CHAMPCAR/CART: Houston Mercedes-Benz Race Review & Quotes

FedEx Championship Series Report Race:Texaco Grand Prix of Houston, Houston, Texas Date/Session: Sept. 26, 1999 Race Report Gugelmin, Mercedes Sixth at Texaco Grand Prix of Houston Third Consecutive Points-Paying Finish for PacWest...

FedEx Championship Series Report Race:Texaco Grand Prix of Houston, Houston, Texas Date/Session: Sept. 26, 1999 Race Report

Gugelmin, Mercedes Sixth at Texaco Grand Prix of Houston Third Consecutive Points-Paying Finish for PacWest Hollywood Pilot

Paul Tracy and Dario Franchitti finished one-two Sunday in the Texaco Grand Prix of Houston, tightening the championship standings battle as PPG Cup points leader and pole-sitter Juan Montoya did not finish the 100-lap event on the 1.527-mile downtown temporary street circuit. The results pull Franchitti to within 13 points of Montoya with two races remaining in the season.

Mauricio Gugelmin was the top-finishing Mercedes-powered driver with a sixth-place result -- 44.163 seconds behind Tracy. "Big Mo" drove his Hollywood Mercedes Reynard from 23rd position at the start to his third-consecutive points-paying finish and his second-best effort this season since finishing fourth in Vancouver, B.C., Canada earlier this month. Gugelmin's result Sunday was the dividend of consistent race-driving, good fuel economy and the solid efforts of his PacWest team.

Marlboro Mercedes Penske driver Al Unser Jr. finished 15th thanks to an early pit-stop strategy and a solidly balanced race car. Greg Moore took advantage of some early defectors (including Montoya) to move up to eighth position by lap 16, but was forced to make an unscheduled pit stop to fix a boost-control problem on his Player's/Forsythe Mercedes at the halfway point. Moore returned to battle and raced competitively at the end, finishing 16th.

Patrick Carpentier moved forward from his 14th starting position to race as high as fourth in the first half of the race, but slid into the run-off on Turn Four at the restart on lap 57, dropping him back to 15th place. He then made an unscheduled, lengthy pit stop to bleed his brakes. The stop dropped Carpentier down three laps from the leaders, and he eventually parked his No. 33 Player's/Forsythe Mercedes Champ Car on lap 78 with mechanical problems. The French-Canadian pilot was credited with 19th place. Mark Blundell passed competitors and enjoyed quick pit stops from his PacWest Motorola crew to move from 18th position on the grid into the top 10 before Jimmy Vasser rammed the rear of Blundell's car on lap 38. Blundell subsequently retired on lap 46 with transmission problems and was awarded 24th position.

Helio Castro-Neves lost control of his Hogan Racing Mercedes on Turn 9 of lap 11, and slid nose-first into the tire barrier. While several cars filed past at speed, then-race-leader Juan Montoya clipped the rear of Castro-Neves' car, tearing loose his right front wheel. Montoya retired from the race, and it remained for Tracy, Franchitti and Andretti to battle the rest of the way. Castro-Neves was credited with 26th position.

The FedEx Championship Series moves to Surfer's Paradise, Australia for the Indy 300 on October 17th.

Mercedes Quotes

Mauricio Gugelmin, No. 17, PacWest Hollywood Mercedes/Firestone (Sixth/100 laps) "The guys did a great job today. We had fantastic pit work and strategy and it was a true team effort. We made some spring changes in the morning warm up and got the car working a lot better. In the early stint the car was touching down too much, but after it got light, we were able to run very well. "It's always a handicap to start at the back, but we really made the right calls today. We stretched the fuel from lap 52 until the end. It was a bit tight, but I knew that with Mercedes' fuel economy that we could make it to the end. We've earned points in the last three races, and I think we're on a pretty good roll."

Al Unser Jr., No. 2, Marlboro Team Penske Mercedes/Goodyear (15th/98 laps) "Our pit strategy to come in on the first yellow (lap 13) allowed us to move up in the field and get as high as P10 as the leaders pitted after us. On the next yellow, we came in for our second stop (lap 51) and just missed getting out ahead of the pace car, which put us a lap down. The guys did a great job getting the car ready after our shunt in qualifying yesterday. We ran well this morning, and the Marlboro Mercedes Penske was competitive the whole race."

Greg Moore, No. 99, Player's/Forsythe Mercedes/Firestone (16th/98 laps) "We were running fairly well. On the second set of tires, the car was handling okay, but had some trouble with the boost control and couldn't mount any kind of challenge. Brakes are always an issue at this race track because there's no time to cool them down. At the end, we were running quicker than the leaders, so I think we learned some things today."

Mark Blundell, No. 18, PacWest Motorola Mercedes/Firestone (24th/46 laps) "It's an unfortunate way to end our day. The Motorola car was well-balanced and I was able to overtake a lot of guys. My boys gave me some great pit stops. Unfortunately, something failed on the rear of the car -- possibly related to the drive-train. (On behind hit from behind on lap 38) "I came off the hairpin, got on the gas, and Vasser hit me square in the back. I think it did a little damage because the car was a bit loose after that."

Helio Castro-Neves, No. 9, Hogan Racing Mercedes/Firestone (26th/11 laps) "I made a mistake. All weekend we were using second gear, but the pace was slow during the race so I had to use first gear. On Turn 10, however, I kept it in second gear and the car just went straight ahead into the wall. I was waiting for someone to hit me because I knew I was in a bad spot, but the last guy I wanted to see hit me was Juan. I'm disappointed more because of that and I feel bad that the weekend had to end the way it did."

Results, Texaco Grand Prix of Houston Houston, Texas Sept. 26, 1999

Pos.    Driver                  Engine          Laps    
1       Paul Tracy              Honda           100     
2       Dario Franchitti        Honda           100     
3       Michael Andretti        Ford Cosworth   100     
4       Max Papis               Ford Cosworth   100     
5       Bryan Herta             Ford Cosworth   100     
6       Mauricio Gugelmin       Mercedes-Benz   100     
7       Christian Fittipaldi    Ford Cosworth   100     
8       Richie Hearn            Toyota          100     
9       Tony Kanaan             Honda           100     
10      Scott Pruett            Ford Cosworth   99      
15      Al Unser Jr.            Mercedes-Benz   98      
16      Greg Moore              Mercedes-Benz   98      
19      Patrick Carpentier      Mercedes-Benz   78      
24      Mark Blundell           Mercedes-Benz   46      
26      Helio Castro-Neves      Mercedes-Benz   11      

Driver's Championship Manufacturer's Championship

Juan Montoya            200             Honda           349     
Dario Franchitti        187             Ford Cosworth   264     
Paul Tracy              155             Mercedes-Benz   182
Michael Andretti        141             Toyota           72                                                                     Toyota                    

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Al Unser Jr. , Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Max Papis , Patrick Carpentier , Christian Fittipaldi , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Tony Kanaan , Mauricio Gugelmin , Bryan Herta , Scott Pruett , Mark Blundell , Richie Hearn , Greg Moore
Teams Team Penske