MONTOYA SETS CART ROOKIE RECORD FOR VICTORIES AT TARGET GRAND PRIX PRESENTED BY SHELL CICERO, Ill. (August 22, 1999) - Juan Montoya of Target/Chip Ganassi Racing set a CART rookie record for victories, regained the FedEx Championship Series ...
MONTOYA SETS CART ROOKIE RECORD FOR VICTORIES AT TARGET GRAND PRIX PRESENTED BY SHELL
CICERO, Ill. (August 22, 1999) - Juan Montoya of Target/Chip Ganassi Racing set a CART rookie record for victories, regained the FedEx Championship Series points lead and delighted his sponsors Sunday by winning the inaugural Target Grand Prix Presented by Shell before a sellout crowd of 67,000 at the new Chicago Motor Speedway.
Montoya's (Target Honda Reynard) series-leading sixth victory of the season eclipsed the CART record of five established by Nigel Mansell en route to the 1993 FedEx Championship Series title. Montoya led a race-high 132 of the 225 laps in an event that culminated with a battle between the two leading combatants in the series championship race. Montoya averaged 122.236 miles per hour en route to a .783-second over Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard) and in the process wrestled away the points lead from the Scotsman by securing 21 of a possible 22 race points.
Montoya, a 23-year-old Colombian, entered the weekend trailing Franchitti by one, but Sunday's results handed him a 172-168 advantage heading into the Sept. 5 Molson Indy Vancouver, Round 16 of 20 in the FedEx Championship Series schedule.
Max Papis (Miller Lite Ford Reynard), who earned his first career pole Saturday, set the initial pace as he led the first 63 laps from that position before giving way to Montoya and Franchitti.
Montoya led for the next 35 laps before Franchitti took over on the point for 28 laps.
Montoya came back on Lap 127 to regain the lead for another 38 laps before surrendering it for two laps for a green-flag pit stop. Franchitti needed to pit as well and went in on Lap 166, leaving the lead for Montoya on the ensuing lap. Franchitti attempted to mount a challenge - closing to .1 of a second - but Montoya never relinquished the advantage over the final 59 laps as he registered his second win in a row.
The title sponsor received an additional boost as Montoya's teammate, Jimmy Vasser (Target Honda Reynard), rounded out the podium with a third-place finish. It was his first podium of the season, but fifth consecutive points-paying performance.
Papis finished fourth to match his career-best effort established at Rio in Round 5. It also was his seventh top-five effort of the season and fifth top-seven performance in the past six races. Helio Castro-Neves (Hogan Motor Leasing, Inc. Mercedes Lola) continued a strong recent run with a fifth-place finish. It marked his second-best finish of the season - only topped by his runner-up effort at Gateway - and third consecutive top-seven performance.
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING
JUAN MONTOYA, Target Honda Reynard: "I'm so pleased. All weekend was really bad. We couldn't get the car working the way we wanted to. [Race engineer] Morris Nunn and the guys stayed late last night and they made the right changes. This morning, when we went out for the warmup, the car was so much better. I knew coming into the weekend that we had a chance at winning the race, but I wasn't really a contender until this morning. [Regarding the CART rookie record of six victories in the season] It's good, but it's not what I think about when I'm out there. I just go racing and try to win."
DARIO FRANCHITTI, KOOL Honda Reynard: "We were very conservative throughout the start of the race. Then we started getting on with it, knowing that things tend to happen in the last 30 or 40 laps [which help to decide the outcome]. I tried to get as close to Juan as I could to get by him on the exit, I was just waiting for one mistake, for one guy to hold him up in traffic, but it was a good day. The points are still close, 172-168, and the two guys behind us had a bad day, so it's gonna be interesting the last five days."
JIMMY VASSER, Target Honda Reynard: "It was a pretty good race. I'm very happy for the Target Grand Prix. With Juan and myself on the podium, finishing one-three, the only way it could have been better was to finish one-two, so I'm very pleased."
* Juan Montoya's (Target Honda Reynard) victory made Honda's 100th FedEx Championship Series event a memorable one. It was the 42nd victory for Honda since entering the series at the start of the 1994 season, and all 42 have come in the past 70 races, a winning percentage of .600.
* Montoya's victory allowed him to clinch the Jim Trueman Rookie of the Year Award and the accompanying $50,000 award. He carries an insurmountable 172-20 lead over Cristiano da Matta (MCI WorldCom Toyota Reynard) into the Sept. 5 Molson Indy Vancouver with a maximum 110 points available in the final five events of the season.
* Event title sponsor Target sweetened the pot with a $25,000 bonus for the drivers who led Laps 50, 100 and 150 as part of its promotional Match Any Lap and Win Game for fans. Pole sitter Max Papis (Miller Lite Ford Reynard) collected the bonus on Lap 50, Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard) on Lap 100, and Montoya on Lap 150.
* Montoya led a race-high 132 laps, bringing his season total to 856 and moving him into third place on the CART single-season laps led list. He entered Sunday with 724 laps led and moved past fourth-place Rick Mears (746, 1982) and third-place Paul Tracy (756, 1993). Next up is Michael Andretti, who led 965 laps in 1991. Andretti also leads the single-season laps led list with 1,136 in 1992.
* Montoya's 856 laps led currently ranks him 14th on the CART career laps led list. He passed Teo Fabi (774) Sunday and now sets his sights on 13th-place Johnny Rutherford (1,025).
* Michael Andretti (Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Swift) sustained a bruised right Achilles tendon from an incident with Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) on Lap 99. The injury was treated with ice at the CART Mobile Medical Facility and Andretti was released shortly thereafter.
* Tracy finished 23rd due to contact with Andretti and saw his consecutive streak of four podium finishes and eight points-paying results, both series highs, come to an end. His podium streak included finishes of second at Toronto, third at Michigan and runner-up efforts at Detroit and Mid-Ohio.
* Robby Gordon (Johns Manville/Panasonic/Menards Toyota Eagle) recorded a points-paying result in his first FedEx Championship Series start in an Eagle chassis. Gordon, who had utilized Reynard and Swift chassis this season, finished 10th, his fourth points-paying effort in the past seven events.
* Patrick Carpentier (Player's Forsythe Racing Team Ltd. Mercedes Reynard) logged a strong sixth-place finish in his return to the FedEx Championship Series after missing last week's event at Mid-Ohio due to injury. Carpentier sustained a mild compression fracture of the third thoracic vertebra from an accident with Mauricio Gugelmin (Hollywood PacWest Mercedes) during the Aug. 8 event at Detroit. Carpentier's finish matched a season best established at Rio de Janeiro.
* PJ Jones (Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing Ford Reynard) finished seventh in his second start since taking over for injured teammate Adrian Fernandez, who sustained a fractured radius bone in his right wrist in an accident during practice at Detroit. Jones recorded his first points-paying finish since finishing 10th at Toronto and his seventh-place performance matched his second best of the season, established at Rio and topped only by a runner-up result at Nazareth.
* Raul Boesel (AAR Denso/Castrol Toyota Eagle) rounded out the list of points-paying finishers with a 12th-place performance in his first start of the season for All American Racers. It was his first in the series since starting for Team KOOL Green in the season opener at Homestead as a substitute for Tracy, who was serving a one-race disciplinary suspension.
Following its sixth event in seven weeks, the FedEx Championship Series takes a week off before resuming with Round 16, the Molson Indy Vancoiuver on Sunday, Sept. 5 at Concord Pacific Place in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.