DETROIT (September 8, 1999) - Target/Chip Ganassi Racing rookie Juan Montoya, the FedEx Championship Series points leader, has an opportunity to add to his rapidly-growing legend in this weekend's Shell 300, featured event of the Honda...
DETROIT (September 8, 1999) - Target/Chip Ganassi Racing rookie Juan Montoya, the FedEx Championship Series points leader, has an opportunity to add to his rapidly-growing legend in this weekend's Shell 300, featured event of the Honda Grand Prix of Monterey at Laguna Seca Raceway (3 p.m. ET Sunday, live, ESPN).
Montoya arrives on the picturesque Monterey Peninsula with a 194-171 lead over Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard) in the PPG Cup points race. While his primary focus is becoming only the second rookie to win the championship, joining Nigel Mansell (1993), Montoya also has the opportunity to tie three different CART records with a victory from the pole this weekend. Last weekend's victory at the Molson Indy Vancouver was Montoya's seventh of the season, moving him one short of the CART single-season mark of eight established by Michael Andretti in 1991 and matched by Al Unser Jr. in 1994. It was also Montoya's third in a row, the second time he has accomplished that feat this season. While Unser Jr. (1994) is the only CART driver to have put together two separate three-race winning streaks in the same season, Montoya could tie the CART mark for consecutive victories with a win Sunday. Unser Jr. set that standard in 1990 and Alex Zanardi tied it last year. With six pole positions this season, Montoya also stands one behind Mansell's CART rookie record of seven. Three of his seven victories this season, including last week's at Vancouver, have come from the pole. Zanardi (1996) was the last driver to have won as many as three events from the pole in the same season. All of Montoya's accomplishments, of course, accrue to the benefit of Target/Chip Ganassi Racing, which is attempting to become the first team in FedEx Championship Series history to win four consecutive championships. Target/Chip Ganassi Racing and Penske Racing (1981-83) share the current record of three straight titles. Michael Andretti (Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Swift) and Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) headline the list of five former race champions in the field with multiple victories in the event. Andretti's victories came in 1991 and '92 while Tracy succeeded him with back-to-back wins in 1993 and '94. Andretti and Tracy are currently positioned third and fourth in the championship, with 124 and 122 points, respectively. Gil de Ferran (Valvoline/Cummins Special Honda Reynard) is another former Laguna Seca winner, having driven to his first career FedEx Championship Series victory in 1995, as well as Jimmy Vasser (Target Honda Reynard), who won in 1997. Bryan Herta (Shell Ford Reynard) is the defending champion, having driven to his first career FedEx Championship Series victory from the pole last year. He also finished second in 1996 and won the 1997 pole and figures to be a factor again this weekend. Franchitti's 10th-place finish at Vancouver ended a streak of five consecutive top-five performances, including victories at Toronto and Detroit. He finished fourth at Laguna Seca last year, and has finished fourth or better in four of his past five starts on permanent road courses, dating to his first career FedEx Championship Series victory at Road America last year.
Following this weekend's Honda Grand Prix of Monterey Featuring the Shell 300, the FedEx Championship Series continues with Round 18, the Texaco Grand Prix of Houston, on Sunday, Sept. 26 from the streets of downtown Houston.