CHAMPCAR/CART: Andretti, Fittipaldi Gateway race report

Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline driver Michael Andretti looked set to regain the CART FedEx Championship points lead with a dominating performance en route to scoring his second consecutive win at Gateway International Raceway today but instead failed...

Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline driver Michael Andretti looked set to regain the CART FedEx Championship points lead with a dominating performance en route to scoring his second consecutive win at Gateway International Raceway today but instead failed to score points for the fourth straight race when he lost power after lapping all but one car in the Motorola 300. Andretti and the Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline team were temporarily discouraged after earning an 15th place starting spot. On the first of 236 laps, Andretti jumped ahead of Max Papis and Gil de Ferran into 13th place. On the second lap, he passed Helio Castroneves. And began setting his sights on Roberto Moreno whom he successfully passed on lap 4. He held 11th place until lap 30 when fourth place runner Dario Franchitti slowed on course he moved into 10th place. On lap 36 he passed Alex Tagliani and on lap 37 he passed Tony Kanaan. He held eighth place until lap 48 when he passed Cristiano da Matta 48. His next target was Kenny Brack who he passed on the following lap. After two laps of pursuit, he was able to pass Adrian Fernandez for fifth place. He made his first pit stop on lap 61 and returned to the race in eighth place but moved back into fifth as the pit stops were completed. He moved into third on lap 66 and into the lead for the first time on lap 67 after Montoya and Vasser made their pit stops. By lap 82, he had built a five-second lead on second place Montoya and on lap 106 he stretched it to 5.5 seconds. Before his second stop on lap 123, he held a 9.2-second lead on Paul Tracy who had passed Montoya. As the rest of the field made their second stops Andretti regained the lead on lap 133. By lap 138 he opened up a 12.4-second lead on Tracy which he stretch each lap until he was 19.4 seconds ahead of him on lap 149. Around lap 154 of 236, Mario Andretti, Michael's legendary father, reported to his son over the radio that he was approx. five seconds from lapping second place Montoya. On lap 164 Andretti pulled alongside Tracy, who was passed by Montoya and then completed the pass on lap 168. Now Andretti focused on catching the only other car on the track he had not yet lapped - second place Juan Montoya, who was mere seconds ahead of him. He was running 25.8 seconds ahead of Montoya by laps 175 but immediately behind him on the 1.2-mile track where race lap times were in the high 27-low 28-second range. He received the call to pit in a few laps so he maintained his track position until he pitted on lap 183. After returning to the track, CART course observers reported smoke trailing from the back of his racecar on lap 185 and Andretti subsequently reported that the boost pressure was falling. By lap 190, his lead was cut to 15.5 seconds over second place Patrick Carpentier. The team monitored the situation on telemetry from the pits and encouraged Andretti to nurse the car along. On lap 196 he slowed through Turn 3 and 4 as smoke was pouring from the rear of the car. He retired in 20th place after completing 196 of 236 laps but collected one point for leading the most laps - 121 of 236. He dropped from second to third in the CART FedEx point standings 10 points behind leader Gil de Ferran (137) and two behind second place Roberto Moreno (129).

Following are Andretti's post race comments:
"We were one car shy of lapping the field and that would have been a great boost for the team," said Andretti. "I lost power and just tried to hang and then the thing just blew up. We built a sizeable lead and that went away over the next few laps after we noticed the problem. It is a huge, huge, huge loss because of the Championship. This one is right up there as one of the biggest losses in my career because of the Championship. We were lucky that Paul dropped out and that Gil didn't score too many points. A win would have put us in the lead though and that hurts. The guys did a great job today. It would have been a real tribute to them to win this one after a bad stint but I guess we're snake bitten right now."

Mario Andretti on the radio to Michael as he stopped on course:  "Nobody
drives like you do.  You did a great job today."

Big Kmart/Route 66 driver Christian Fittipaldi drove from a 17th place start to a 12th place, points-paying finish in the 236-lap Motorola 300 at Gateway International Raceway's 1.2-mile oval track. It was his first time back at the track where he suffered a subdural hemitoma after a transmission failure on August 2, 1999 during the first test of the new Ford XF engine. On the first lap, he was passed by Oriol Servia and dropped to 18th place. He moved into 17th place on lap 19 after passing Memo Gidley. He held his position until lap 31 when fourth place runner Dario Franchitti retired from the race with a mechanical failure, moving him into 16th place. He climbed up to ninth place as others began making their first pit stops before he pitted himself on lap 62. He returned to the race in 13th place and held the position until lap 84 when he was passed by Oriol Servia. He held 14th place until lap 92 when he was passed by Roberto Moreno who ultimately finished third. On lap 112, he was passed by race leader Andretti and dropped off of the lead lap. He held 15th place until lap 113 when he passed Roberto Moreno and Tony Kanaan on lap 114. As the front runners began making their second stop, Fittipaldi climbed as high as sixth place before making his second stop on lap 127. He returned to the race in 14th place and moved into 13th on lap 132 after Kenny Brack made his pit stop and returned to the race behind Fittipaldi. He held 13th place until lap 165 when he passed second place starter Jimmy Vasser for position. He held 12th place until lap 171 when he passed Roberto Moreno and ran as high as seventh place as the leader pit. He made his third stop on lap 184 and returned to the race in 14th place. When Andretti retired from the race, he moved into 13th place on lap 197 and into 12th when Kenny Brack pitted under the caution period brought out when Paul Tracy made contact with the wall. For one lap he dropped back to 13th place after Brack passed him. After pitting on lap 211 for tires only he moved in 12th place on lap 212. He held 12th place until the checkered flag on lap 236 and collected one Championship point for his finish. Following are

Fittipaldi's post race comments:
"We didn't have a great car but then again a lot of people didn't have a great car," said Fittipaldi. "We were running with (Roberto) Moreno and Oriol (Servia) on the second stint but unfortunately the last set of tires were not good and we lost ground. They finished in the top five but we dropped back. It has been a tough weekend to get the car right. We are hoping for a better finish in the Texaco/Havoline Grand Prix of Houston."

Next on the Schedule - Round 18 of 20 in the CART FedEx Championship takes place in two weeks at the Texaco/Havoline Grand Prix of Houston after a much needed weekend off. Team co-owner Carl Haas is also the co-promoter of the event with Texaco/Havoline. Andretti scored a podium finish last season of third place after Fittipaldi, who was running in second near the end of the event, had to make a late pit stop for a mere two gallons of fuel.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Memo Gidley , Max Papis , Adrian Fernandez , Roberto Moreno , Patrick Carpentier , Alex Tagliani , Christian Fittipaldi , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Tony Kanaan , Oriol Servia , Kenny Brack , Mario Andretti , Carl Haas , Cristiano da Matta