ELKHART LAKE, Wis. (August 20, 2000) - Paul Tracy of Team KOOL Green overcame a dismal start and avoided the attrition that afflicted the top qualifiers Sunday to record his second victory of the FedEx Championship Series season and his first on a...
ELKHART LAKE, Wis. (August 20, 2000) - Paul Tracy of Team KOOL Green overcame a dismal start and avoided the attrition that afflicted the top qualifiers Sunday to record his second victory of the FedEx Championship Series season and his first on a permanent road course since 1994 in the Motorola 220 at Road America.
Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) scored his 17th career victory, tying Danny Sullivan for seventh place in CART career history, as well as his second of the season, following an earlier triumph at Long Beach. It was his first triumph on a permanent road course since 1994 at Laguna Seca.
The win also allowed Tracy to close ground in what has become an ultra-intense points race. On a day when the top two drivers in the championship, Michael Andretti (Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Lola) and Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) went scoreless, Tracy moved from seventh to sixth in the championship with 100 points. More importantly, he closed from 45 points out of the lead entering the event to just 25 back heading into Round 15 at Vancouver in two weeks.
Through 14 rounds, the top six drivers in the championship are separated by 25 points. Andretti continues to lead with 125, followed by Roberto Moreno (Visteon Ford Reynard) of Patrick Racing with 112, de Ferran with 106, Adrian Fernandez (Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing Ford Reynard) of Patrick Racing with 103 and rookie Kenny Brack (Shell Ford Reynard) of Team Rahal with 102.
Statistics aside, Tracy's victory was especially impressive for his rebound from a terrible start precipitated when his engine inexplicably shut down on the opening lap. Once restarted, he had fallen from his seventh-place starting position to 23rd in the 25-car field, but a combination of driving skill and quick pit work enabled him to navigate his way to victory.
Tracy was running second to Moreno when he pitted for a timed fuel stop on Lap 45. He regained the lead when Moreno pitted on Lap 51, and had just enough fuel to make it to the checkered flag, running out on the cool-down lap.
From his third-place starting position, Tagliani grabbed the lead on the opening lap heading into the first turn of the 4.048-mile road course and held it until his first pit stop on Lap 16. Moreno led the following lap before defending FedEx Championship Series champion Juan Montoya (Target Toyota Lola) assumed the point for 11 laps, beginning on Lap 18.
Montoya built the lead to as much as 10 seconds before a gearbox failure ended his day after completing 30 of 55 laps. It marked the seventh time in 14 events this season that a problem had eliminated Montoya from contention for a race victory while he was running first or second.
Tagliani (7) and Moreno (2) traded the lead over the next nine laps before Tracy took over for his first stint in front from Laps 38-45. Fernandez spent Lap 46 in the lead, then Moreno took over for four laps, setting the stage for Tracy's dash to the checkered flag.
Fernandez finished second, 7.450 seconds behind Tracy. It was his third podium result of the season and first since a runner-up performance at Toronto. Brack finished third, also his third podium of the campaign and his third top-six result on a permanent road course this season.
Moreno was fourth, while Jimmy Vasser (Target Toyota Lola) of Target Chip Ganassi Racing rounded out the top five by finishing fifth.
The top four qualifiers all failed to finish a race which saw only 10 of 25 starters running at the finish. Polesitter Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard), Tracy's Team KOOL Green teammate, exited due to a mechanical failure after completing 43 laps. De Ferran (one lap), Tagliani (37) and Andretti (17), who qualified second through fourth, respectively, also fell victim to mechanical woes that led to early exits.
Despite the attrition, the race was run without a full-course caution flag, the first FedEx Championship Series event to be contested without a flag since 1997 at Laguna Seca.
PAUL TRACY, KOOL Honda Reynard: "I don't know how we were able to do that today. On the first lap, things were looking good and then I came out of Turn 2 and the thing just shut off. I'm amazed nobody hit me. The guys figured out that it was a bad throttle sensor, and I had to reset everything, which took about 30 or 40 seconds. By the time we got it figured out I was all by myself. I slid around for the first half a lap. Then Barry [Green, team owner] came on and motivated me. He said, 'Just run it like qualifying. Just go as hard as you can go for as long as you can go.' I can't explain it. I didn't get angry, didn't get frustrated, I just got into the zone. It's always satisfying to win, but today was one of the most satisfying. Wins that come when you really do it with everything stacked against you, it's that much sweeter. We've definitely got a shot at the championship. We've had a lot of bad luck and most people would have given up, but we're not ready to give up yet."
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ, Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing Ford Reynard: "At the start, I knew it was going to be interesting. I was right in the gearbox of [Alex] Tagliani and I had to go half-throttle to keep from hitting him. Then, going into Turn 3, I had Helio [Castroneves] on the outside. I think Helio went off there. Then, I went after Michael [Andretti] and when I got by him, I was up to third. Then, after that, the race was pretty good. Then I came to lap Oriol Servia when I was battling Paul. He was holding me up for a few laps and Paul got past me. I knew Kenny was coming hard and Jimmy Vasser, but I managed to extend my gap, and then we decided not to change tires on our last pit stop. I think if you finish in the top five in rest of the races you've got a good shot at the championship. There's so many things that can happen, but if you stay in the top five, good shot."
KENNY BRACK, Shell Ford Reynard: "I think we've done well. We were sixth in Portland and second in Cleveland, so I think we've done better on the road courses than the ovals this year. I almost hit Paul at the start, and then I saw the other Team KOOL Green car go off later on. I tried to give Paul a harder time towards the end, but he was strong. We did a good job going from ninth to third today. We haven't seen the upcoming courses so it's hard to say what's going to happen. I you judge by the previous courses we haven't seen, we've done pretty well. We've been very, very close, but haven't gotten to the line first yet. That's still my goal, but I think we can stay in the championship."
*Paul Tracy's (KOOL Honda Reynard) victory made him the fifth multiple winner in 19 FedEx Championship Series events at Road America. The others are Mario Andretti (1983, '84, '87), Emerson Fittipaldi ('86, '88, '92), Michael Andretti ('90, '91 and '96) and Jacques Villeneuve ('94, '95).
*Adrian Fernandez (Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing Ford Reynard) scored championship points for the 11th time in his past 12 starts with his runner-up performance. The run began with a victory at Rio de Janeiro and includes top-five finishes of second at Toronto and fifth at Nazareth and Chicago, in addition to Sunday's effort. A 21st-place finish at Detroit is his only scoreless result in that span. Sunday also marked Fernandez' third consecutive top-five result at Road America, including finishes of fifth in 1998 and third in '99.
*Michael Andretti (Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Lola) of Newman/Haas Racing moved into second place on the CART career starts list Sunday by making his 264th, tying current CART President and CEO Bobby Rahal. Al Unser Jr. tops the career starts list with 273. Paul Tracy's start Sunday was the 146th of his CART career breaking a tie with Scott Pruett and moving him into sole posession of 10th place all-time.
*Rookie Kenny Brack (Shell Ford Reynard) of Team Rahal finished third for his seventh top five finish of the season, including second at Cleveland, third at Nazareth, fourth at Milwaukee and Chicago and fifth at Japan and Mid-Ohio. He has also finished among the top-six drivers in all three permanent road course events this season, including sixth at Portland in addition to his results at Mid-Ohio at Road America.
*When Juan Montoya (Target Toyota Lola) of Target Chip Ganassi Racing suffered a mechanical failure while in the lead, it marked the seventh time this season that Montoya had been eliminated from contention while running first or second. The rundown: Homestead, engine, running first; Rio, shifter cable, running second; Motegi, pit incident, running first; Nazareth, punctured tire, running first; Detroit, CV joint, running first; Chicago, fuel leak, running second; today, shifter cable, running first.
*Memo Gidley (DIRECTV Toyota Reynard) finished sixth in his fourth start for Della Penna Motorsports, a career-best result exceeding his previous best of eighth at Rio de Janeiro this year. Gidley has scored championship points in all four starts for Della Penna with finishes of 10th at Michigan and Chicago and 12th at Mid-Ohio.
*Oriol Servia (Telefonica Toyota Reynard) finished 10th and scored championship points for the sixth time in seven road/street course starts this season. No other FedEx Championship Series driver has scored in as many road or street course events this season.
*Paul Tracy's win was the 100th for Firestone Racing in since the tire brand returned to the top forms of motorsports competition in 1995. To celebrate the 100th modern-era victory, the Bridgestone/Firestone Trust Fund will donate $10,000 to the Greg Moore Foundation, the charity designated by Tracy, who recorded the historic triumph. "It's a great win today for Firestone," said Al Speyer, Bridgestone/Firestone Motorsports Director. "We are extremely honored to celebrate our 100th victory in this, the centennial year of the Firestone brand. It's important to note that 79 of those wins came in direct competition with a world-class adversary. Our racing division and the entire company are very committed to the Firestone Racing program, and all are very proud of the success the program has achieved."
*CART Chief Steward Kirk Russell announced post race that #97 Cristiano da Matta has been excluded from the Motorola 220 for a pit safety violation. Da Matta was excluded for injuring a crew member during a routine pit stop during the event. Right rear tire changer Robby Maschhaupi sustained a knee injury as a result of the incident that occurred upon da Matta's entry into his pit on Lap 14. Maschhaupi continued in the pits but later went for evaluation at the CART Mobile Medical Facility. He is expected to go for further evaluation and a MRI on his knee. Da Matta, who had finished 13th after completing 43 of 55 laps, will be credited with only the 14 laps completed prior to the incident and his official finish will be 22nd.
*Nearly 100,000 fans packed the new Eurospeedway at Lausitz, Germany on Sunday for a Champ Car demonstration that helped to preview next year's first-ever FedEx Championship Series event to be contested in Germany. Veteran driver Bryan Herta drove a car owned by Walker Racing for several demonstration laps on the two-mile oval as part of the speedway's weekend-long grand opening celebration. "Wow, that was unbelievable," Herta said afterward. "There were just under 100,000 people here today and there was not racing at all, just demonstrations by different types of cars. We did two ceremonial laps first thing this morning, then ran eight more later in the day and to finish, we did some donuts just for fun, and the audience was on its feet and yelling the entire time. The interest from the fans is enormous, and they were so kind. It's going to be a spectacular place to race. The track is great; it's most like Rio but faster than that. It's very wide and I think passing is going to be good." The German 500 will be contested at Eurospeedway on the weekend of Sept. 13-15.
The FedEx Championship Series continues with Round 14, the Molson Indy Vancouver, Sept. 1-3 at Concord Pacific Place in Vancouver, B.C.