CHAMPCAR/CART: Montoya nips Andretti at Michigan

BROOKLYN, Mich. (July 23, 2000) - Juan Montoya of Target Chip Ganassi Racing and Michael Andretti of Newman/Haas Racing waged a spellbinding wheel-to-wheel duel for the final 20 laps Sunday before Montoya emerged with the third-closest victory...

BROOKLYN, Mich. (July 23, 2000) - Juan Montoya of Target Chip Ganassi Racing and Michael Andretti of Newman/Haas Racing waged a spellbinding wheel-to-wheel duel for the final 20 laps Sunday before Montoya emerged with the third-closest victory in Champ Car history in the Michigan 500 Presented by Toyota at Michigan Speedway.

During a breathtaking afternoon which featured an official 52 lead changes at the start/finish line - second in all-time CART history to the 62 recorded here in 1998 - and an unofficial 162 on the racetrack overall, Montoya and Andretti paired up for a clash between sensational sophomore and venerable veteran. The two went side-by-side until Montoya (Target Toyota Lola) nosed ahead of his adversary coming off the final turn of the 250th and final lap to hold on for a 0.040-second victory, his second of the season and the ninth of his career.

The margin of victory stands as the third-closest in the history of Champ Car competition, exceeded only by Mark Blundell's 0.027-second victory over Gil de Ferran at Portland in 1997 and Tony Kanaan's 0.032-second win over Montoya here last year.

Montoya, the defending FedEx Championship Series champion, became the first driver to sweep the Indianapolis 500 and Michigan 500 in the same season since Rick Mears in 1991. He brought Toyota its second-ever Champ Car victory, joining the manufacturer's first-ever triumph, also recorded by Montoya, at Milwaukee last month.

Though he came up just short at the checkered flag, Andretti (Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Lola) exited with the championship lead, the first time he has held it this late in the campaign since driving to the FedEx Championship Series title in 1991.

Through 11 of 20 rounds in the championship, Andretti has 104 points, 14 ahead of Roberto Moreno (Visteon Ford Reynard) of Patrick Racing, who stands second with 90. Moreno held a 90-88 lead over Andretti entering the event, but went scoreless Sunday, finishing 23rd due to a mechanical failure.

Montoya moved from eighth to fifth in the championship with 74 points, one behind fourth-place Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske. Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard), Sunday's pole-sitter, stands third with 80 points following a seventh-place finish Sunday.

Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard) of Team KOOL Green rounded out the podium by finishing third, a career-best result in a 500-mile event, and his first podium result since a runner-up effort at Japan.

The race began much as it ended, with Montoya and Andretti dueling for the lead through most of the first 20 laps. Though Montoya led 18 of those and Andretti just two, Andretti actually assumed the lead for most or all of the early portions of those laps before being overtaken by Montoya on the backstretch and into Turns 3 and 4.

While the early duel between Andretti and Montoya presaged a spine-tingling finale between the two, the interim saw Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske assert his dominance en route to a race-high 85 laps led.

At various times from Laps 34 through 229, the lead was also held by Kenny Brack (Shell Ford Reynard) of Team Rahal (18 laps); Christian Fittipaldi (Big Kmart/Route 66 Ford Lola) of Newman/Haas Racing (13); Adrian Fernandez (Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing Ford Reynard) of Patrick Racing (13 laps); Andretti (42 laps); Max Papis (Miller Lite Ford Reynard) of Team Rahal (nine laps); Montoya (13 laps); Alex Tagliani (Player's Forsythe Racing Team Ford Reynard) of Player's Forsythe Racing (five laps); Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) of Team KOOL Green (eight laps) and Oriol Servia (Telefonica Toyota Reynard) of PPI Motorsports (two laps).

That set the stage for the final restart of the event on Lap 230, with Andretti in the lead and Montoya running seventh. By Lap 234, Montoya was running second, where he remained until passing Andretti for a three-lap stint on the point on Lap 238.

Andretti led Lap 241; Montoya, Lap 242; Andretti, Laps 243 through 246 and Montoya, Laps 247 and 248 before Andretti took the point for the final time on Lap 249. He held it onto the back straightaway, at which point Montoya drew alongside and the two held their lines, each giving no quarter, until heading into Turn 3.

Andretti, on the inside, wiggled slightly, moving Montoya higher on the track, and Andretti appeared to be in position to maintain the slight advantage that ensued to the checkered flag. But by moving higher, Montoya caught a slight draft behind Tarso Marques (Panasonic/Swift Ford Swift) and suddenly drew ahead of Andretti by the slimmest of margins as the two flashed past the start/finish line.

Patrick Carpentier (Player's Forsythe Racing Team Ford Reynard) of Player's Forsythe Racing finished fourth, followed by Castroneves. Carpentier scored his seventh top-10 finish, and fifth top-five, in eight starts this season while Castroneves recorded his best finish since recording his first career FedEx Championship Series victory at Detroit last month. WHAT THEY'RE SAYING

JUAN MONTOYA, Target Toyota Lola: "Before the last caution, I was behind Michael pretty fast and I thought he was going to have to save fuel but he didn't. I was a little disappointed in that, but then the yellow came out and after that we were neck and neck. I didn't know what was going to happen. He pushed me up the track coming off the last turn, then the backmarker [Tarso Marques] moved up a little bit and I got a little tow. It was close. I lost the race by about the same margin last year, and this year I won. I didn't think I had a chance to win this race, but then I jumped from seventh to first at the start and I thought, 'this is pretty good.' I was pleased with the team's strategy at the end. For me this is pretty good. This is the second time I've been on the podium and I won both times. If we can start finishing more races we'll be right there in the championship."

MICHAEL ANDRETTI, Big Kmart/Texaco Havoline Ford Lola: "We knew, basically, that we were going to be in this position. It was a little bit of stupid racing for a while because everybody was going to have to make one more pit stop and nobody wanted to lead. It was like we were shooting a movie or something. We were setting it up for a shootout and with about ten laps to go, Juan and I really started working together to get away from the rest of the guys. With two to go, I knew the other guys weren't going to be a factor so I just went after Juan. I was setting him up for the last lap, and I got him to do what I wanted. Juan went right up by the wall. Then he got a tow from Marques a little bit and if Tarso would have moved down just half a car length, we would have won the race. But it was good clean racing. Juan and I were battling pretty good, but I knew I could trust him and it was just good clean fun. (On leading the championship) "Leading right now is not the biggest thing, just finishing is good. I said before that Michigan and Fontana were going to be important for the championship and we're halfway there right now. We might not win all the races, and we might not even be on the podium for all of them, but if we can just keep finishing the races we'll be right there at the end."

DARIO FRANCHITTI, KOOL Honda Reynard: "To start with, the car was pretty evil, but on each stop we were making the car a little better. Unfortunately, at the end I didn't have quite enough for these guys. I had a good battle with Max [Papis] and I don't know what happened. He blew an engine or something. It was a bit Mickey Mouse racing a little bit with everybody saving fuel, but it was good at the end. I'm pretty happy with my finish after the way it started today. I thought we'd be a couple laps down. Pretty much anything would help me in the points, because this is only the second time I've been on the podium this year. But as we showed last year, it's not over until the last lap of the last race. Hopefully, it will be that close again this year, only with me one point ahead this time around. [On the finish] It was pretty close. Michael was close to Juan, Juan was close to the wall, and Marques was close to both of them. I was behind both of them [Montoya and Andretti] when they crashed last year at Japan. But they both had the best cars today and they deserved to be up there at the end."

NOTEWORTHY

* Once again, Michigan Speedway cemented its reputation as one of the most competitive venues in the FedEx Championship Series, hosting 52 official lead changes at the start/finish line. When added to the Champ Car-record 62 lead changes at Michigan in 1998 and 29 more last year, that means that the past three FedEx Championship Series events at Michigan Speedway have resulted in a combined 143 lead changes.

* The margins of victory of the past three FedEx Championship Series events contested at Michigan Speedway have added up to one-third (.331) of a second. Included are victories of .259 seconds by Greg Moore over Jimmy Vasser in 1998; .032 seconds by Tony Kanaan over Juan Montoya in 1999 and .040 seconds by Montoya (Target/Toyota Lola) over Michael Andretti (Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Lola) this year.

* Montoya's victory helped tighten the FedEx Championship Series points race behind leaders Andretti (104 points) and Roberto Moreno (90). Third through 13th places in the championship are now separated by just 24 points, with Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) holding down third at 80 points and Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard) holding down 13th at 56. With Sunday's triumph, Montoya moved from eighth to fifth in the championship, with 74 points.

* With Sunday's victory on a superspeedway, Montoya has now scored career victories on all four types of venues contested in the FedEx Championship Series. He owns short-oval victories at Nazareth and Chicago last year and Milwaukee this year; a permanent-road course win at Mid-Ohio last year and temporary street circuit victories at Long Beach, Cleveland and Vancouver last year. His other career victory came at Rio de Janeiro last year. Among active drivers only Andretti and Jimmy Vasser have scored victories on each of CART's four types of tracks.

* Montoya added to an already impressive list of performances in 500-mile events, which now includes victories at Indianapolis and Michigan Speedway this year; a runner-up effort at Michigan last year and a fourth-place performance at Fontana last year.

* Christian Fittipaldi (Big Kmart/Route 66 Ford Lola) of Newman/Haas Racing led 13 laps Sunday, marking the third time in his career that he had led a FedEx Championship Series oval event. The other two occasions came at Rio de Janeiro last year, where he led two laps and at Fontana last year, where he led 37.

* Oriol Servia (Telefonica Toyota Reynard) of PPI Motorsports led Laps 205 and 206 Sunday, the first two laps the rookie had led during his FedEx Championship Series career.

* The crew for Patrick Carpentier (Player's Forsythe Racing Team Ford Reynard) earned the wild-card position in the championship finals of the Craftsman Pit Crew Challenge by virtue of its performance on Sunday. Carpentier spent the least time in the pits among drivers finishing the race, giving his crew a free pass into the season-ending competition at California Speedway in October, at which $50,000 and a Waterford Crystal trophy will be awarded to the top pit crew in the FedEx Championship Series by Craftsman, the Official Tool of CART. Carpentier's crew will be joined by four others to be determined during a season-long competition at which crews earn points based on the least amount of time spent in the pits, according to the same scale used to score FedEx Championship Series drivers. The remaining finalists will be determined following Round 19 at Australia, and the five qualifiers will go head-to-head for a shot at the top prize, which was won last year by the crew for Paul Tracy.

* Luiz Garcia Jr. (Hollywood/Embratel/Tang/Banco Sofisa Mercedes Reynard) won the Budweiser Hard Charger Award for showing the most improvement from start (23rd) to finish (11th). He receives $1,000 from Budweiser, the Official Beer of CART.

* CART Charities raised $5,100 during its first-ever "Ultimate Garage Sale" in the Michigan Speedway paddock Saturday afternoon. Proceeds from the sale will benefit CARA (Championship Auto Racing Auxiliary) and the Buonoconti Fund, part of the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis.

WHAT'S NEXT

The FedEx Championship Series continues with Round 12, the Target Grand Prix Presented by Energizer, next Sunday, July 30, at Chicago Motor Speedway in Cicero, Ill.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Max Papis , Adrian Fernandez , Tarso Marques , Roberto Moreno , Patrick Carpentier , Alex Tagliani , Christian Fittipaldi , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Tony Kanaan , Oriol Servia , Kenny Brack , Mark Blundell , Rick Mears , Chip Ganassi , Greg Moore , Luiz Garcia Jr.
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing