CHAMPCAR/CART: Mercedes Gateway Race Report

FedEx Championship Series Report Race: Motorola 300, Gateway International Raceway, Madison, Ill. Date/Session: Saturday, May 29, 1999 Race Results Hometown Hero Castro-Neves Scores Podium Finish At Gateway's ...

FedEx Championship Series Report

Race:                Motorola 300, Gateway International Raceway, Madison, Ill.
Date/Session:        Saturday, May 29, 1999        Race Results

Hometown Hero Castro-Neves Scores Podium Finish At Gateway's Motorola 300

Thrilling Contest Puts Three Mercedes In Top Six; Castro-Neves Records Fastest Lap

In a race that kept the St. Louis crowd on their feet cheering for nearly three hours, Mercedes Champ Car driver Helio Castro-Neves and his locally-based Hogan Racing team took second place in Saturday's Motorola 300 at Gateway International Raceway. The CART sophomore recovered brilliantly from an early pit lane error to lead for 38 laps, and finished just 0.329 seconds behind winner Michael Andretti.

Castro-Neves posted the fastest lap of the race for the third time this season, circling the 1.27-mile Gateway oval in 26.180 seconds (174.637 mph). Two other Mercedes Champ Car drivers finished in the top six: "Super Sub" Roberto Moreno brought the PacWest Motorola car home fourth, while Greg Moore finished sixth. When the leaders pitted under yellow on lap 36, Castro-Neves missed his pit box and was forced to continue without making the stop. The Hogan Racing team had to improvise a new pit-stop strategy to enable Helio to recover and challenge for the lead. With a large throng of spectators rooting on their "hometown" hero, the young Brazilian made pass after pass to regain second place following the final round of pit stops. The performance matched Castro-Neves' career-best finish (at Milwaukee in 1998), and he now ranks fifth in laps led.

Roberto Moreno, substituting for injured PacWest Motorola veteran Mark Blundell, started in 19th position, but moved into the race lead for 42 laps thanks to excellent pit strategy and hard race driving in the early stages. The Motorola pit crew performed well during the pit stops throughout the afternoon, and Moreno raced with the leaders for the remainder of the contest to finish fourth.

Player's/Forsythe driver Greg Moore led the race for four laps in the middle stages, surrendering the top spot during pit stops. He finished the day sixth, and maintained his fourth-place position in the driver's championship points contest.

Al Unser Jr. started 24th after struggling all weekend to find the key to his new Marlboro Team Penske Lola chassis. The team used an out-of-sequence pit strategy to take the lead for 10 laps, and Unser eventually finished 12th.

Epson Bettenhausen Motorsports rookie Shigeaki Hattori ran as high as fourth position by pitting out of sequence early in the race, and finished 15th. It marked the first race in which the rookie completed the entire race distance. Mauricio Gugelmin pitted his PacWest Hollywood Mercedes Champ Car early under yellow, but ran out of fuel while trying to pit on lap 107 and needed a tow into the pit lane. Gugelmin later retired with a mechanical problem on lap 161.

Patrick Carpentier also ran with the leaders for the first half of the race, but his day ended early when he tangled with Dario Franchitti, Bryan Herta and Juan Montoya. Following the crash, Carpentier reported neck pain at the CART Mobile Medical Facility, and was transported via helicopter to St. Louis University Hospital for precautionary x-rays.

Marlboro Team Penske Mercedes rookie Tarso Marques spun and made contact against the outside wall on lap 32 and retired from the race.

Hakkinen Takes Pole For Spanish Grand Prix Reigning Formula One World Champion Mika Hakkinen scored his fifth consecutive pole of the season in qualifying his West McLaren Mercedes MP4-14 for Sunday's Spanish Grand Prix at Barcelona, Spain. Teammate David Coulthard was third-quickest. "Five poles in a row for Mika is an excellent achievement," said Norbert Haug, chief of motorsports for Mercedes-Benz. "Pole today was hard fought, and I am sure the team will find an even better set up for tomorrow."

Mercedes Quotes

Helio Castro-Neves, No. 9, Hogan Racing Mercedes/Firestone (Second/236 laps) "The whole team did a fantastic job. I made a mistake with that first pit stop, but the car was just great. Michael did a super job -- with the dirty air, I just couldn't get by him. "I really tried. I just wanted to win for Carl. In my helmet I said, 'I am so close, and Carl deserves this. "

Roberto Moreno, No. 18, PacWest Motorola Mercedes/Firestone (Fourth/236 laps) "The car was fantastic. I have no words to say about how great a job the team did. It's not just about driving, it's pit stops and strategy, too. After we struggled a little in the morning, I didn't think that we could be as competitive as we were today, but the guys did a great job of deciding when to stop and when to stay out. We took some gambles, and they paid off, and the Motorola crew had some amazing pit stops. "One of the best things about this weekend was that how well Mauricio Gugelmin and I worked together. I was able to help him yesterday before qualifying (when the PacWest team put Moreno's set up on Gugelmin's Hollywood car), and he helped me today. Everyone at PacWest did an unbelievable job."

Greg Moore, No. 99, Player's/Forsythe Mercedes/Firestone (Sixth/236 laps) "We got some points, and we leave with an intact race car. When you lose three places in the pits, it becomes really difficult to win a race. We were running really well up to that last stop, and that's just the breaks. On his outside pass of Max Papis in turn one: "To pass with this wing package, you have to hold your breath and dive in there. There was some close stuff out there today. Max had a ton of straightaway speed today. We went in side-by-side. I was lucky that my car was handling better than his was, and I was able to pass. We kept the momentum going down the backstretch, but with his straightaway speed, he almost passed me going into turn three. We were able to hold him off. "I am still not a fan of these wings. We'll just go on to Milwaukee." Al Unser Jr., No. 2, Marlboro Team Penske Mercedes/Goodyear (12th/235 laps) "We had a good run. I'm glad we brought the car home in the points, led some laps, and ran all day. Overall, we're pleased with the Lola's performance. While I didn't have much time to develop it before this weekend, we were able to make gains each day. The whole team did a great job, and gave it their all getting the car ready. I'm looking forward to running the Lola on the Milwaukee Mile to see how we do there."

Shigeaki Hattori, No. 16, Epson Bettenhausen Motorsport Mercedes/Goodyear (15th/229 laps) "I had a big push at the start of the race, but the second set of tires we put on really helped. The team gave me a very good car, and the Mercedes-Benz engine was very strong all day. "The start of the season has been very tough, but the team, the sponsor and my family has continued to support me. It feels very good."

Mauricio Gugelmin, No. 17, PacWest Hollywood Mercedes/Firestone (18th/161 laps) "It was a rough weekend for us."

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers David Coulthard , Mika Hakkinen , Al Unser Jr. , Shigeaki Hattori , Michael Andretti , Max Papis , Tarso Marques , Roberto Moreno , Patrick Carpentier , Dario Franchitti , Mauricio Gugelmin , Bryan Herta , Mark Blundell , Norbert Haug , Greg Moore
Teams Team Penske