top six finishers of Sunday's race. The roster included de Ferran of Brazil, Montoya of Colombia, Franchitti of Scotland, fourth-place Adrian Fernandez (Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing Ford Reynard) of Mexico, Tracy of Canada.and sixth-place Bryan Herta (Shell Ford Reynard) of the United States.
* Roberto Moreno (Motorola PacWest Mercedes) finished seventh, his fourth consecutive finish with PPG Cup points since being tabbed as a replacement driver for the injured Mark Blundell, who continues to recuperate from a fractured cervical vertebra sustained in a testing accident last month at Gateway International Raceway. Moreno previously finished 11th at Rio de Janeiro, fourth at Gateway, and 12th at Milwaukee.
* De Ferran's victory moved Brazil into the lead in the Nation's Cup competition with 116 points. The United States stands second with 103 points, followed by Canada with 99. Honda extended its lead in the Manufacturer's Championship to 154-125 over Ford Cosworth, while Reynard holds a commanding 167-105 lead over Swift in the Constructor's Championship.
* Christian Fittipaldi (Big Kmart Ford Swift) finished 14th to see his streak of scoring performances end at nine, dating to last year's third-place effort at Australia. However, he remains the only FedEx Championship Series driver to complete every lap (1,328) and mile (1,830.733) of competition this season.
* Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) finished fifth in the 120th start of his FedEx Championship Series career, tying him with Roberto Guerrero for 13th on all-time CART list. Tom Sneva stands 12th, with 129 career starts.
WHAT'S ON TAP
The Budweiser/G.I. Joe's 200 Presented by Texaco/Havoline will receive an encore performance 1 p.m. ET Tuesday on ESPN.
The FedEx Championship Series continues with the Medic Drug Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by Firstar next Sunday, June 27 at Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland.