DETROIT (August 11, 1999) - There is a new look at the top of the FedEx Championship Series standings as the series prepares for Round 14, this weekend's Miller Lite 200 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (ESPN, 3:30 p.m. ET,...
DETROIT (August 11, 1999) - There is a new look at the top of the FedEx Championship Series standings as the series prepares for Round 14, this weekend's Miller Lite 200 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (ESPN, 3:30 p.m. ET, one-hour tape delay). For the first time since Round 4 at Nazareth, there is a new leader in the championship, Dario Franchitti. Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard) assumed that role following his victory at Detroit last week, at least temporarily ending the reign of rookie marvel Juan Montoya (Target Honda Reynard), who held sway for three months and nine events. Franchitti's victory at Detroit allowed him to join Montoya as the season's only multiple winners, and installed him atop the championship for the first time in his three-year career. Franchitti, with two victories and seven podium finishes, brings 136 points to Mid-Ohio, five more than Montoya, who leads the series with four victories and five pole positions. Lurking well within striking distance of the leaders is veteran Michael Andretti (Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Swift), who stands third in the championship with 119 points. The veteran Andretti, a two-time winner at Mid-Ohio (1990, '91), owns top-four finishes in four of his past five starts and has scored PPG Cup points in 10 of 13 starts this season. Somewhat overshadowed in Franchitti's rise to the top of the championship standings has been the performance of his Team KOOL Green teammate, Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard), who has vaulted from 13th to fourth in the championship during the past seven events. Tracy has scored PPG Cup points in all seven, giving him the longest active streak in the FedEx Championship Series, and owns top-five finishes in six, including a victory at Milwaukee. Recent injuries to two championship contenders have opened the door for others to move into the chase. Christian Fittipaldi (Big Kmart Ford Swift) was in the midst of a career season and stood fourth in the championship before sustaining a subdural hematoma in an Aug. 2 testing accident at Gateway International Raceway. He is sidelined indefinitely. Adrian Fernandez (Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing Ford Reynard), last year's winner at Mid-Ohio, is also out this weekend after sustaining a fractured radius bone in his right wrist during a practice accident in Detroit. The injury occurred as Fernandez was running fifth in the championship. He will be replaced by PJ Jones this weekend. The absences of Fittipaldi and Fernandez leave an opportunity for drivers such as Gil de Ferran (Valvoline/Cummins Special Honda Reynard), Max Papis (Miller Lite Ford Reynard) and Tony Kanaan (McDonald's Championship Racing Team Honda Reynard) to improve their lot in the FedEx Championship Series points race. De Ferran currently stands eighth with 88 points, but is just 13 out of fifth. Papis and Kanaan stand ninth and 10th, with 68 and 62 points, respectively, and both are local favorites with their teams being based in suburban Columbus. Following the Miller Lite 200, the FedEx Championship Series concludes a stretch of six events in seven weeks with the inaugural Target Grand Prix Presented by Shell, Sunday, Aug. 22 at the new Chicago Motor Speedway in Cicero, Ill.
* Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard) has won two of the past three races to become the new FedEx Championship Series points leader, succeeding Juan Montoya (Target Honda Reynard), who had led the championship since his May 2 victory at Nazareth Speedway. Franchitti's victories at Toronto and Detroit have boosted his total of podium finishes this season to seven, including runner-up efforts at Long Beach and Rio de Janeiro and thirds at Homestead, Gateway and Portland. Franchitti has recorded podium finishes in eight of his last 11 starts on road or street circuits, dating to his first career FedEx Championship Series victory at Road America last year. He is the defending pole-sitter at Mid-Ohio.
* Franchitti's Team KOOL Green teammate, Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) has been the hottest driver in the FedEx Championship Series of late with seven consecutive points-paying finishes, triggered by his June 6 victory at Milwaukee. Six of those are top-five efforts, including runner-up results at Toronto and Detroit, third at Michigan, fourth at Cleveland and fifth at Portland in addition to his win at Milwaukee. The streak has catapulted him from 13th to fourth in the championship with 106 points.
* Michael Andretti (Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Swift) owns top-four finishes in four of his past five starts, dating to third at Cleveland. The run also includes a runner-up finish at Road America and back-to-back fourths at Michigan and Detroit. He is third in the championship with 119 points, 12 behind second-place Montoya.
* Michael Andretti is a two-time winner at Mid-Ohio (1990, '91) with both victories having come from the pole. He also is the only driver to win three consecutive pole positions at the venue (1990-92) and has led 246 career laps on the 2.258-mile permanent road course.
* Al Unser Jr. (Marlboro Mercedes Lola) has finished on the podium five times in 16 career starts at Mid-Ohio, including consecutive victories in 1994 and '95. He also owns podium finishes of second in 1989 and third in 1990 and '92, and has finished among the top five nine times in 16 career starts at the venue.
* Paul Tracy owns three runner-up finishes in six career starts at Mid-Ohio (1992, '94 and '95). He has also qualified on the outside pole three times (1992-94) and his fifth-place finish last year was his best of the season on a road or street course.
* Robby Gordon (Johns Manville/Panasonic/Menards Toyota Swift) has scored PPG Cup points in four of five career starts at Mid-Ohio, including finishes of second in 1993, fourth in '94, eighth in '95 and 11th last year.