CHAMPCAR/CART: Gugelmin leads Mercedes at Nazareth

Mauricio Gugelmin took full advantage of the horsepower, driveability and fuel efficiency of his Mercedes-Benz IC108F engine as he charged from 12th on the grid to second place in today's Bosch Spark Plug Grand Prix at Nazareth (Pa.) ...

Mauricio Gugelmin took full advantage of the horsepower, driveability and fuel efficiency of his Mercedes-Benz IC108F engine as he charged from 12th on the grid to second place in today's Bosch Spark Plug Grand Prix at Nazareth (Pa.) Speedway. Late-race passes on Kenny Brack and Roberto Moreno put him in position to challenge for the race win, but Gil de Ferran stayed in front to take the checkered flag and give Roger Penske his 100th victory in the CART FedEx Championship Series.

"Mercedes gave me great fuel consumption," said Gugelmin, driver of the PacWest Racing/Nextel Champ Car, whose finish was his best since his win in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1997. He explained that by saving fuel through the middle stages of the race, he was able to dial up his Mercedes' turbocharger boost (and horsepower) at the end of the race and challenge the other race leaders. "The fuel window was great at the end. I just turned everything up and went for it. I couldn't believe the fuel numbers they were giving me. Plus, I had all the power I needed, and more.

    "We also had great teamwork today.  I'm happy for Penske.  They are a 
great team, and Gil is a good friend of mine.  It's nice that he did it for 
them.  They deserve it."

Also putting in a strong effort for Mercedes-Benz was Mo Nunn Racing/ Hollywood pilot Tony Kanaan, who finished eighth after leading 40 laps during the middle of the race. After dropping seven positions (seventh to 14th) during the first round of pit stops, the Mo Nunn team elected to adopt an out-of-sequence pit-stop strategy and hope that timely yellows would keep them in the lead. Kanaan was the quickest car on the track during the middle section of the race, but the caution periods didn't fall quite right and the young Brazilian dropped back in the field when he made his final pit stop on lap 158.

"When you play like that you need some luck too," said Kanaan. "We had a very good car, and we got the second-fastest lap of the race. This is my best finish on a one-mile oval. I needed some momentum. I was pleased I could really race with a lot of people out there."

The other three Mercedes-Benz drivers competing today - Mark Blundell, Michel Jourdain Jr. and Luiz Garcia Jr. - were fortunately unhurt in separate on-track incidents, in a race that saw eight yellow flag caution periods for a total of 80 of the race's 225 laps.

Arciero Project Racing/Hollywood driver Luiz Garcia Jr. took 15th despite spinning on lap 80 on the restart from the second caution period. He was able to continue in the race.

Gugelmin's PacWest Racing teammate, Mark Blundell, driver of the Motorola Mercedes, suffered only minor bruising to his back after hitting the wall during an accident with Helio Castroneves on lap 166. Blundell was carefully extricated from the car as a precaution, but he was released from the track medical center 40 minutes after his arrival. He was credited with 17th place.

Michel Jourdain Jr., driver of the Herdez/Bettenhausen Motorsports/Mercedes, spun on lap 150 and hit the wall. He was also uninjured in the accident.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Roberto Moreno , Tony Kanaan , Mauricio Gugelmin , Kenny Brack , Mark Blundell , Roger Penske , Michel Jourdain , Luiz Garcia , Mo Nunn