CHAMPCAR/CART: Team Penske rules at Mid-Ohio

By David Reininger - Motorsport.com Lexington, Ohio (August 13, 2000) - Helio Castroneves won his second career CART FedEx Series race, taking the victory in the 83 lap Miller Lite 200 at Mid-Ohio this afternoon. He crossed the finish line 4.425...

By David Reininger - Motorsport.com

Lexington, Ohio (August 13, 2000) - Helio Castroneves won his second career CART FedEx Series race, taking the victory in the 83 lap Miller Lite 200 at Mid-Ohio this afternoon. He crossed the finish line 4.425 seconds ahead of his Marlboro Team Penske teammate Gil de Ferran. De Ferran and Helio Castroneves took the green flag in the first two starting positions in Sunday's race and, after swapping the lead on lap 29, that's where they finished.

The victory gives Honda its 50th win in CART FedEx competition in just 119 starts. The manufacturer joined the series at the start of the 1994 season.

As Castroneves stood atop the podium, listening to the Brazilian national anthem played in his honor, memories of Detroit, and his first victory, came flooding back.

"This is the greatest feeling. It reminds me of Detroit, and my first win. I got very emotional because it was my first win. This time I tried to control my emotions. When we leave our country, we represent (our country) and we do our best. I think you guys feel the same way when they raise your flag and play your anthem, it's a great feeling."

Fellow countryman and teammate, Gil de Ferran led from the pole position during the first segment of the race with Castroneves following close behind. When De Ferran made his first stop on lap 29, Castroneves inherited the lead and held onto it for the last 55 laps.

"I made a good start and stayed in front of Helio," said de Ferran. "But I could tell he was very strong. I knew how hard I was pushing. Sometimes we would get separated, but he would catch me up again, so I had a reasonably good measure of how strong he was. I said, 'if he gets ahead, he's going to be a tough cookie,'"

"When we went through the first round of pit stops he ended up in front of me. He was only three seconds up the road but he was able to deal with the traffic. It took me forever to deal with the traffic. By the time I got rid of all the traffic, he was 15 seconds up the road."

With 13 laps to go, Alex Tagliani and Paul Tracy made contact at turn eight causing a full course caution. The field closed behind Castroneves for the restart, but Oriol Servia and Roberto Moreno, battling for tenth place, lined up between the leader and de Ferran in second place.

"On the last restart, we had two cars between us. I couldn't get pass those two guys, Moreno and Servia, who were fighting for position. They were not slow. They were not going to stop in the middle of the track to let me by. I had a tough time getting by them on pure speed. I was quicker than them, but not quick enough just to drive by them.

"It's a great day for the whole team. I'm happy to have finished on the podium. Second is a very good result and it bodes well for next weekend at Elkhart Lake," said de Ferran, who moves from third to second in the championship points race.

Christian Fittipaldi, driver of the Big Kmart Ford-powered Lola, equaled his best finish of the season taking third place this afternoon. Up until today, Fittipaldi's best finish at Mid-Ohio was seventh place in 1996.

"Was this a victory in the sense of being the first to take the checkered flag," Fittipaldi asked?

"No," he answered, "but there was no way to match the red cars so we won the race of the rest."

"It was good to finish on the podium after my short vacation," said Fittipaldi, who missed the Chicago race after suffering a concussion while practicing for that event.

Out of the championship hunt this season, Fittipaldi, winner of last year's race at Road America, now focuses on getting his first win this season. "I am excited to go back to Road America. In this series, you have to be competitive everywhere you go. You aren't going to be competitive just because you won somewhere the previous year. I am looking forward to the race even more after running so well here."

Team Rahal teammates, Max Papis and Kenny Brack finished fourth and fifth respectively this afternoon. "We couldn't race with the Penske cars, but I felt I could have finished third," said Papis, driver of the Miller Lite Ford Reynard. "I got caught in traffic at the end or I might have had a good chance to catch Christian. At least we were able to score points in the top-five."

Kenny Brack ran comfortably in third place in the Shell Ford-powered Reynard before loosing two positions due to a problem on his second pit stop. "We finished in the top-five and so it was a good result. I'm a little disappointed we didn't get the podium, I thought we had a chance to do that, but that's life."

"The second pit stop was too long. We stayed in the pits four, five or six seconds too long. That really made a big difference. All in all, a fifth place was good, but we were running third at the time."

Team Rahal team manager, Scott Roembke, said, "We just had a little malfunction with the fueling apparatus. Actually, it could have turned out a lot worse than it did. We just had to reset a few things and go. It wasn't what we wanted but we came out okay."

Brack, a rookie in the CART FedEx series, is currently fourth in the championship point standings behind Michael Andretti, Gil de Ferran and Roberto Moreno.

Series points leader Michael Andretti finished eighth, keeping him 19 points ahead of de Ferran in the point standings.

"We had a boost problem for most of the race so I was down on power," Andretti said. "We were down two-and-one-half inches of boost, which is a lot of horsepower. Coming in with a 22 point lead over Roberto (Moreno) and leaving with a 19 point lead over de Ferran is still good but the pressure is on to keep finishing races.

The CART FedEx series moves to Road America next week for the Motorola 220. Notes: Memo Gidley was awarded the Budweiser "Hard Charger Award" for gaining the most positions during the race. Gidley earns $1,000 from Budweiser for finishing 12th from his 23rd place starting position.

Prior to the start of the Miller Lite 200, Bobby Rahal presented Thomas Boehland, 37, of Hopkins, MN, with the first official race car of Team Rahal, a Miller 25th Edition Reynard 96i. Boehland was the high bidder in the Miller Lite "Get the Goods" online auction with his bid of $39,091. The online auction continues through August 15 at www.MillerGetTheGoods.com.

Skip Barber is entering the stock car experience business after spending 25 years as one of the world's leading racing and driving schools. Skip Barber Racing School has reached an agreement on the acquisition of the California Racing Experience based at the California Speedway.

Conseco has stepped in to provide the Conseco Step Up award to the Barber Dodge driver who recoups the most positions in a race. That driver will receive a $500.00 cash award.

Townsend Bell scored his first CART Dayton Indy Lights Series victory. Bell raced in the Barber Dodge Series in 1999, finishing third in the series championship with one victory at Lime Rock Park.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Michael Andretti , Memo Gidley , Max Papis , Roberto Moreno , Bobby Rahal , Alex Tagliani , Christian Fittipaldi , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Kenny Brack , Townsend Bell , Skip Barber
Teams Team Penske