MONTEREY, Calif. (October 14, 2001) - Max Papis of Team Rahal put together an impressive run from deep in the field to earn his second FedEx Championship Series victory of the season in Sunday's Shell 300, featured event of the Honda Grand Prix of...
MONTEREY, Calif. (October 14, 2001) - Max Papis of Team Rahal put together an impressive run from deep in the field to earn his second FedEx Championship Series victory of the season in Sunday's Shell 300, featured event of the Honda Grand Prix of Monterey at Laguna Seca Raceway.
Papis (Miller Lite Ford Lola) , who started 25th, made four pit stops during the first 13 laps of the 76-lap event, then used fuel strategy to stop only once more en route to the third victory of his career. He finished 0.794 seconds ahead of runner-up Memo Gidley of Target Chip Ganassi Racing in the two-hour test, which was shortened from its original 83-lap distance due to CART rules stipulating a two-hour time limit for road- or street-course events.
Papis' performance established a CART record for victory from the furthest starting position on road or street courses. Al Unser Jr. had held the previous record when he drove from 19th to victory at Miami in 1986. Papis also equaled the overall CART mark held by Mike Mosley, who drove from 25th to first at The Milwaukee Mile in 1981.
Papis averaged 84.919 miles per hour en route to the triumph, his second of the season on a permanent road course, following an earlier win at Portland in June.
The victory was also the 100th CART win for Firestone since its return to open-wheel racing competition in 1995. Firestone accomplished those 100 triumphs in only 127 FedEx Championship Series starts.
Defending FedEx Championship Series champion Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske finished third and added to his lead in his bid to become the fourth driver ever to win back-to-back CART titles. De Ferran takes 179 points into Round 20 at Surfers Paradise, Australia in two weeks, and holds a 26-point margin over Kenny Brack (Shell Ford Lola) of Team Rahal, who stands second with 153. Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske remains the only other driver in mathematical contention for the championship, with 141 points following Sunday's sixth-place finish.
Brack finished 25th and scoreless Sunday, exiting after six laps due to a mechanical failure. A maximum of 44 points are available in the season's final two events.
Papis' climb through the field began when he exited the pits in 20th place following his fourth stop on Lap 13. He stood 13th by Lap 18, 12th by Lap 19, eighth by Lap 36, and fifth a lap later. Papis made his final pit stop on Lap 43, slipping to 15th place, but climbed to third when nine cars ahead of him pitted on Lap 50.
He remained among the top three drivers for the balance of the event, taking the lead for good on Lap 61. Papis' victory was the third in four years for Team Rahal at Laguna Seca, following back-to-back wins by Bryan Herta in 1998 and '99.
Gidley's (Target Toyota Lola) runner-up performance equaled a career-best result established earlier this year at Cleveland. It was also a career-best effort in 11 FedEx Championship Series starts on permanent road courses.
De Ferran collected his series-leading eighth podium finish of the season with his third-place effort, and his sixth in the past eight events, including victories at England and Houston. He has also finished sixth or better in five of seven career starts at Laguna Seca.
Rounding out the top five finishers were rookie Scott Dixon (Nextel Powerware Panasonic Toyota Reynard), who finished fourth, and Jimmy Vasser (Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard), who took fifth. Dixon logged his sixth top-five result of the season and his first since fourth at Road America, while Vasser's finish was his best since fifth at Cleveland.
The Shell 300 was Round 19 of 21 in the 2001 FedEx Championship Series. The series visits seven countries and four continents during the season and climaxes with the season-ending Marlboro 500 Presented by Toyota on Sunday, Nov. 4 at California Speedway in Fontana, Calif. Thanks to a partnership between Marlboro, Toyota, CART and California Speedway, the winner of the season finale will collect $1 million, one of the richest paydays in all of motorsports. Christian Fittipaldi (Kmart Toyota Lola) of Newman/Haas Racing is the defending event champion. An additional $1 million, as well as the prestigious Vanderbilt Cup, will be awarded to the driver who wins the FedEx Championship Series championship.
MAX PAPIS, Miller Lite Ford Lola: "Let me tell you, I'm very proud to be here with two special people like Gil and Memo. Today we didn't have the fastest car, but we had a great pit strategy. I was attacking all race long and I feel this was a great victory. I told [Team Rahal Director of Operations] Mark Johnson before the race, 'I think something special could happen here.' I'm very proud to be here at Laguna Seca, this is a track with great history. There are a lot of great names on that trophy, like my friend Alessandro [Zanardi, who won here in 1996], and I'm proud to add my name to that list. Today, I reiterated why I'm called 'Mad Max.' I went from last to first. As a team, we had to do something different today, and we always believed in it."
MEMO GIDLEY, Target Toyota Lola: "Considering all the bad luck, good luck is definitely deserving, not only for me, but the team. Sometimes you win by starting in the front, and sometimes you win by starting in the back and having a good strategy. That's what happened with me the last two weekends. I'm just happy to be up here. We were running pretty lean and I knew what kind of fuel [mileage] we needed to get, but you try not to think about it too much. You try to drive as fast as you can, and let the guys in the pits figure it out. That's what I did today."
GIL de FERRAN, Marlboro Honda Reynard: "Certainly, everything was looking good for us at the start. I could quite easily hold my position and pull out slowly. Even after the first stop, the call to go with a full stop and not short fuel like [Scott] Dixon and some of the other guys was good. I think [team owner] Roger [Penske]'s strategy was perfect, and going toward the end of the race we were looking good. But the yellows and the shortening of the race put paid to that. I can't take anything away from Max and Memo, they had a lot of pressure on them. Certainly, it turned into a championship drive for me. I was a little bit frustrated, but from the championship point of view, it's a good result. It puts us one step closer, and we'll see what happens when we get to Australia."
* Sunday's victory by Max Papis (Miller Lite Ford Lola) represented the 100th CART victory for Firestone tires since its return to open-wheel racing at the start of the 1995 season. Scott Pruett recorded Firestone's first win at Michigan International Speedway in 1995, and it has taken only 127 events for the manufacturer to reach its 100-win milestone. Firestone is the Official Tire of Championship Auto Racing Teams and has been the exclusive tire supplier to the sanctioning body since the start of the 2000 season. Two-time FedEx Championship Series champion Alex Zanardi has recorded the most CART wins for Firestone in the current era, with 15. With Juan Montoya standing second at 10 wins and Jimmy Vasser third at nine, Target Chip Ganassi Racing has accumulated 34 of Firestone's 100 victories. "The Firestone Racing program has enjoyed overwhelming success both on and off the track since we returned to the top forms of open-wheel racing in 1995-more success than we could have imagined even in our wildest dreams," said Al Speyer, Director of Bridgestone/Firestone Motorsports. "Our results on the track have motivated and given great pride to our employees, boosted our marketing and sales efforts and helped us reach new customers. Today gives us good reason to look back in grateful appreciation to those who helped this day arrive. Twenty-four drivers drivers have won CART events on Firestone tires since our return. Alex Zanardi tops that list with 15 victories. In addition to giving us the most wins, he also gives us the biggest smiles and a better understanding of how we all should live. The Firestone Racing progrem is dedicating our 100th CART win to Alex, to honor his tremendous accomplishments in CART, his fighting spirit and his unequaled determination. He's a great friend and we send our love, prayers and thoughts to him as he continues his recovery. The CART paddock is an amazing place, and we're proud to be part of such a stimulating, exciting environment. While there is much competition on the track, there's an equal amount of camaraderie in this group. All of us with the Firestone Racing program are using this weekend to celebrate the spirit of competition that brings out your best."
* Gil de Ferran's (Marlboro Honda Reynard) third-place finish clinched Honda's fourth CART Manufacturer's Championship in the past six FedEx Championship Series seasons. Honda takes an insurmountable 50-point (316-266) over Ford and Toyota with a maximum of 44 points remaining in the final two events. Honda's previous Manufacturer's Championships came in 1996, '98 and '99. Honda is also bidding for its sixth consecutive CART drivers' championship, following titles from Jimmy Vasser (1996), Alex Zanardi (1997, '98), Juan Montoya (1999) and de Ferran (2000).
* Max Papis became the fourth multiple winner of the FedEx Championship Series season, joining Team Rahal teammate Kenny Brack (Shell Ford Lola), who leads the series with four wins; reigning Indianapolis 500 champion Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard), who has three; and Gil de Ferran, who has two. Papis and Brack have combined to bring Team Rahal a series-high six victories this FedEx Championship Series season.
* Memo Gidley (Target Toyota Lola) owns podium finishes in each of his past two starts, and has come from deep on the starting grid to achieve them. He drove from 23rd to third place at Houston last weekend and 23rd to second place on Sunday.
* Gil de Ferran's third-place finish was his fifth top-six performance in seven career starts on the Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca, including his first career FedEx Championship Series victory in 1995 and podium finishes of second last year and third in 1997. He also finished sixth in 1999.
* Helio Castroneves finished sixth to extend his run of scoring performances to eight in the last nine events, dating to an eighth-place finish at Michigan. Included is a victory at Mid-Ohio.
* Tony Kanaan (Hollywood Honda Reynard) of Mo Nunn Racing finished eighth Sunday to extend his run of scoring performances to eight consecutive events, dating to an eighth-place finish at Chicago. Kanaan's streak is tied with Gil de Ferran's for the longest active streak in the FedEx Championship Series.
* Jimmy Vasser's (Visteon Toyota Reynard) fifth-place finish represented his fifth top-five result in his past seven starts on the Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca. The run includes a victory in 1997 and finishes of second in '95, fourth in '96 and fifth in '98.
* Sigma Autosport driver Oriol Servia (Sigma Autosport Ford Lola) was released from the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula after precautionary x-rays following a two-car accident with Mauricio Gugelmin of the PacWest Racing Group on the 66th lap of Sunday's event. Servia sustained several bumps and bruises, but no serious injuries in the incident.
* Fernandez Racing team owners Adrian Fernandez and Tom Anderson announced Sunday that Don Halliday, a longtime engineer in the FedEx Championship Series, will become a team partner and technical director, effective with the 2002 FedEx Championship Series season. The team also announced that it would switch from the Reynard to the Lola chassis for the 2002 campaign. Halliday, a native of New Zealand, owns a distinguised career in Champ Car, Formula One and Formula 3000 competition. Over the past 10 years he has served as Director of Engineering for Tasman Motorsports, and as technical director for Team KOOL Green, where he engineered Dario Franchitti to finishes of third and second, respectively, during the 1998 and '99 FedEx Championship Series seasons. Halliday joined Team Rahal in 2000, and has helped fuel Kenny Brack's (Shell Ford Lola) bid for this year's FedEx Championship Series title. "I am very excited to have Don as a partner in our team," said Fernandez. "The relationship between Don, Tom and myself is very good, and I have no doubt that it is going to be a very successful partnership." Said Anderson: "Next year represents a different set of circumstances for us from this season. We have equipment, we have trucks, we have people, and now we are adding to our second year as Fernandez Racing. I am very happy about the addition of Don Halliday as our new partner and technical director. Don has been a great competitor for a long time and it's going to be fun to have him on my side of the fence for the first time." Halliday is looking forward to working with Fernandez again after several years apart. "I have known Adrian since the Tasman days and he has been a good friend ever since," he said. "He's a very genuine sort of chap. He has a lot of speed, which is exciting, and he's an enthusiast. Tom obviously has a lot of respect up and down pit lane, and I think the three of us, as a triangle, will be very strong."
The FedEx Championship Series continues with Round 20, the Honda Indy 300, October 26-28 at Surfers Paradise in Queensland, Australia.