CHAMPCAR/CART: Houston Race Report

Jack Durbin - Houston, TX (September 26, 1999) - Team Kool Green once again delivered a one-two finish. Paul Tracy picked up the lead when Montoya fell out, then proceeded to give the rest of the field a lesson in how to lead a...

Jack Durbin -

Houston, TX (September 26, 1999) - Team Kool Green once again delivered a one-two finish. Paul Tracy picked up the lead when Montoya fell out, then proceeded to give the rest of the field a lesson in how to lead a race and conserve fuel at the same time. The big debate at the end of the race was whether or not Barry Greene would ask Tracy to let Franchitti pass for the lead in order to give him a better chance to catch Montoya. The same debate raged in the Newman-Hass camp as to whether to ask Christian Fittipaldi to allow Michael Andretti to pass. This was made a mute issue when Fittipaldi pitted on lap 97 to get a 'splash and go."

In the end Barry Green made the decision not to tell Tracy to let his team mate pass. Paul Tracy got to savor the well earned victory.

When asked to compare his race here last year with the race this year, Paul said, "It's a lot better having the golden boot in my hand than in my ass."

Dario Franchitti finished second, with Michael Andretti in third. Team mates Max Papis and Bryan Herta followed in fourth and fifth. Sixth was Mauricio Gugelmin, and seventh was Christian Fittipaldi. The Toyota powered car of Richie Hearn was ninth, with Tony Kanaan a lap down in tenth.

Juan Montoya (#3) will have to wait until Australian to win the CART FedEx Championship Series. On lap 11, Castro-Neves (#9) slid nose first in to the tire barrier at turn 9. Seven cars behind him successfully avoided his car. Montoya did not. He clipped the rear of Castro-Neves car, tearing loose the fright front wheel. Montoya will earn only one point this weekend for winning the pole. "This was not the way we wanted to end this day,' said Montoya. "We had a great car all weekend and we were really fast early in the race. Obviously, I'm very upset about running into Helio Castro-Neves, but the season is not over. We still have two races to go."

When asked why they (Team Kool Green) knew about the wreck in turn three and Chip Ganassi didn't, Paul responded, "Maybe Chip was looking at his reflection in the monitor in the pit." Michael agreed his team had told him about the wreck.

Michael Andretti said his team did a good job. "I am not sure we had he car to finish on the podium today but the pit strategy got us there. It made my day a lot longer." Andretti flat spotted his second set of tires, which made the car barely drivable. "It was vibrating so badly coming down the back stretch that I could not see." Commenting on the track and racing on it in the dry for the first time, "the track was good to race on, it was physical. I would give it a good grade. But the pit exit is a road course unto itself. "

Paul Tracy termed his performance today as a "Sunday drive." "I was dominate! I had the best car, I had the best tires from qualifying, the set that I rubbed the wall on the first day. They were fresh. We put those tires on (at the first stop) and just ran away from everybody. The first set was great, too. Never a problem." When asked if they knew Barry Green had considered asking Paul to let Dario by in order to gain more championship points, both Team Kool Green drivers said they had not heard any thing about that on their radios. Paul said if he had heard anything, his radio would have developed a very bad case of static.

"I would have to thank the guy upstairs," Dario Franchitti said about his second place finish. "We were struggling at the beginning. I had a car I couldn't drive. Every time I would turn right it would snap back to the left because of the over steer. That first yellow (for Montoya's crash) was very timely. This was Paul's day, there was never an issue about his winning. He was over ten seconds ahead there at the end.

Barry Green said " Paul drove a tremendous race. We had to get tremendous mileage there at the end. The tires help us get that mileage. Now I just hope we don miss the championship by four points. With Michael on Dario's tail, I had to do it. Paul worked so hard; they both did. It was a great team effort for Team Kool Green. It was handed to us, especially Dario coming back from 18th. It is a fantastic effort and the championship is still alive. Another 1-2, this is just wonderful."

Coming in to today, Montoya held a 29 point lead over Dario Franchitti, but Montoya's failure to score any points, his lead has been cut to only 13. If Montoya earns the pole, leads the most laps and wins the Surfer's Paradise race two weeks from now, and Franchitti finishes fourth or worse; then the Colombian driver will become the first rookie since Nigel Mansell to win the CART Championship.

Honda drivers have won the last 13 races on temporary road courses. Honda has already won the manufacturers championship, and is now assured that the driver's championship will also be won by a Honda driver, since Franchitti also driver a Honda powered car.

The next CART FedEx Championship Series Race will be in two weeks from Surfer's Paraidse, Australia.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Michael Andretti , Max Papis , Christian Fittipaldi , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Tony Kanaan , Mauricio Gugelmin , Bryan Herta , Nigel Mansell , Richie Hearn , Barry Green , Chip Ganassi