CHAMPCAR/CART: Michigan Mercedes-Benz race report

Montoya Wins A Barn Burner at the Michigan 500 Indy 500 Champion Edges Andretti in Exciting Finish In the third-closest finish in the 92-year history of Champ Car racing, 1999 champion Juan Montoya passed Michael Andretti in the final yards ...

Montoya Wins A Barn Burner at the Michigan 500
Indy 500 Champion Edges Andretti in Exciting Finish

In the third-closest finish in the 92-year history of Champ Car racing, 1999 champion Juan Montoya passed Michael Andretti in the final yards to win the 20th edition of the Michigan 500 at Michigan International Speedway. The 250-lap race on the two-mile superspeedway featured 52 official lead changes, including constant see-sawing between Montoya and Andretti for the lead in the closing 20 laps. Montoya prevailed by a mere 0.040 seconds (less than one car length) by using the draft from a lapped car to pull ahead of Andretti as the pair crossed the finish line. Ironically, Montoya was denied victory in last year's race * finishing second to Tony Kanaan by 0.032 seconds * in the second-closest CART race in history.

It was the ninth career win for Montoya, and his second of the season. With his second-place finish, Andretti takes command in the drivers' championship standings by 14 points over Roberto Moreno.

For the second consecutive race, the rookie Hollywood/Arciero Project Racing Group team and Mercedes driver Luiz Garcia Jr. led the five-car Mercedes-Benz fleet. Garcia Jr., making his first career Champ Car start at the superspeedway, paced to a career-best 11th place finish. The young Brazilian and his newly formed team have scored points in four races this season, including Long Beach, Rio de Janeiro, Toronto and now Michigan.

Mauricio Gugelmin battled hard all day from his tenth-row starting position, and was primed for his fourth top-10 finish of the season when a mechanical problem forced the Brazilian driver into the pits with just nine laps remaining. The PacWest Nextel Mercedes driver finished 13th.

"That's the hardest day's work I have ever done for no result," said Gugelmin. The Nextel crew did a fantastic job on all my pit stops, and I really feel for them."

Herdez/Bettenhausen Motorsports driver Michel Jourdain Jr. started 22nd and made a determined charge through the field, but retired with an engine failure on Lap 162. Jourdain Jr. was credited with 15th place. Mark Blundell lost a lap early in the race, but fought back onto the lead lap -- and was gaining ground with good fuel mileage -- when his PacWest Motorola Mercedes came to a stop at Turn Two shortly after the halfway mark in the race. Blundell finished 19th.

"I could see things getting hotter," said Blundell. "I made a stop so the team could check everything and then went back out, but it was all over before I got to Turn Two. It's disappointing because we had worked hard to get that lap back, and we were running quick laps. We deserved better today, but we'll regroup and see if we can put on a decent show in Motorola's hometown of Chicago next weekend."

Tony Kanaan, returning to the cockpit for the first time since sustaining broken ribs and a broken arm in a qualifying crash at the Detroit Grand Prix, started the contest from the ninth row. The defending race winner moved steadily forward into the top 10 before pitting on Lap 54 with elevated water temperatures on his Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing race car. The team attempted to fix the problem in several subsequent pit stops, but Kanaan was forced to park the car for good on Lap 61.

"I was having a good race, and having fun out there," said Kanaan. "We decided not to risk anything and park it. I didn't want to hurt the car, or myself. I am looking forward to Chicago next week."

The CART FedEx Championship Series heads to Chicago Motor Speedway for Round 12, the Target Grand Prix of Chicago, on July 30 (4 p.m., ABC-TV).

<pre> Results, Michigan 500 Brooklyn, Mich. July 23, 2000

Pos. Driver Engine Laps 1 Juan Montoya Toyota 250 2 Michael Andretti Ford Cosworth 250 3 Dario Franchitti Honda 250 4 Patrick Carpentier Ford Cosworth 250 5 Helio Castroneves Honda 250 6 Adrian Fernandez Ford Cosworth 250 7 Paul Tracy Honda 250 8 Oriol Servia Toyota 249 9 Max Papis Ford Cosworth 247 10 Memo Gidley Toyota 247 11 Luiz Garcia Jr. Mercedes-Benz 246 13 Mauricio Gugelmin Mercedes-Benz 241 15 Michel Jourdain Jr. Mercedes-Benz 162 19 Mark Blundell Mercedes-Benz 131 24 Tony Kanaan Mercedes-Benz 61

Driver's Championship

Michael Andretti 104 Roberto Moreno 90 Paul Tracy 80 Gil de Ferran 75 Manufacturer's Championship Ford Cosworth 194 Honda 169 Toyota 165 Mercedes 46

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Michael Andretti , Memo Gidley , Max Papis , Adrian Fernandez , Roberto Moreno , Patrick Carpentier , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Tony Kanaan , Mauricio Gugelmin , Oriol Servia , Mark Blundell , Michel Jourdain , Luiz Garcia , Mo Nunn