CHAMPCAR/CART: Race day track notes

Good Morning from Twin Ring Motegi for the second attempt to run the Firestone Firehawk 500! Today's weather started off beautiful but a strong low pressure system southeast of Japan is slowly spinning arms of storm clouds towards Central...

Good Morning from Twin Ring Motegi for the second attempt to run the Firestone Firehawk 500! Today's weather started off beautiful but a strong low pressure system southeast of Japan is slowly spinning arms of storm clouds towards Central Japan. By 11 a.m., the sky is half and half; half hope and half wish. Clouds are piling up again off the Turn 2 wall, just as yesterday but again the FedEx Championship Series crews are working towards the Green Flag at 11:30 a.m.

The Texaco/Havoline crew of Newman/Haas Racing has returned to the grid with a fully-prepared race car today for driver MICHAEL ANDRETTI. Concurrent problems with both race cars yesterday minutes before the gridding of the cars had the crew doing some serious soul-searching. But the start yesterday was aborted, giving the crew plenty of time to make the repairs needed and the team is now at full-strength and ready to go.

At 11:20 a.m., CART Race Control announces that the Pit Road speed limit of 50 mph at Pit Out has been extended to the exit of Turn 2 due to a small amount of water seepage on the apron of Turn 2.

At 11:30 a.m., the command "Gentlemen, Start Your Engines!" is given by Honorary Starter Mr. Yoichiro Kaizaki.

At 11:31 a.m., the CART Pace Car begins to roll with the field of 24 cars in tow for the first of six pace laps.

At 11:33 a.m., CART course observers report fluid and smoke appearing at the rear of the car on the second pace lap. By the fifth lap, the problem seems to have gone away.

GREEN FLAG waves at 11:39 a.m. to start the Firestone Firehawk 500! Pole-sitter #1 MONTOYA leads into Turn 1, followed by #8 BRACK and #12 VASSER.

YELLOW FLAG waves on Lap 1 as the leaders stream across the Start Finish line. #96 SERVIA spins off Turn 4 making contact with the inside wall and coming to rest in front of the flag stand. The driver exits the car under his own power as CART safety workers begin clean-up of the track.

#1 MONTOYA leads the first lap of the race, followed by #8 BRACK, #6 ANDRETTI, #12 VASSER, and #20 MORENO. ANDRETTI jumped from seventh place to third on the first lap of the race.

GREEN FLAG waves on Lap 7 to resume the race.

On Lap 10, the running order is #1 MONTOYA leading by 1.817 seconds over #8 BRACK, followed by #6 ANDRETTI, #12 VASSER, and #20 MORENO.

BLACK FLAG is shown to #25 GARCIA Jr. on Lap 14 as CART course observers report smoke off the right rear tire. GARCIA Jr. subsequently pits the car to comply with the Black Flag.

On Lap 20, the running order is #1 MONTOYA leading by 4.969 seconds over #8 BRACK, followed by #6 ANDRETTI, #12 VASSER, and #20 MORENO.

On Lap 22, #55 KANAAN passes #20 MORENO to take over sixth place.

On Lap 30, the running order is #1 MONTOYA leading by 7.136 seconds over #8 BRACK, followed by #6 ANDRETTI, #12 VASSER, and #20 MORENO.

YELLOW FLAG waves on Lap 32 after CART course observers report some debris on the bottom of Turn 3.

On Lap 35, all of the lead lap cars pit. #1 MONTOYA wins the race off Pit Road and retains first place, followed by #12 VASSER, #6 ANDRETTI, #20 MORENO, and #55 KANAAN. #7 PAPIS falls from 10th to 14th, while #12 VASSER moves from fourth to second.

GREEN FLAG waves on Lap 39 to resume the race.

On Lap 40, the running order is #1 MONTOYA leading by .425 seconds over #12 VASSER, followed by #6 ANDRETTI, #20 MORENO, and #55 KANAAN.

On Lap 45, the crew of #17 GUGELMIN retires from the race due to a mechanical problem.

On Lap 50, the running order is #1 MONTOYA leading by 1.640 seconds over #12 VASSER, followed by #6 ANDRETTI, #20 MORENO, and #55 KANAAN.

On Lap 60, the running order is #1 MONTOYA leading by 1.639 seconds over #12 VASSER, followed by #6 ANDRETTI, #20 MORENO, and #55 KANAAN.

On Lap 70, the running order is #1 MONTOYA leading by 3.077 seconds over #12 VASSER, followed by #6 ANDRETTI, #20 MORENO, and #55 KANAAN.

YELLOW FLAG waves on Lap 79 after #18 BLUNDELL makes light contact with the outside wall at Turn 4. BLUNDELL keeps the car under control and continues on course, but the car has sustained slight damage

On Lap 80, the running order is #1 MONTOYA leading under the Yellow Flag over #12 VASSER, followed by #6 ANDRETTI, #20 MORENO, and #55 KANAAN.

On Lap 82, all of the leaders pit and #1 MONTOYA wins the race off Pit Road, followed by #12 VASSER, #20 MORENO, #6 ANDRETTI, and #11 FITTIPALDI. #32 GIDLEY moves from 9th to 6th on this stop.

On Lap 90, the running order is #1 MONTOYA leading by 1.646 seconds over #12 VASSER, followed by #6 ANDRETTI, #20 MORENO, and #11 FITTIPALDI.

The BLACK FLAG is shown on Lap 92 to #34 MARQUES for a Pit Road speed violation. MARQUES subsequently pits the car to comply with the Black Flag drive-thru penalty.

On Lap 100, the running order is #1 MONTOYA leading by 4.040 seconds over #12 VASSER, followed by #6 ANDRETTI, #20 MORENO, and #11 FITTIPALDI.

Also, on Lap 100, #27 FRANCHITTI has jumped from 14th to 8th since the start of this Green Flag session on Lap 85.

On Lap 110, the running order is #1 MONTOYA leading by 4.106 seconds over #12 VASSER, followed by #6 ANDRETTI, #20 MORENO, and #11 FITTIPALDI.

On Lap 120, the running order is #1 MONTOYA leading by 2.446 seconds over #12 VASSER, followed by #6 ANDRETTI, #20 MORENO, and #11 FITTIPALDI.

On Lap 126, #12 VASSER's car begins to smoke while at speed on course and on Lap 127, VASSER pulls behind the wall at Pit In. The team subsequently retires from the race due to a mechanical problem.

On Lap 129, #6 ANDRETTI pits and falls from 2nd to 10th place.

On Lap 130, the running order is #1 MONTOYA leading by 12.538 seconds over #12 VASSER, followed by #6 ANDRETTI, #20 MORENO, and #11 FITTIPALDI. #55 KANAAN, #27 FRANCHITTI, and #11 FITTIPALDI all pit on Lap 130.

On Lap 132, #1 MONTOYA and #20 MORENO both pit. MONTOYA loses the lead to #40 FERNANDEZ, and drops from first to fourth place.

On Lap 133, #32 GIDLEY pits and falls from 2nd to 13th place.

The BLACK FLAG is shown on Lap 133 to #19 KUROSAWA for a Pit Safety violation. KUROSAWA subsequently pits the car to comply with the Black Flag stop and go penalty.

The BLACK FLAG is again shown to #19 KUROSAWA on Lap 134, after CART Pit Stewards determine that KUROSAWA did not complete the stop and go penalty correctly. KUROSAWA again pits the car.

On Lap 135, #40 FERNANDEZ pits and hands first place back to #1 MONTOYA. FERNANDEZ returns to the race in 13th place.

BLACK FLAG is shown to #19 KUROSAWA on Lap 134 for a Pit Road safety violation. KUROSAWA subsequently pits the car to comply with the Black Flag stop and go penalty.

BLACK FLAG is again shown to #19 KUROSAWA on Lap 135 for not successfully completing the stop and go penalty. KUROSAWA subsequently pits the car to comply with the Black Flag stop and go penalty.

On Lap 140, the running order is #1 MONTOYA leading by 10.088 seconds over #6 ANDRETTI, followed by #27 FRANCHITTI, #20 MORENO, and #11 FITTIPALDI.

The BLACK FLAG is shown on Lap 148 to #34 MARQUES for a Pit Road speed violation. MARQUES subsequently pits the car to comply with the Black Flag drive-thru penalty.

On Lap 150, the running order is #1 MONTOYA leading by 10.082 seconds over #6 ANDRETTI, followed by #27 FRANCHITTI, #20 MORENO, and #11 FITTIPALDI.

The BLACK FLAG is shown on Lap 151 to #19 KUROSAWA for a Pit Safety violation. KUROSAWA subsequently pits the car and is excluded from the remainder of the race due to a Pit Incident.

On Lap 170, the running order is #1 MONTOYA leading by 9.424 seconds over #6 ANDRETTI, followed by #27 FRANCHITTI, #20 MORENO, and #97 da MATTA.

YELLOW FLAG waves on Lap 171 after #18 BLUNDELL spins off Turn 2, making contact with the wall. The car comes to a stop backwards on the backstraight. The driver is uninjured in the incident but the car is retired from the race due to contact.

On Lap 174, the lead lap cars pit and #1 MONTOYA wins the race off Pit Road, followed by #6 ANDRETTI, #20 MORENO, #27 FRANCHITTI, and #97 da MATTA.

On Lap 176, #1 MONTOYA pits the car again, losing the lead to #6 ANDRETTI. MONTOYA drops to eighth place. The electrical lead had fallen off the turbo-boost on MONTOYA's car on the previous stop and MONTOYA would not have had any boost if he had not pitted to re-hook the electrical lead.

GREEN FLAG waves on Lap 178 with #6 ANDRETTI leading #20 MORENO, followed by #27 FRANCHITTI, #97 da MATTA, and #8 BRACK.

On Lap 180, #6 ANDRETTI leads by .376 seconds over #27 FRANCHITTI, followed by #20 MORENO, #97 da MATTA, and #8 BRACK.

On Lap 181, #32 GIDLEY slows on course and subsequently pits the car on Lap 182. The team subsequently retires the car due to an electrical problem.

On Lap 184, #5 NAKANO and #3 CASTRO-NEVES make wheel-to-wheel contact in Turn 4 but both drivers continue on course without apparent damage to either car.

On Lap 189, CART course observers report that #55 KANAAN's car is running rough while at speed on course.

On Lap 190, the running order is #6 ANDRETTI leading by .819 seconds over #27 FRANCHITTI, followed by #20 MORENO, #97 da MATTA, and #8 BRACK.

YELLOW FLAG waves on Lap 192 after #55 KANAAN's car suffers a mechanical failure while entering Turn 3. A huge plume of smoke pours from the rear of the car as KANAAN pulls to the bottom of the track and stalls at the Start/Finish line.

GREEN FLAG waves on Lap 197 to resume the race with five laps to go. #6 ANDRETTI leads by .479 seconds over #27 FRANCHITTI, followed by #20 MORENO, #97 da MATTA, and #8 BRACK.

On Lap 198, #6 ANDRETTI leads by .605 seconds over #27 FRANCHITTI.

On Lap 199, #6 ANDRETTI leads by .699 seconds over #27 FRANCHITTI.

WHITE FLAG waves on Lap 200 for #6 ANDRETTI, now leading #27 FRANCHITTI by .636 seconds.

CHECKERED FLAG waves on Lap 201 for the winner of the Firestone Firehawk 500 winner, MICHAEL ANDRETTI! ANDRETTI comes home .546 seconds ahead of second-place DARIO FRANCHITTI. ROBERTO MORENO finishes third, 2.825 seconds behind the leader with CRISTIANO da MATTA finishing fourth, 3.542 seconds. Fifth place goes to KENNY BRACK, 3.925 seconds behind.

MICHAEL ANDRETTI logs his first win of the 2000 season today in his Texaco/Havoline Ford Lola. This is the 39th victory of ANDRETTI's Champ Car career, which ties the American pilot for third on the all-time wins list with Al Unser. ANDRETTI also owns the CART record for the most seasons with at least one victory in CART history. ANDRETTI has 13 seasons with at least one victory. ANDRETTI was previously tied with the now-retired ace Rick Mears with 12.

DARIO FRANCHITTI's second place finish in his Team KOOL Green Honda Reynard represents the Scotsman's season-best finish. FRANCHITTI had previously finished 11th at both Homestead and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Today also matches FRANCHITTI's career-best finish on an oval. FRANCHITTI also finished second on the ovals at Rio and Chicago in 1999.

ROBERTO MORENO finishes third today in his Visteon Ford Reynard to collect his second podium-finish of the 2000 season. MORENO also finished second at Homestead. MORENO is now tied for second with JIMMY VASSER in the chase for the FedEx Championship Series Championship. The two drivers trail Points Leader PAUL TRACY by 14 points.

Quotes from today's top three finishers follow:

MICHAEL ANDRETTI, Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Lola: "First of all, I want to thank the whole Newman/Haas crew. The pit stops were pretty good. The Ford engine gave us great power all day. The race went very smooth for us. We were able to get up to third pretty quickly, then the Ganassi cars took off a little bit. I don't know if we'd have had anything for them today, but for once, luck went our way. It was a day when everything went great. This thing is definitely not over. We're only 36 points out and we have 16 races left, which used to be a whole season for us. There are a lot of points out there. It just feels good to get back up here [on the podium]."

DARIO FRANCHITTI, KOOL Honda Reynard: "That first oval win still eludes us. We really struggled during qualifying, and we were disappointed with that. We knew we had a good race car, and we kept making up places on pit stops and restarts, and I think some of the retirements really helped. It was a great day for Team KOOL Green and I can't say enough about the Honda engine. But this guy [Andretti] is pretty tough to pass. He's been doing this for awhile and knows exactly where to position the car. It's nice to be back. I forgot what the press room looked like."

ROBERTO MORENO, Visteon Ford Reynard: "We've been quick throughout the weekend. The team came with a quick car right out of the box and we were quick throughout the weekend. The only problem we had was on the last set of tires. It caused us a little bit of a problem on restarts, but it was a good weekend."

Ford has now won all three races at Twin Ring Motegi while Manufacturer Lola scores its first victory since Vancouver in 1996.

Today's crowd featured 52,000 returning Champ Car fans of Saturday's estimated 80,000 that crowded the track in Saturday's unsuccessful attempt to race. Thousands of fans actually spent the night in their cars during last night's downpours, just to be present for the hopeful start of today's race. The teams of the FedEx Championship Series and CART itself thank the Japanese fans for their loyalty, patience and perseverance in the face of Mother Nature's complications!

This concludes the Pit Notes for the Firestone Firehawk 500. The FedEx Championship next travels to Nazareth, Pennsylvania for the running of Bosch Spark Plug Grand Prix Presented by Toyota on May 27th.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Rick Mears , Al Unser