CHAMPCAR/CART: Roberto Moreno leads field to Cleveland

DETROIT (June 28, 2000) - With seven different race winners in its first eight events, the FedEx Championship Series has been unpredictable during the 2000 season. As the series heads to the shores of Lake Erie this weekend for Round 9, the ...

DETROIT (June 28, 2000) - With seven different race winners in its first eight events, the FedEx Championship Series has been unpredictable during the 2000 season. As the series heads to the shores of Lake Erie this weekend for Round 9, the Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by Firstar (1 p.m. ET, live, ABC-TV) it does so with a seven-year veteran who is not even among this season's winners yet leading the championship for the first time in his career.

That distinction belongs to Roberto Moreno of Patrick Racing, who brings a one-point lead, 68-67, in the championship over Gil de Ferran of Marlboro Team Penske, the season's only two-time winner to date. Moreno (Visteon Ford Reynard) has parlayed a consistent finishing record, highlighted by a runner-up effort last week at Portland, matching a career best, into the points lead. Moreno, who is still seeking his first career FedEx Championship Series victory, owns six top-10 finishes in his first eight starts, with additional podium results of second at Homestead and third at Japan.

"It's a reward, really," said Moreno, in his first year at Patrick Racing. "We put in a lot of hard work. We've been chasing and knocking on the door. We worked very, very hard, and I never expected myself to be on the podium a couple of times before the sixth or seventh race. I feel very, very good about it because I did develop a great relationship with the team. So I feel now we can fight on equal terms [with other drivers]."

And what a fight it is shaping up to be. De Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) has parlayed victories in two of the past four events (Nazareth and Portland) into second place in the points race while Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) of Team KOOL Green, the season's early leader, stands third with 59 points.

Interestingly, Moreno's three closest pursuers in the championship battle are all former winners at the 2.106-mile temporary circuit laid out on the runways of Cleveland's Burke Lakefront Airport. De Ferran drove to victory in 1996, Tracy in 1993 and fourth-place Michael Andretti (Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Lola) in 1991. Andretti, of Newman/Haas Racing, arrives in Cleveland with 56 championship points, two ahead of Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver Jimmy Vasser (Target Toyota Lola), who stands fifth in the championship with 54.

Moreno's top finish in three career appearances at Cleveland came last year when he took eighth while substituting for the injured Mark Blundell with the PacWest Racing Group. He led three laps of that event and is the only driver to have led at least one lap in all three of this season's road or street course events to date.

Defending FedEx Championship Series and reigning Indianapolis 500 champion Juan Montoya (Target Toyota Lola) of Target Chip Ganassi Racing joins de Ferran, Tracy and Andretti on the roster of previous Cleveland winners in this weekend's field. He drove to victory from the pole in unpredictable weather conditions last year, leading a race-high 76 of the 90 laps.

This year, for the first time in FedEx Championship Series history, all cars ride on Firestone Firehawks, the Official Tire of CART.

The Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by Firstar concludes a stretch of three consecutive weekends of FedEx Championship Series competition. The series takes a weekend off before continuing with Round 10, the Molson Indy, June 14-16 at Exhibition Place in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Roberto Moreno (Visteon Ford Reynard) of Patrick Racing has taken the FedEx Championship Series points lead for the first time in his seven-year career by recording top-10 finishes in six of eight starts to date. En route to a series-leading 68 points, Moreno has recorded runner-up efforts at Homestead and Portland, matching the season-best he established at Laguna Seca last season, and a third-place finish at Japan. He is the only FedEx Championship Series driver to have led at least one lap in each of the three road or street course events to date - 10 at Long Beach, 1 at Detroit and 4 at Portland.

Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske has won two of the past four FedEx Championship Series events (Nazareth and Portland) and has moved into second place in the championship with 67 points. He has scored championship points in seven of eight starts, a series high, and also owns pole positions at Homestead and Long Beach.

De Ferran's teammate, Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske, has finished seventh or better in all three FedEx Championship Series starts on road or street courses this season. He finished second at Long Beach, claimed the first victory of his three-year career at Detroit, then finished seventh from the pole at Portland last week. He stands ninth in the championship with 44 points.

Michael Andretti (Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Lola) of Newman/Haas Racing has earned top-10 finishes in five of his past six FedEx Championship Series starts, including a victory at Japan - his CART career-leading 39th - a runner-up effort at Milwaukee and fourth at Portland. He stands fourth in the championship with 56 points.

Rookie Kenny Brack (Shell Ford Reynard) of Team Rahal has finished sixth or better in four of his past five starts, topped by his first career podium finish of third at Nazareth. Also included are fourth at Milwaukee, fifth at Japan and sixth at Portland.

Rookie Oriol Servia (Telefonica Toyota Reynard) of PPI Motorsports has finished eighth or better in all three FedEx Championship Series events contested on road or street courses this season. Included was his first career podium finish of third at Detroit. He also took sixth at Long Beach and eighth at Portland.

Gil de Ferran has earned three podium finishes and a pole position in five career starts in Cleveland, including a victory in 1996. He finished second in 1997 and '99, and claimed his first career FedEx Championship Series pole position in 1995. He also finished sixth in 1998 and has led a race-high number of laps in three of his five career appearances at Cleveland, including 67 in 1995, 34 in '96 and 49 in '97. He also led nine laps last year.

Michael Andretti has recorded five podium finishes in 14 career starts at Cleveland, topped by a victory in 1991. The other podium results include second in 1986, '92 and '98 and thirds in '84 and '99. He has led laps in six of 14 starts, topped by 34 en route to his 1991 victory. Andretti also won the pole in 1989 and has started among the top three drivers on six occasions.

Juan Montoya (Target Toyota Lola) turned in a dominant performance during his FedEx Championship Series debut at Cleveland last year, winning from the pole position while leading a race-high 76 of 90 laps. His victory from the pole position was one of three he recorded en route to the 1999 FedEx Championship Series championship.

Bryan Herta (Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Mercedes Reynard), substituting for the injured Tony Kanaan, owns four top-six finishes in six career starts at Burke Lakefront Airport, including podium results of second in 1995 and third in '97. He also finished fifth in '96 and sixth last year.

Honda-powered drivers have won the past 16 FedEx Championship Series events contested on temporary street circuits, dating to the start of the 1998 season. Honda-powered drivers have also won three of the past four FedEx Championship Series events, with victories from Gil de Ferran at Nazareth and Portland, and Helio Castroneves at Detroit. In addition, Honda owns four victories in a row at Cleveland - de Ferran (1996), Alex Zanardi (1997 and '98) and Juan Montoya (1999).

Ford-powered drivers swept three of the top four finishing positions at last week's Freightliner/G.I. Joe's 200 Presented by Texaco at Portland International Raceway. Heading the list was runner-up Roberto Moreno, who was followed in third place by Christian Fittipaldi (Big Kmart/Route 66 Ford Lola) and in fourth by Michael Andretti. Ford trails defending champion Honda by just two points, 138-136, in the battle for the CART Manufacturer's Championship.

Qualifying for the Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by Firstar will air 6:30 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN2. "CART 2Day" airs 11 a.m. ET Sunday on ESPN2, with ABC-TV's live race broadcast scheduled to begin 1 p.m. ET.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Roberto Moreno , Christian Fittipaldi , Paul Tracy , Alex Zanardi , Tony Kanaan , Oriol Servia , Bryan Herta , Kenny Brack , Mark Blundell , Chip Ganassi , Mo Nunn
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing , Chip Ganassi Racing