David Reininger - motorsport.com Lexington, OH (August 15, 1999) _ Juan Montoya scored his fifth win of the season in the 1999 CART FedEx championship, finishing 10.927 seconds ahead of Paul Tracy in today's Miller Lite 200 at the Mid-Ohio...
David Reininger - motorsport.com
Lexington, OH (August 15, 1999) _ Juan Montoya scored his fifth win of the season in the 1999 CART FedEx championship, finishing 10.927 seconds ahead of Paul Tracy in today's Miller Lite 200 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
Montoya is the first CART rookie to win five races since Nigel Mansell scored five victories in 1993. With five victories in fourteen starts, Montoya needs one more victory to break Mansell's record. There are six races remaining on the schedule.
At the start, polesitter Dario Franchitti dove to the inside of the first corner to protect his lead, which he would stretch to five seconds in the first few laps. But Franchitti's Team Kool Green teammate, Paul Tracy, who continues to keep his championship hopes alive, had to keep Dario honest. Tracy, who started third, tried to overtake outside polesitter, Bryan Herta at the start but instead had to slot back into third position. "I had to get by Bryan and it took me a couple of laps to do that," said Tracy. By the time Tracy got around Herta, Franchitti had opened up a five-second lead.
"Dario had a four or five second lead on me, I was able to cut that down to two and a half by the end of the first stint," said Tracy.
After completing the first round of pit stops, Franchitti led with Tracy still in pursuit. Meanwhile, the Ganassi team performed a lightning quick pit stop on the No. 4 Target car, gaining Montoya five positions on the track.
Franchitti, still in the lead at the end of the second stint, encountered a tire problem forcing him to pit early. "The right rear tire started to go down," said Franchitti. "That's the reason we pitted early for our second stop. It was down to about 10 pounds of air. The car was pretty much a handful, oversteering through the left-handers and understeering through the rights."
When Franchitti peeled off to make his pit stop, Tracy and Montoya were directly behind him. But Tracy's lead, inherited when Franchitti stopped for service, was short-lived. Montoya made an outside move through the esses, an opportunity seized when Tracy entered the right-hander at the end of the straight a bit too hot.
"When he passed me (for the lead), he got a good run on me going into the corner," said Tracy. "I tried to protect the line and I made him go wide, but Juan went in a little deeper than me, and he braked late. They ought to put Superman on his car."
Franchitti, who now leads the championship by one point over Montoya after today's third place finish, wasn't able to mount a challenge against the Colombian, who set the fastest lap of the race. "Paul would have let me by," said Franchitti. "But I couldn't get close enough. Both Paul and I were running at the same pace."
Besides, team orders have to take account of the surrounding conditions. With Jimmy Vasser closing on Franchitti for third, swapping positions would have been risky for the Team Kool Green drivers.
"We felt we could catch Dario for third but we just ran out of laps," said Vasser. "This is always a tough race physically but we hung in there and battled. We're in the stretch run now and we'll keep trying to win races and maybe steal some points t help Juan out."
Max Papis rounded out the top-five, finishing five seconds behind Vasser.
The CART FedEx series heads to Chicago next week for the inaugural Target Grand Prix. Practice begins on Thursday for next Sunday's race.