CHAMPCAR/CART: Toronto Andretti Wins!

July 16, 2000 --- Toronto, Ontario, Canada - Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline driver Michael Andretti scored his 40th career CART win at the Molson Indy Toronto today and broke a tie with Al Unser (39 wins) for third in the All-Time Race Winner category...

July 16, 2000 --- Toronto, Ontario, Canada - Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline driver Michael Andretti scored his 40th career CART win at the Molson Indy Toronto today and broke a tie with Al Unser (39 wins) for third in the All-Time Race Winner category with today's victory. After scoring 20 points for the race win, Andretti was able to move within two points of CART FedEx points leader Roberto Moreno who has 90 points after 10 of 20 races.

In addition to being Andretti's 26th win on a road or street course, it was a personal best sixth victory at one track. In 10 races so far this season, Ford has scored five wins with Andretti being the only two-time winner for the engine manufacturer. After starting in third place for the 112-lap Molson Indy Toronto street race, Andretti had to brake hard to avoid the sliding car of polesitter Helio Castroneves, who was leading the field into turn three on the first lap. Second place starter Cristiano da Matta took advantage of Castroneves's misfortune and took the lead with Andretti holding his position and avoiding a crash behind him that involved fourth and fifth place starters Juan Montoya and Dario Franchitti respectively. After the race was restarted on lap four with Andretti following da Matta and Castroneves with teammate Christian Fittipaldi behind him, Andretti held his position and continued to trail Castroneves by less than one second until lap 29 when he came alongside him to attempt a pass but was unsuccessful.

He continued to pressure Castroneves and weaved back and forth behind him in order to pressure the young driver. He held his position until his first pit stop after 35 laps during a caution to remove the crashed cars of Tarso Marques and Norberto Fontana. As he was leaving his pit which was located in the first half of pit row, he ran side-by-side with Gil de Ferran who was attempting to make his first stop. He returned to the race ahead of Castroneves in second place behind da Matta. He ran within one second behind da Matta and held a lead on Adrian Fernendez, who was third with the help of good fuel mileage. Fernandez began closing the four-second deficit he held behind Michael, who had closed to within three-tenths of a second behind da Matta while pressuring the second year CART driver. He briefly led the race as da Matta stopped on 74. He made his second and final pit stop one lap later and was coming out of the pits as da Matta was on the front straight and was able to get on track ahead of him but in fourth place due to the fact that Adrian Fernandez and previous mid-fielder, Roberto Moreno, and Patrick Carpentier had not pit.

When Fernandez was leaving the pits, he came out ahead of Michael on the track but the veteran knew that Fernandez was on cold tires and he stood a better chance to pass him now than later. He successfully passed him in turn three and built a four second lead over him during the next laps. He increased his lead over the remaining laps and took the checkered flag on lap 112 and claimed 20 points for the victory which helped him move within two points of Roberto Moreno in the CART FedEx Championship with 88 to Moreno's 90 after 10 of 20 races. There were 72,976 Champ Car fans at Exhibition Place today to witness Andretti's victory. The three-day total is a new record of 168,353. Following are his post race comments:

"I am happy to get my 40th win here in Toronto," said Andretti. "I love this place. The Big Kmart/ Texaco/Havoline team did a superb job and won this for me in the pits. I think Michigan and Fontana will be the two key races for the championship. Who ever can finish those races will be in good shape. I started out all over (second place) Helio and noticed his tires started to go off. I tried to push him into a mistake but he only made small ones. I tried to be patient and rely on my experience and just decided to leave it up to the crew. They did a superb job and got me out in front of Helio in the pits. Again it was almost the same scenario with (race leader) Cristiano. I was pushing him as hard as I could and trying to get him to make a mistake. I decided to again wait for a stop and the Big Kmart/Texaco/ Havoline guys got me another position. He went in one lap before me and when I pitted and came out, I was immediately in front of him on the track and had to hold him off on cold tires. After that, I had a run on Adrian when he was coming out of the pits and knew I had an advantage since he was on cold tires. I went beside him and then I had it. I knew I had to get by him since he pitted later than I did and would be tough to pass after his tires warmed up. The Ford engine ran perfectly all day. I was really counting the last 15 laps down and just hoping we would make it to the end. It's been a long time since I won on a street course and it is a nice feeling."

- Big Kmart/Route 66 driver Christian Fittipaldi proved to all he had a good race set up by being the fastest in the Friday morning practice session but was challenged when he had to qualify in the slow group which ran in rain conditions while the fast group drove later on a drying track later that day. Ultimately, he was 12th fastest in qualifying on Friday but would be in the fast group in final qualifying on Saturday. He was the fastest driver for most of the Saturday morning session and ultimately finished the session second quick, which gave the team hope for a front row start. After being unable to put together a perfect lap, Fittipaldi qualified sixth for the 112 -lap Molson Indy. On the first lap of the race, he was able to avoid the crash involving fourth place starter Juan Montoya and fifth place starter Dario Franchitti and moved up to fourth place. He held fourth place while closely trailing teammate Andretti by one-half of a second until his first pit stop on lap 36. After a quick pit stop by his crew, Fittipaldi began to leave the pits slightly before his teammate Andretti, who was pitted in front of him. Fittipaldi trailed Andretti as he drove side by side on the right of Gil de Ferran who was driving down pit lane to make his stop near the end. De Ferran, who was on the inside of Andretti had to quickly move to the right in order to get into his pit box and Fittipaldi ran into the back of his car and knocked his front wing off. He drove around the circuit and came back into the pits for a new nose cone but the crew noticed that the studs that hold the nose in place had been damaged and the team was forced to retire in 17th place. Following are his comments:

"Michael and Gil were side-by-side and neither could decide who was going to move ahead and then Gil suddenly stood on the brakes and darted in his pits," said Fittipaldi. "I knew his pit was further down but I didn't expect him to stand on it. I thought he would pull over then brake like others do. It damaged my nose and broke the studs so we couldn't put on a new one. This has been a really tough year for the Big Kmart/Route 66 team. I have to admit it. We have run in the top-four in the past four races but only have one finish to show for it."

- Next on the Schedule: Round 11 of 20 in the CART FedEx Championship series takes place next week at the Michigan 500. Andretti's has scored two 500-mile race wins at Michigan. Fittipaldi's highest 500-mile finish is second place at the 1995 Indy 500.

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