CHAMPCAR/CART: Detroit GP Race Report

DETROIT (August 8, 1999) - Dario Franchitti of Team KOOL Green parlayed his second victory in the last three races into the FedEx Championship Series points lead with Sunday's triumph in the Tenneco Automotive Grand Prix of ...

DETROIT (August 8, 1999) - Dario Franchitti of Team KOOL Green parlayed his second victory in the last three races into the FedEx Championship Series points lead with Sunday's triumph in the Tenneco Automotive Grand Prix of Detroit at The Raceway on Belle Isle. Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard), who won July 18 at Toronto, registered the fifth victory of his three-year career to unseat rookie sensation Juan Montoya as the points leader, ending Montoya's nine-race reign atop the series championship. Franchitti, who entered Sunday's race trailing Montoya, 130-116, now maintains a 136-131 advantage. Montoya finished 17th after a late-race mishap but scored a point for leading a race-high 58 laps. Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) finished second - 0.135 seconds behind Franchitti in the timed race that finished under caution - to give Team KOOL Green its second 1-2 finish in the past three events, matching its accomplishment at Toronto. Greg Moore (Player's Forsythe Mercedes Reynard) finished third. Montoya (Target Honda Reynard), who started on the pole, was dominant from the outset as he led the first 58 of 71 laps, but miscommunication between him and his pits proved costly. A caution flag came out on Lap 44 for a stopped car on the 2.346-mile street course and Montoya stayed out due to the miscommunication while his primary challengers pitted for fuel and tires. That forced Montoya to pit under green conditions on Lap 58 of a scheduled 75 with a 15.576-second lead over Franchitti. After a solid 10.1-second stop for fuel and tires, Montoya was situated in eighth place and 10.124 seconds behind Franchitti. Montoya began his charge back to the front, but encountered trouble on the trek. On Lap 62, he attempted to pass Roberto Moreno (Big Kmart Ford Swift) for sixth place, but overshot Turn 3 and made contact with him. Montoya was able to get restarted during the caution and only fell to eighth. On Lap 66, he was situated in seventh when a caution came out for a four-car incident, but three laps later, while still under caution conditions, Helio Castro-Neves (Hogan Motor Leasing Mercedes Lola) made contact with Montoya. It ended Montoya's day and kept him out of the top-12 points-paying positions. Meanwhile, Franchitti was cruising along and did not have to fend off any challenges from Tracy during his final 13 laps on the lead. The victory continued his mastery on temporary street circuits with seven podium finishes, including four wins, in his last nine starts in this type of discipline. The runner-up finish for Tracy was his third consecutive podium effort and seventh straight points-paying performance. The run has moved Tracy to fourth in the championship with 106 points, 13 behind third-place Michael Andretti (Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Swift) who was fourth Sunday. Moore notched his third podium of the season and his best road or street course performance since finishing second at Mid-Ohio in 1997. There were several dramatic incidents during Sunday's race with the only injury coming to Patrick Carpentier (Player's Forsythe Mercedes Reynard). Carpentier, who was involved in an incident with Mauricio Gugelmin (Hollywood PacWest Mercedes) on Lap 28, sustained a cervical muscle strain, according to Dr. Steve Olvey, CART Director of Medical Affairs. He will be held overnight at Detroit Receiving Hospital and be released Monday morning.

DARIO FRANCHITTI, KOOL Honda Reynard: "It was a very interesting day, although I don't think it was particularly the nicest race to watch. The way the day went, I got by Gil at the start, and then Paul started to pull away, but something happened and he started coming back to us. [The race] turned for us on the second pit stop. We chose to come in, as most of the field did, and when we went back out, we started saving fuel like crazy. It's a nice feeling when you're leading and the yellow comes out, but you don't really want to cross the finish line going 20 miles per hour. It's nice to have a one-two finish. We [Paul Tracy and Franchitti] passed each other again [laughing], and Greg [Moore, third place finisher] is up here, too, so it was a good day all around."

PAUL TRACY, KOOL Honda Reynard: "We're coming into the part of the season where I typically do very well. Today was pretty uneventful. Dario [Franchitti] came up and got his nose inside me and I didn't get a good drive off of Turn 2. Dario got inside me and I let him go. I don't think we were as quick as Montoya. I think he had the measure of us today, but their strategy was wrong. Our goal this weekend was to try and overcome Christian [Fittipaldi] and Adrian [Fernandez] in the points, and we accomplished that. Now, we have to concentrate on catching Michael {Andretti]."

GREG MOORE, Player's Forsythe Racing Mercedes Reynard: "The track was extremely slippery just before the restarts, but that's part of being a race car driver. I came in for the first pit stop in eighth and went out in fourth. It's a testament to my guys. They work on the car in the shop all week and take time out to practice their pit stops and it paid off for us today. The Player's Forsythe Racing team did a great job for me all weekend. The team deserves credit for what happened today. Had we seen a green finish, I don't know how they [Franchitti and Tracy] would have been on fuel. We would have made it, probably by the skin of our teeth, but I don't know if Paul and Dario would have made it. Third place, considering the bad string of luck we've had the last few races, is good for the team. They needed it and I needed it. All in all, it was a good result."

* Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard)'s victory brought him his seventh podium finish in his last nine starts on temporary street circuits, dating to Cleveland last year. Included are victories at Vancouver and Houston last year and Toronto and Detroit this year. Four of his five career victories have come on temporary street circuits.

* Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) has finished fifth or better in six of his last seven FedEx Championship Series starts, dating to his victory at Milwaukee. Included are runner-up efforts at Toronto and Detroit, third at Michigan, fourth at Cleveland and fifth at Portland. Tracy's active streak of seven points-paying finishes is the longest in the series and has moved from 13th to fourth in the championship in the last seven events.

* Franchitti's victory was the 12th of the season for Firestone and the eighth for Honda, including six of the last seven. Honda has won the last 11 FedEx Championship Series events contested on temporary street circuits, dating to the start of the 1998 season.

* Juan Montoya (Target Honda Reynard) led 58 laps and moved into sixth place on the single-season laps led chart with 696. Montoya, who set a CART rookie record two weeks ago at Michigan by leading his 611th lap of the season, moved past Al Unser Jr., who led 677 laps in 1994. Next up is fifth-place Michael Andretti, who led 699 laps in 1986.

* Helio Castro-Neves (Hogan Motor Leasing, Inc. Mercedes Lola) came home seventh for the best finish of his FedEx Championship Series career on a road or street course. Castro-Neves, victimized by tough luck all year, managed Sunday's finish despite a badly damaged left front suspension sustained in contact with Montoya on the final restart of the race. Castro-Neves managed to hold his position by completing the final three laps under caution, which allowed him to record his best overall finish since second at Gateway.

* Patrick Carpentier (Player's Forsythe Racing Mercedes Lola) was transported to Detroit Receiving Hospital following an incident involving contact with Mauricio Gugelmin (Hollywood PacWest Mercedes) on Lap 28. According to Dr. Steve Olvey, CART Director of Medical Affairs, Carpentier sustained a cervical muscle strain. Olvey said that Carpentier will undergo physical therapy throughout the week and will be able to drive at next week's Miller Lite 200 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. He is scheduled to be released Monday morning.

* Graduates of CART's two "ladder system" development series - the PPG-Dayton Indy Lights Championship and the KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Championship - took six of the top seven places Sunday. Indy Lights graduates included Tracy second, Moore third, Tony Kanaan (McDonald's Championship Racing Team Honda Reynard) sixth and Castro-Neves seventh. Atlantic graduates included Michael Andretti (Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Swift) and Jimmy Vasser (Target Honda Reynard), who finished fourth and fifth, respectively. Andretti's finish was his seventh top-five effort of the season while Vasser's performance was his best on a road or street course since finishing fourth at Houston last season.

* Brazil, buoyed by Kanaan's sixth-place effort, maintained its lead in the Nation's Cup competition and takes 195 points into next weekend's Miller Lite 200. Tracy's finish allowed Canada to break a tie with the four-time defending champion United States for second place with 169 points while the U.S. stands third at 165. Points in the Nation's Cup competition are scored according to the same scale used to score FedEx Championship Series drivers, but only the highest-finishing driver scores for his country at a given event.

* Mark Blundell (Motorola PacWest Mercedes) finished 10th in his first FedEx Championship Series start since Round 4 at Nazareth on May 2. Blundell had missed the previous eight rounds of the championship with a small fracture of the seventh cervical vertebra sustained in a May 4 testing accident at Gateway International Raceway. The result was his best on a road or street course since finishing seventh at Road America last year.

* Gonzalo Rodriguez (Marlboro Mercedes Lola) finished 12th in his FedEx Championship Series career debut with Marlboro Team Penske, making him only the second of eight rookie drivers this season to score points in his inaugural event. Montoya, the other, finished 10th in the season opener at Homestead.

The FedEx Championship Series continues with its fifth event in six weeks, the Miller Lite 200, on Sunday, August 15 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Course in Lexington, Ohio.


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Series IndyCar
Drivers Al Unser Jr. , Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Patrick Carpentier , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Tony Kanaan , Mauricio Gugelmin , Mark Blundell , Greg Moore , Gonzalo Rodriguez
Teams Team Penske