TRACY WINS TEXACO GRAND PRIX OF HOUSTON; TEAMMATE FRANCHITTI TAKES SECOND TO TIGHTEN TITLE RACE HOUSTON (September 26, 1999) - Team KOOL Green enjoyed a stellar day at Sunday's Texaco Grand Prix of Houston as Paul Tracy ...
TRACY WINS TEXACO GRAND PRIX OF HOUSTON; TEAMMATE FRANCHITTI TAKES SECOND TO TIGHTEN TITLE RACE
HOUSTON (September 26, 1999) - Team KOOL Green enjoyed a stellar day at Sunday's Texaco Grand Prix of Houston as Paul Tracy emerged victorious and Dario Franchitti re-emerged with a vengeance in the FedEx Championship Series title race with a runner-up finish on the downtown streets of Houston.
Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) was extremely dominant en route to his second victory of the season and first on a temporary street circuit since winning at Australia in 1995. He led a race-high 85 of the 100 laps on the 1.527-mile temporary street layout as he rolled to a comfortable 13.733-second margin over his Team KOOL Green teammate. It marked the third time this season that Team KOOL Green has finished one-two, the others being Franchitti wins at Toronto and Detroit. Michael Andretti (Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Swift Ford) thrilled the title sponsor by taking third.
Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard) battled back from an ill-handling car at the outset and benefited from the way the caution flags fell for his pit stops to post his series-leading 10th podium of the season. With series leader Juan Montoya (Target Honda Reynard) being held scoreless, Franchitti's performance allowed him to close the gap in the championship race to 13 points, 200-187, with two races and a maximum 44 PPG Cup points remaining.
Both Team KOOL Green drivers benefited from the misfortune of Montoya, who started from the pole and led the first 12 laps before trouble struck. A full-course caution came out on Lap 12 for Helio Castro-Neves (Hogan Motor Leasing Mercedes Lola), who made contact with the tire wall in Turn 10. Montoya entered the turn and clipped Castro-Neves' car, ending his day as well.
The incident allowed Tracy to inherit the lead and gave Franchitti a huge opportunity to carve into the 29-point deficit he was facing entering Round 18 of the 20-race season. Tracy was the initial benefactor as he grabbed the lead and took off from the field on the restart. At one point - Lap 45 - he had manufactured a 28.059-second cushion and only relinquished his lead for three laps to Franchitti when he made his only pit stop of the afternoon.
Franchitti had his work cut out as his first pit stop on the Castro-Neves' caution dropped him to 19th in the 26-car field. He deftly sliced his way upward and moved from 14th on Lap 33 to the lead on Lap 49. Franchitti led for three laps before making his final pit stop under caution on Lap 52 and returning in fifth place. He picked off Jan Magnussen (Visteon Patrick Racing Ford Reynard) and Tony Kanaan (McDonald's Championship Racing Honda Reynard) to move to third and then made a daring move on Christian Fittipaldi (Big Kmart Ford Swift) that resulted in contact between the two to gain second place.
Andretti, like Franchitti, pitted out of sequence in the early stages and the gamble paid off. It allowed him to gain his fifth podium of the season and 84th of his career. The top-five finishers were closed out by the Team Rahal tandem of Max Papis (Miller Lite Ford Reynard), who was fourth, and Bryan Herta (Shell Ford Reynard), who was fifth. It was the ninth top-five finish for Papis and fifth top-six effort for Herta.
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING
PAUL TRACY, KOOL Honda Reynard: "My car was just perfect. I couldn't have asked for a better car today. My goal was to get ahead of Bryan on the start, and I was able to do so quite easily. Then I just wanted to stay behind Juan until the first pit stop. [On the incident between Juan Montoya and Helio Castro-Neves] I saw it, and then I just told myself to relax and be smooth and do what we know how to do, and I was able to pick up a second a lap. [Regarding his teammate, Dario Franchitti's, pursuit of the PPG Cup] I'll do everything I can. I like to think that I helped the situation with Dario by keeping the pressure on Juan."
DARIO FRANCHITTI, KOOL Honda Reynard: "Thanks to the guy upstairs. The [initial] yellow was very timely. Something went wrong, I'm not sure what, but I had a car I couldn't drive [early in the race]. We pitted out of sequence. I was aware at that time of what had happened to Montoya, and I thought that although things were bad, they could have been much worse. I think we went back to 18th place [actually 19th], but as soon as we pitted, the thing was great. After that, I was just trying to get by people and save fuel. Second place is a good result. I didn't think 10 laps into the race that we would be on the podium. With Montoya's bad fortune, this certainly makes things closer in the championship race."
MICHAEL ANDRETTI, Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Swift: "I'll take it [third place] after the way the weekend's gone. I'm very happy to be on the podium at the Texaco Grand Prix for our sponsor, and we were able to get some points, as well. All in all, I'd say the track was good to race on. It was a really physical race because of the heat. I give the track good grades. Last year was a total, total embarrassment for our team and we wanted to redeem ourselves. Unfortunately, we didn't do it with a win, but we were able to finish on the podium. I'm glad we were able to give them a show."
JUAN MONTOYA, Target Honda Reynard: "This was not the way we wanted to end this day. 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."
* Paul Tracy's (KOOL Honda Reynard) victory made him the third multiple winner of the FedEx Championship Series season, joining Juan Montoya (Target Honda Reynard), who owns a series-leading seven victories (Long Beach, Nazareth, Rio de Janeiro, Cleveland, Mid-Ohio, Chicago, Vancouver) and Team KOOL Green teammate Dario Franchitti, who won at Toronto and Detroit.
* Tracy's victory allowed him to tie two-time FedEx Championship Series champion Alex Zanardi for eighth place on the CART career victories list, with 15.
* Tracy and Team KOOL Green teammate Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard) have finished one-two in three of the past four FedEx Championship Series events contested on temporary street circuits. Franchitti and Tracy finished first and second, respectively, at Toronto and Detroit.
* Tracy and Franchitti became the eighth pair of teammates to finish on the podium in the past nine FedEx Championship Series events. The run dates to Road America where Christian Fittipaldi (Big Kmart Ford Swift) and Michael Andretti (Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Swift) finished first and second, respectively. It also includes one-two finishes by Franchitti and Tracy at Toronto and Detroit; second and third by Tracy and Franchitti at Mid-Ohio; and first and third by Montoya and Jimmy Vasser (Target Honda Reynard) at Chicago and Vancouver.
* Tracy's victory was the 13th of the season for Honda, as well as its 13th consecutive victory on a temporary street circuit, dating to the start of the 1998 season. The last non-Honda-powered driver to win a FedEx Championship Series street course event was Mauricio Gugelmin at Vancouver in 1997.
* Tracy's victory also brought Firestone its 17th victory in 18 events this season and its 35th in 36 events overall, dating to Adrian Fernandez' victory at Japan last year.
* Andretti's third-place finish was his fifth podium result of the season and the 84th of his 16-year FedEx Championship Series career.
* Podium finishes by Tracy and Andretti helped tighten the Nation's Cup race considerably, enabling Canada and the four-time defending champion United States to close the gap on leader Brazil with only two events remaining. Brazil heads to Australia with a 249-242 points lead over Canada, with the U.S. standing third just a point further behind at 241. Points in the Nation's Cup competition are scored according to the same scale used to determine the FedEx Championship Series champion (20-16-14-12-10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1), but only the highest-finishing driver representing a given nation scores at any event. Single points are also awarded to the nation whose driver wins the pole position or leads the most laps.
* Max Papis (Miller Lite Ford Reynard) finished fourth for his fourth top-five finish in the past five events. The run includes finishes of fifth at Mid-Ohio, fourth at Chicago and third at Laguna Seca, a FedEx Championship Series career best. Overall, Papis owns top-five finishes in nine of 18 starts this season.
* Scott Pruett (Pioneer/MCI WorldCom Toyota Reynard) made the 143rd start of his CART career Sunday, breaking a tie with Arie Luyendyk and moving into sole possession of 10th place on the career starts list. Pruett's 10th-place finish, following a season-best seventh at Laguna Seca, allowed him to score PPG Cup points in back-to-back events for the first time this season.
* Gugelmin (Hollywood PacWest Mercedes) finished a strong sixth while moving into a tie with Mario Andretti for fifth place on the CART consecutive starts list with 106. Gugelmin scored PPG Cup points for the third consecutive event, following finishes of fourth at Vancouver, a season best, and 11th at Laguna Seca. Gugelmin had not scored in three consecutive events during the same season since scoring in the final seven events of the 1997 campaign.
* Richie Hearn (Budweiser Toyota Swift) finished eighth to earn his second top-eight finish in the past three events. He also finished sixth at Vancouver.
The FedEx Championship Series continues with its final international event of the season, the Honda Indy 300 on Sunday, Oct. 17, on the streets of Surfers Paradise in Queensland, Australia.