MONTOYA BECOMES FIRST ROOKIE IN SERIES HISTORY TO WIN THREE STRAIGHT WITH TRIUMPH AT GP TELEMAR RIO 200 RIO de JANEIRO, Brazil (May 15, 1999) - Juan Montoya of Target/Chip Ganassi Racing became the first rookie in FedEx Championship ...
MONTOYA BECOMES FIRST ROOKIE IN SERIES HISTORY TO WIN THREE STRAIGHT WITH TRIUMPH AT GP TELEMAR RIO 200
RIO de JANEIRO, Brazil (May 15, 1999) - Juan Montoya of Target/Chip Ganassi Racing became the first rookie in FedEx Championship Series history to win three consecutive events Saturday when he captured the GP Telemar Rio 200 on the Emerson Fittipaldi Speedway at Nelson Piquet International Raceway. In a dramatic move, Montoya (Target Honda Reynard) outbraked front-row starters Christian Fittipaldi (Big Kmart Ford Swift), the pole-sitter, and Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard) into Turn 1 on the second of 108 laps and, but for pit stops and some drivers out of sequence, led the remainder of the event. He finished 1.736 seconds ahead of Franchitti and extended his FedEx Championship Series points lead over Franchitti to 14 points (66-51) in the process. Montoya, who claimed consecutive victories at Long Beach and Nazareth, became the eighth driver in series history to win three consecutive events, a feat which has been accomplished 11 times, including at least once in each of the past three seasons. Both Al Unser Jr. (3) and Alex Zanardi (2) own multiple streaks of three or more victories. On nine of the 10 occasions on which the feat has been accomplished previously, the driver has gone on to win the FedEx Championship Series championship. Those winners include Rick Mears (1981), Bobby Rahal (1986), Emerson Fittipaldi (1989), Unser Jr. (1990), Michael Andretti (1991), Unser Jr. (twice in 1994) and Zanardi (1997 and '98). The series record for most consecutive wins is four, held by Unser Jr. ('90) and Zanardi ('98). Franchitti's runner-up effort matched a season best established in Long Beach. He started on the outside pole and maintained a top-three standing for all but 10 laps, but was hampered by a broken shifter in the early stages that made restarts following caution periods troublesome. Despite the problems, he notched his third podium in five starts this season. Fittipaldi finished third and moved to third in the championship with 49 points. He matched a season-best finish accomplished at Japan and has finished ninth or better in all five of his starts this season. Fourth place went to Max Papis (Miller Lite Ford Reynard) in a career-best effort, topping fifth in the season opener at Homestead and established at Australia last year. Rounding out the top five was Tony Kanaan (McDonald's Championship Racing Honda Reynard), whose fifth-place effort was a season best and his best overall since third at Houston last year.
JUAN MONTOYA, Target Honda Reynard: "[Owner] Chip [Ganassi] said to take it easy at the start, but I saw a chance and I just went for it. After that, it was pretty close. We were all running at the same pace and after the second pit stop, it got a bit exciting. On the last restart, I think we were all pushing our cars to limit, but I got a good restart and was able to stay ahead." DARIO FRANCHITTI, KOOL Honda Reynard: "I think the start was the turning point of the race. Track position was all-important today. We had a great stop on the first stop, then it was a case of trying to conserve fuel. I was able to go two or three laps more than Juan, which I thought was an advantage. Our biggest problem was on the restarts after my shifter broke on about the third lap. It's nice to have the points, but second is not why we're here. I want to be in that [Juan Montoya's] seat." CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI, Big Kmart Ford Swift: "I wanted to be as quick as these two guys [Franchitti and Montoya], but you can't have everything. I was definitely quicker on the straights, but not in the corners. The car was good, and it took a long time for the tires to come in, especially after the restarts. I'm happy for the points - no doubt Juan had a very good race. I'm lying third, now I'm hoping I can keep this up."
* All six of the top finishers in the GP Telemar Rio 200 either equaled or bettered career- or season-best performances. Rookie Juan Montoya (Target Honda Reynard) equaled his career best (1st) while Max Papis (Miller Lite Ford Reynard) established a new career best (4th). Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard) and Christian Fittipaldi (Big Kmart Swift Ford) equaled season bests with finishes of second and third, respectively. Tony Kanaan (McDonald's Championship Racing Honda Reynard) and Patrick Carpentier (Player's/Indeck Mercedes Reynard) registered season bests of fifth and sixth, respectively. * Papis' career-best finish exceeded previous fifth-place performances at Australia last year and Homestead this year. "After we had difficulty at Nazareth [with a pit stop violation], this is a great finish for the Miller Lite team," he said, "and it is my best finish so far. But we can do better. The start was very tough with the dirt flying everywhere. The track was slippery, too. That made passing very difficult. We had a last great pit stop and I was able to pass several cars. This finish is good for our team and we had a good test at St. Louis last week. So, I think we can make a move in the point standings now." Papis is currently eighth in the championship with 26 points. * For the first time in the five-year history of the Nation's Cup competition, Colombia took the lead after Montoya's victory in the GP Telemar Rio 200. Colombia's 66 points are two ahead of second-place Canada (64). The United States, the four-time defending champion, slipped to third following Saturday's event with 62 points. FedEx Championship Series events contested at Rio de Janeiro have traditionally not been extremely fruitful to U.S. drivers. In four events at Rio, the U.S. has neither a pole nor victory. * Fittipaldi remains the only Champ Car driver in the FedEx Championship Series to complete every lap through the first five rounds of the championship. Fittipaldi has completed all 769 laps and 1,105.851 miles. Greg Moore (Player's/Indeck Mercedes Reynard) and Gil de Ferran (Valvoline/Cummins Special Honda Reynard) have completed all but one of the 769 laps of competition. * Veteran FedEx Championship Series competitors Scott Pruett (Pioneer/MCI WorldCom Toyota Reynard) and Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) made milestone starts Saturday. Pruett's start was the 130th of his career, which began in 1988, and broke a tie with Tom Sneva to move him into sole possession of 11th-place in CART history, 12 behind 10th-place Arie Luyendyk (142). Tracy's start was the 117th of his career, which began in 1991. He is tied for 14th in CART annals with Kevin Cogan and Hiro Matsushita. Roberto Guerrero is 13th with 120 starts. * When Montoya took the lead on Lap 2, he became the first driver to lead laps in three consecutive FedEx Championship Series events since Franchitti led at Laguna Seca, Houston and Australia last year. Montoya previously led laps en route to victories at Long Beach and Nazareth. * The scheduled start of the GP Telemar Rio 200 was yellow-flagged by CART starter Jim Swintal because the field was not in proper alignment, necessitating a restart on Lap 2. It marked the first time a start of a FedEx Championship Series event was yellow-flagged for misalignment since the Marlboro 500 at Michigan Speedway in 1996. * When Al Unser Jr. (Marlboro Mercedes Penske) took the lead on Lap 77, it marked the first time he had led a lap since last year at Vancouver, where he led nine. He finished with 10 laps led, his most since leading 26 at Japan last year. * The command to start engines for Saturday's GP Telemar Rio 200 was issued via videotape from the MIR space station by Russian cosmonauts Commander Victor Afanasiev and Sergei Avdeev. The cosmonauts issued greetings to planet Earth and to Brazil while displaying a placard bearing the logo of the GP Telemar Rio 200 and issuing the command. The video was displayed on a Jumbotron adjacent to the entry to pit lane. It marked the first time a sporting event had been given its start from outer space. The unique command was arranged by OMEGA, official timekeeper of the FedEx Championship Series, which has a partnership with MIR. * Championship Auto Racing Teams Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Andrew Craig announced Saturday that all Champ Cars racing in the FedEx Championship Series will be required to run tethered suspensions and front wheels, beginning with Round 6, the May 29 Motorola 300 at Gateway International Raceway in suburban St. Louis. The suspension and wheel tethers are required for front wheel and suspension assemblies on all cars. CART's mandate conforms with the regulations of the Federation Internationale de l"Automobile. "Safety is the priority in racing," Craig said. "This is part of the continuous evolution of safety systems for our fans, teams and officials." J. Kirk Russell, CART Vice President of Competition, said, "The evolution of safety over my 20 years in the sport is very significant. Our cars and race facilities today are safer than they have ever been. We have carefully reviewed the data on this subject for several months and have come to the conclusion that this step will create a safer event for everyone involved in our race weekends."
The GP Telemar Rio 200 will air via tape delay 4 p.m. ET Sunday on ABC-TV. The FedEx Championship Series continues with Round 6, the Motorola 300, Saturday, May 29 at Gateway International Raceway in Madison, Ill., in suburban St. Louis.