CHAMPCAR/CART: Mercedes Gateway race report

Polesitter Juan Montoya won Sunday's Motorola 300 to notch his 10th CART career victory (third this year) in just his second season of FedEx Championship Series competition. All of Montoya's victories this year, including the Indianapolis 500,...

Polesitter Juan Montoya won Sunday's Motorola 300 to notch his 10th CART career victory (third this year) in just his second season of FedEx Championship Series competition. All of Montoya's victories this year, including the Indianapolis 500, have been earned on ovals.

Defending champion Michael Andretti looked to have the race locked up after storming through the field from his 15th-place starting position and lapping everyone except Montoya by Lap 167 of the 236-lap contest. But after the final round of pit stops, Andretti's car trailed a wisp of smoke, and his engine finally gave way on Lap 196. Montoya assumed the lead, and the Columbian pilot won the race on the 1.27-mile oval by 11.804 seconds over Patrick Carpentier in track-record time. Championship points leader Gil de Ferran finished eighth and maintains a small advantage with three races left.

Tony Kanaan was the highest-qualifying and highest-finishing Mercedes-Benz driver. Kanaan started in sixth position, and his Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Mercedes was competitive early, as the Brazilian passed Carpentier on the opening lap to take over fifth place. When Dario Franchitti dropped out with mechanical problems on Lap 30, Kanaan moved up to fourth. But on Lap 36, Kanaan was forced off the gas pedal by slower traffic and dropped to 10th position over the next several laps and did not recover. His race car developed brake problems later in the contest, and Kanaan finished 13th.

"Everything seemed so promising in the early going," said Kanaan. "But then a slower car blocked me and I had to lift off the throttle. This is a serious momentum track, and it takes you several laps to get back up to speed. Meanwhile, I lost several positions and that was pretty much the story of the day. We had some brake problems at the end, but we kept going until the finish. At least we brought the car home in one piece."

Mauricio Gugelmin posted a quick qualifying time on Saturday, but was forced to start from the rear of the grid when his PacWest Nextel Mercedes was found to be under the minimum required weight of 1,550 pounds in the post-qualifying technical inspection. On race day, Gugelmin battled an ill-handling car in the early going and dropped three laps off the leaders. On his initial pit stop, the team adjusted tire pressures, which improved the car's performance. But Gugelmin parked the machine on Lap 198, complaining of vibration in the car. He was credited with 19th place.

"Early on, the car went from push to loose -- it was just all over the place," said Gugelmin. "Later on, the car developed a vibration, and it got very bad after the third pit stop. We decided it was not worth the risk of putting the car in the wall, so we decided to bring it in."

Michel Jourdain Jr., who scored championship points at the Motegi, Japan, and Chicago ovals earlier in the season, did not fare as well at Gateway International Raceway. The Mexican driver soldiered to a 16th place finish in his Herdez/Bettenhausen Mercedes-Benz. Mark Blundell parked his PacWest Motorola Mercedes on Lap 64 with an engine problem and placed 23rd. Luiz Garcia Jr. started the race in his back-up Hollywood/Arciero Project Racing Mercedes after a collision with Memo Gidley during the morning warm up session damaged his primary car. The Brazilian retired on Lap 7 with mechanical problems and finished 25th.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Gil de Ferran , Michael Andretti , Memo Gidley , Patrick Carpentier , Tony Kanaan , Mauricio Gugelmin , Mark Blundell , Michel Jourdain