CHAMPCAR/CART: Laguna Seca race report

HERTA BECOMES CART-RECORD 10TH DIFFERENT WINNER WITH SHELL 300 WIN AT THE HONDA GRAND PRIX OF MONTEREY MONTEREY, Calif. (Sept. 12, 1999) - Team Rahal driver Bryan Herta captured the Honda Grand Prix of Monterey's Shell 300 from the pole for the...

HERTA BECOMES CART-RECORD 10TH DIFFERENT WINNER WITH SHELL 300 WIN AT THE HONDA GRAND PRIX OF MONTEREY

MONTEREY, Calif. (Sept. 12, 1999) - Team Rahal driver Bryan Herta captured the Honda Grand Prix of Monterey's Shell 300 from the pole for the second consecutive year Sunday at Laguna Seca Raceway as the FedEx Championship Series established a new single-season record for different race winners.

Herta (Shell Ford Reynard) became the 10th different winner in 17 events, eclipsing the former mark of nine set in 1985 and equaled in 1995, in convincing fashion on the 2.238-mile permanent road course. He led all 83 laps, becoming the first Champ Car driver to accomplish the feat since Paul Tracy in 1994, en route to a 1.825-second victory over Roberto Moreno (Big Kmart Ford Swift) at Newman/Haas Racing.

A strong run at Laguna Seca was no surprise for Herta, who has posted both of his career wins at this venue and has led an impressive 68 percent of the race laps since 1996. He was strong throughout and the only true opportunity for any driver to overtake him came on a restart on Lap 60 following a full-course caution period. Herta came out of Turn 11 on the restart and had some trouble with cold tires while Michael Andretti (Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Swift) was bearing down on him. Herta, however, recovered, held his pursuers at bay, and continued his run for a flag-to-flag victory.

Moreno, making his fifth start in the place of injured Christian Fittipaldi, turned in a strong performance to establish a new career best with his runner-up finish. Moreno, whose previous best was third at the 1996 U.S. 500 for Payton Coyne Racing, made the biggest gain among the 26-car field by moving up 12 slots from his starting position of 14th.

Max Papis (Miller Lite Ford Reynard) also established a new career best as Team Rahal had teammates on the same podium for the first time in its history. Papis, who started third, was running second as late as Lap 61, but Moreno slipped by him on that final restart and never relinquished the position. It was the eighth top-five finish for Papis, who moved from 10th to sixth in the championship.

Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) finished fourth to allow him to overtake Andretti, who finished 10th, for third in the championship race. His effort also allowed Honda to clinch the Manufacturer's Championship, its third in the past four seasons.

Adrian Fernandez (Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing Ford Reynard), who missed the past four races due to a fractured right wrist sustained during the Detroit weekend, rebounded with a stellar fifth-place performance. The effort moved him from eighth to fifth in the championship.

Juan Montoya (Target Honda Reynard), despite an eighth-place finish, was able to extend his championship points lead over second-place Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard), who was held pointless when he exited due to contact after 31 laps. Montoya holds a 199-171 lead with three races and 66 points remaining, the next event being the Texaco Grand Prix of Houston on Sept. 26.

WHAT THEY'RE SAYING

BRYAN HERTA, Shell Ford Reynard: "The only trouble I had was toward the end of the second stint. I started to slide around a lot. But we came in and put a new set of Firestones on and the car was great the rest of the way. Roberto [Moreno] was pushing me at the end, but I felt I had an answer for whatever he had for me. [Regarding his recent dominance at Laguna Seca] I'm not telling. If there is a reason, I don't know what it is and I don't really care. I'm just happy to have a place like this where I've experienced some success and I hope it will continue."

ROBERTO MORENO, Big Kmart Ford Swift: "It's been a great day for us, my best result in CART, and I thank everybody who made it possible. All I can say is that my pit crew did a great job all day and because of that we were able to make a short fuel stop at the end, which allowed us to make up a number of positions. The next race [Sept. 26 at Houston], Christian Fittipaldi is scheduled to come back, so it's nice to finish up with a golden key and if they still need me, I'd be happy to return."

MAX PAPIS, Miller Lite Ford Reynard: "It was a very hard race. We were racing on fuel and trying to conserve tires. During the first pit stop, we had no problem, but during the second I had a bit of a problem with the clutch. It was a great weekend for all of us, but at the same time very sad because of what happened to Gonzalo [Rodriguez, who lost his life in an accident during race practice Saturday]. I found myself thinking of him often today. It was a fantastic day for me, my best finish, but we have to remind ourselves that there are many values in life and Gonzalo was achieving his values. Our passion for our sport is our best tribute to him."

WHAT'S NOTEWORTHY

* Sunday's pre-race activities included a moment of silence for Gonzalo Rodriguez, the 27-year-old Uruguayan driver who lost his life in an accident during race practice Saturday morning. All of the drivers who participated in the Shell 300 signed a Uruguayan flag prior to the event, which will be presented to Rodriguez' parents.

* Shell 300 champion Bryan Herta and podium finishers Roberto Moreno and Max Papis exhibited true camaraderie and class when they bypassed the traditional spraying of the champagne in the post-race ceremonies in light of Saturday's tragic accident that took the life of Rodriguez. Instead, the trio had a low-key, personal toast to Rodriguez on the podium. "Obviously, we were all very pleased with our individual performances, but we wanted to do something classy," Herta said. "When we were given the champagne bottles, we all got together and said, 'What do you think?' We decided to do a toast to him as a tribute."

* Herta's (Shell Ford Reynard) victory allowed the FedEx Championship Series to establish a record with its 10th different winner of the season, topping the series standard of nine established in 1985 and matched in 1995. Previous winners include rookie Juan Montoya (Target Honda Reynard) at Long Beach, Nazareth, Rio de Janeiro, Cleveland, Mid-Ohio, Chicago and Vancouver; Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard) at Toronto and Detroit; Greg Moore (Player's Forsythe Racing Team Ltd. Mercedes Reynard) at Homestead; Adrian Fernandez (Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing Ford Reynard) at Japan; Michael Andretti (Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Swift) at Gateway; Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) at Milwaukee; Gil de Ferran (Valvoline/Cummins Special Honda Reynard) at Portland, Christian Fittipaldi (Big Kmart Ford Swift) at Road America and Tony Kanaan (McDonald's Championship Racing Team Honda Reynard) at Michigan.

* Herta became the fifth winner from the pole this season, joining Montoya (Nazareth, Cleveland, Vancouver) and Moore (Homestead).

* Tracy's fourth-place finish clinched the 1999 Manufacturer's Championship for Honda, its third title in the past four years. Honda, which previously won the championship in 1996 and '98, holds an insurmountable 327-250 lead over Ford with a maximum of 66 points available in the remaining three events.

* Though Honda won the season-long war, Ford was definitely the dominant engine manufacturer in Sunday's battle. Ford-powered drivers swept the podium and finished in four of the top five places, thanks to Fernandez' fifth-place result. It marked Ford's second podium sweep of the season following first-through-third efforts by Fittipaldi, Andretti and Fernandez, respectively, at Road America.

* Herta and Papis became the seventh pair of teammates to finish on the podium in the past eight FedEx Championship Series events. The run dates to Road America where Fittipaldi and Andretti 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.

* By leading every lap from the pole, Herta led only his second FedEx Championship Series event of the season. Herta led a lone lap at Long Beach in Round 3. Since 1996, Herta has led 266 of 372, or 68 percent, of the laps contested at Laguna Seca. He also became the fourth driver of the '90s to lead every lap at Laguna Seca, joining Michael Andretti, who accomplished the feat in 1991 and '92, and Tracy, who did so in 1994.

* Herta's victory meant that his last three FedEx Championship Series podium finishes have come in California. Herta finished third at Long Beach in April in addition to his back-to-back victories at Laguna Seca.

* Scott Pruett (Pioneer/MCI WorldCom Toyota Reynard) had a strong weekend by finishing seventh, matching a season-best established at Toronto. His qualifying effort of eighth is only topped this season by his fifth starting position at Michigan. Sunday's performance came in Pruett's 142nd career start, tying him with Arie Luyendyk for 10th place on the CART career list.

* When Herta and Kanaan started alongside each other on the front row of the starting grid, it marked the first time two Indy Lights graduates had shared the front row at a FedEx Championship Series event. Herta won the 1993 PPG-Dayton Indy Lights championship while Kanaan was the champion in 1997. Three of the top four starters, including fourth-place Moore were Indy Lights champions. Moore won the Indy Lights championship in 1995.

WHAT'S NEXT

The FedEx Championship Series continues with Round 18, the Texaco Grand Prix of Houston, on Sunday, Sept. 26 from the streets of downtown Houston.

Source: CART

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Arie Luyendyk , Gil de Ferran , Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Max Papis , Adrian Fernandez , Roberto Moreno , Christian Fittipaldi , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Tony Kanaan , Bryan Herta , Scott Pruett , Greg Moore