NAZARETH, Pa. (May 27, 2000) - Reading-based Penske Racing, whose inaugural win came at Pocono in 1971, returned to its Pennsylvania roots again for a historic moment Saturday as Gil de Ferran gained the organization's 100th career victory by ...
NAZARETH, Pa. (May 27, 2000) - Reading-based Penske Racing, whose inaugural win came at Pocono in 1971, returned to its Pennsylvania roots again for a historic moment Saturday as Gil de Ferran gained the organization's 100th career victory by capturing the rescheduled Bosch Spark Plug Grand Prix Presented by Toyota at Nazareth Speedway.
The victory for the most successful team in all of Champ Car racing arrived almost three years to the day after posting its 99th victory at Gateway International Raceway with Paul Tracy on May 24, 1997, which also was a Saturday Memorial Day weekend event. To provide a further touch of symmetry, Saturday's win, which came in the team's 33rd season of operation, came at Penske Racing's home track, which is located just 45 minutes from the team's Reading, Pa. headquarters.
Penske Racing began operations in 1968 and the late Mark Donohue recorded the team's first Champ Car victory at Pocono International Raceway in 1971. De Ferran's victory ended a streak of 54 events between victories. It was Penske Racing's 88th victory in CART competition and its 59th Champ Car win on an oval.
De Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) recorded the fourth victory of his career and first on an oval by finishing 0.815 seconds ahead of runner-up Mauricio Gugelmin (Nextel PacWest Mercedes), who posted his best finish since recording his lone career FedEx Championship Series victory at Vancouver in 1997.
Rookie Kenny Brack (Shell Ford Reynard) finished a career-best third and took the lead in the chase for the Jim Trueman Rookie of the Year Award.
De Ferran averaged 101.219 miles per hour en route to his first victory since last year at Portland. His three previous victories have come at Laguna Seca in 1995 and Cleveland in 1996 in addition to last year's win in the Northwest.
De Ferran led the final 68 laps, taking the point on Lap 158 when then-leader Tony Kanaan (Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Mercedes Reynard) pitted for fuel under caution. He held off Gugelmin during a four-lap sprint to the checkered flag following the final caution period from Laps 214-221, triggered by the single-car accident of Roberto Moreno (Visteon Ford Reynard), who was running second at the time.
Gugelmin's runner-up effort was the eighth podium finish of his career and eclipsed his previous season-best of 10th at Long Beach. Brack also exceeded his previous season best, fifth at Japan.
Rounding out the top five finishers were defending FedEx Championship Series champion Juan Montoya (Target Toyota Lola), who finished fourth, and Adrian Fernandez (Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing Ford Reynard), who finished fifth.
FedEx Championship Series points leader Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) finished 10th and continues to lead the championship with 59 points. Jimmy Vasser (Target Toyota Lola) finished seventh and moved into sole possession of second place in the championship, with 48 points. De Ferran and Moreno are tied for third place with 42 each.
GIL de FERRAN, Marlboro Honda Reynard: "You have no idea [how meaningful this victory is]. There is so much meaning to this, it's hard to put into words. It's really a big day in your life. When I first had the contact with [owner] Roger [Penske] and we started to do the deal, it was a very emotional time for me. After that, though, you kind of get on with your work. It's only when you get out of the car at the end of the day that the whole feeling floods. Joining the team was the first step, now for us to win together, it's indescribable. There's a strange feeling in my chest ... I don't know. I'm not being too eloquent today. I'm sorry."
MAURICIO GUGELMIN, Nextel PacWest Mercedes: "Today was a great ending, but it was a long day altogether. Since it was pretty difficult to do an overtaking maneuver, you pretty much had to rely on a banzai move. I was very pleased with the teamwork today. It was a pretty perfect day along those lines. There could have been one more place, but I'm very happy for the Penske team to get their 100th win and now the rest of us have something else to talk about."
KENNY BRACK, Shell Ford Reynard: "It was very messy. Very up and down. It was a very interesting experience racing the car at Nazareth. The Shell crew did a great job of getting us positions in the pits."
ROGER PENSKE, team owner, Marlboro Team Penske: "I wasn't really thinking in terms of the 100th win. I was just focused on the race. Someone mentioned to me after the race that our first victory was at Pocono [International Raceway] 30 years ago [Mark Donohue, July 3, 1971], and our race team has been headquartered in Reading [Pa.] for many years. We've had some downs and ups, and it's great to see the red-and-white cars be competitive again. I want to thank our sponsors, as well as our 30,000 employees across the country that never gave up their support of this race team."
* Juan Montoya (Target Toyota Lola) led a race-high 76 of 225 laps Sunday. Coupled with the race-high 210 laps he led en route to victory at Nazareth last year, Montoya has now led 286 of 450 laps (63.5 percent) in two career appearances at Nazareth.
* Rookie driver Norberto Fontana (Della Penna VideoMatch Toyota Reynard) became the first driver to utilize the HANS Device (a head and neck restraint system) in a CART event Saturday. Fontana made an early exit when he contacted the Turn 2 wall on the 115th of 225 laps. He was making his first competitive appearance since briefly losing consciousness during a May 12 practice accident at Motegi, Japan. "I had a problem with my neck this morning, so I was taking it easy, focusing on my race," Fontana said. "[Prior to the accident] I felt the car go low on the right rear and then move back up again like I'd run over something. Something broke in the rear, but we don't know what it was yet. The HANS device definitely did its job. I felt my head and body moving forward, then the device pulled me back. It kept my muscles from being pulled again. It's a good thing I was wearing it."
* Rookie driver Takuya Kurosawa (MTCI Ford Lola) of Dale Coyne Racing, who was involved in a single-car accident during the practice/warm-up session Saturday morning, will be held overnight for observation at St. Luke's Regional Hospital, according to Dr. Steve Olvey, CART Director of Medical Affairs. Olvey reported that the CAT Scan of Kurosawa's head and neck were negative. Kurosawa was airlifted to St. Luke's following the single-car accident.
* Tarso Marques (Panasonic/Swift Ford Swift) earned the Budweiser Hard Charger Award for improving the most from start to finish (24th to 12th). Marques recorded his first point-scoring finish of the FedEx Championship Series career in the process, and the second of his career, following ninth at Rio de Janeiro last year.
* As the FedEx Championship Series makes its way from Nazareth to Milwaukee for next week's Miller Lite 225 at The Milwaukee Mile, a group of 26 of its transporters will be participating in a procession to the track beginning at noon Tuesday. Staging for the procession will be in Summerfest parking lot "H" at the corner of Harbor Drive and Polk St. on the Lake Michigan waterfront. Among the participants will be two transporters and three safety trucks from CART; transporters from FedEx, Ford Cosworth, Ilmor, Firestone, Featherlite, Newman/Haas, Target and PacWest; two motorcoaches from Team Rahal; and transporters from teams and sponsors in the Dayton Indy Lights championship and the Toyota Atlantic championship. Transporter processions have already been conducted at Homestead and Nazareth this season, with further processions scheduled for Portland, Toronto, Vancouver and Houston.
* Championship Auto Racing Teams is teaming up with the Detroit Tigers baseball club, IMG Motorsports, Big Kmart and Ford Racing to present the Tigers' Family Fun Festival on Memorial Day, Monday, May 29 at Comerica Park, new home of the Tigers. The Tigers will host the Texas Rangers in a 7:05 p.m. contest, and FedEx Championship Series driver Christian Fittipaldi (Big Kmart/Route 66 Ford Lola) of Newman/Haas Racing will sign autographs from 5:45 to 6:30 p.m. before throwing out the first pitch of the ballgame. A special display previewing the June 18 Tenneco Automotive Grand Prix of Detroit will also be featured at the stadium, including Newman/Haas show cars and the Kmart Kids Race Against Drugs booth, which will give away a hat to the first 2,500 visitors. The Family Fun Festival will also feature clowns, face painting and other activities. The game, the first-ever nationally televised contest ever to emanate from Comerica Park, will air on ESPN.
* Indianapolis radio station WMYS (1430 AM) has joined the CART Radio Network to air 10 of this season's FedEx Championship Series events, including Saturday's Bosch Spark Plug Grand Prix Presented by Toyota. Saturday's event was also broadcast to approximately one million U.S. Defense Department personnel in 166 countries around the world via Armed Forces Network Radio.
* Friday's activities at Nazareth Speedway included the announcement that the countries of St. Vincent and Sierra Leone have issued stamps featuring Mario Andretti, the 1984 FedEx Championship Series champion, who was voted "Driver of the Century" last year by The Associated Press and Racer magazine. The tribute was organized by the Inter-governmental Philatelic Corp, a New York City-based organization responsible for the planning, design, production and promotion of postal programs for over 75 countries. Each country will be releasing a sheet of eight different postage stamps featuring images of Andretti's greatest moments. The two stamp sheets were designed by award-winning artist Rob Sauber of Brooklyn, N.Y. Andretti was honored as Grand Marshal of the Bosch Spark Plug Grand Prix Presented by Toyota. Fans may inquire about the availability of stamps through the IGPC, at (212) 629-7979 or via e-mail at IGPC@IGPC.net .
* Also on Friday, FedEx Championship Series driver Michael Andretti (Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Lola) announced that he had acquired an ownership interest in the Lehigh Valley Extreme of the United Hockey League. Team president Terry Bender joined Andretti in making the announcement. "When I learned that professional hockey was coming to my home area," said Andretti, a Nazareth resident, "I immediately investigated the possibility of becoming involved on some level. I've been a lifelong fan of the sport. It's fast, aggressive and rough; and from the players' perspective, it appears to require a unique blend of physical skill and mental toughness. Quite frankly, it's a lot like racing - except we don't usually drop the gloves, so to speak." Andretti is CART's all-time victory leader with 39, including the May 14 Firestone Firehawk 500 at Twin Ring Motegi, Japan. His 39 victories also tie him with Al Unser for third place on the all-time Champ Car list.
* Attendees at Saturday's Bosch Spark Plug Grand Prix Presented by Toyota included Michael Bonewitz of Seattle, Wash., who was the high bidder at the charity auction conducted on CART's website, www.cart.com , for a round trip for two on a media shuttle plane from Indianapolis to Nazareth and back on Saturday. Bonewitz, who described himself as a "huge CART fan," bid $1,630 for the trip, with the money to be donated to CART Charities.
* Total ticket sales for Saturday's Bosch Spark Plug Grand Prix Presented by Toyota were strong leading up to the re-scheduled race, according to Nazareth Speedway President Craig Rust. "We re-focused the message of our entire media campaign, including television, radio, outdoor and print advertising to emphasize the new, warmer date," said Rust. "Along with our public relations efforts, the new campaign generated additional interest and ticket sales since the original April 9 date. "We knew there was a possibility that many people who purchased tickets for the April 9 date would have other plans for Memorial Day weekend. Those who had tickets but could not attend missed a great show and Roger Penske's historic 100th win. Given the circumstances of a re-scheduled race for a holiday weekend, we were happy with the additional interest that was generated." International Speedway Corporation, which owns Nazareth Speedway, does not release specific attendance figures for events at any of its race venues.
The FedEx Championship Series continues with Round 6, the Miller Lite 225, on Sunday, June 4 at The Milwaukee Mile in West Allis, Wis.