TORONTO, Ontario (July 15, 2001) - Michael Andretti of Team Motorola turned in a stunning run from last to first place Sunday while capturing the Molson Indy before an appreciative record crowd of 73,628 at Exhibition Place. Andretti, relegated...
TORONTO, Ontario (July 15, 2001) - Michael Andretti of Team Motorola turned in a stunning run from last to first place Sunday while capturing the Molson Indy before an appreciative record crowd of 73,628 at Exhibition Place.
Andretti, relegated to 26th and last place after side-to-side contact with rookie Scott Dixon caused him to stall in the third turn on the first green flag lap, clawed his way back into contention over the next 69 laps, took the lead on Lap 71 and went on to a remarkable victory, the record-41st of his FedEx Championship Series career.
In so doing, Andretti (Motorola Honda Reynard) added to his storied history at Toronto by scoring his seventh career victory at the venue. The victory was his 12th finish of fifth or better in 15 career starts at Toronto, and made him the seventh different race winner in nine FedEx Championship Series events this season.
Most importantly, the victory moved Andretti into second place in the FedEx Championship Series championship, with 73 points. He trails Kenny Brack of Team Rahal (84 points) by 11 heading into Round 11 of the championship, the Michigan 500 Presented by Toyota, next weekend at Michigan International Speedway.
Brack (Shell Ford Lola) finished 20th Sunday, only his second non-scoring finish of the season.
Andretti's gradual climb to the front moved him to 22nd place by Lap 4, 16th by Lap 10, 12th by Lap 40 and eighth by Lap 50. He gained one position on consecutive laps from Lap 47, when he stood 11th, to Lap 54, when he had improved to fourth.
Ultimately, Andretti took the lead on Lap 71 and held it for the remainder of the 95-lap event. He finished 2.741 seconds ahead of Alex Tagliani (Player's/Indeck Ford Reynard) of Player's Forsythe Racing, the second-year driver whose runner-up performance was a career best.
Third place went to Adrian Fernandez (Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Honda Reynard), 4.395 seconds behind. Tagliani and Fernandez posted their first podium results of the season, bringing to 16 the number of different podium finishers through nine completed events.
Rounding out the top five finishers were two-time FedEx Championship Series champion (1997, '98) Alex Zanardi (Pioneer Honda Reynard) of Mo Nunn Racing, who finished a season-best fourth, and Dixon (Powerware Panasonic PacWest Toyota), whose fifth-place finish represented his third top-five result of the season, including a victory at Nazareth.
The FedEx Championship Series championship race tightened considerably as a result of the fact that none of the top five and only two of the top eight drivers entering the event managed to score championship points. Heading to Michigan, Brack and Andretti are followed by Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske, third with 73 points; Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard) of Team KOOL Green, fourth with 65 points, and defending FedEx Championship Series champion Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske, fifth with 58.
The Molson Indy was Round 10 of 21 in the 2001 FedEx Championship Series. The series visits seven countries and four continents during the season and climaxes with the season-ending Marlboro 500 Presented by Toyota on Sunday, Nov. 4 at California Speedway in Fontana, Calif. Thanks to a partnership between Marlboro, Toyota, CART and California Speedway, the winner of the season finale will collect $1 million, one of the richest paydays in all of motorsports. An additional $1 million, as well as the prestigious Vanderbilt Cup, will be awarded to the driver who wins the FedEx Championship Series championship.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI, Motorola Honda Reynard: "This was a big one. After the first lap, I thought the race was over. I've got to give a lot of credit to the CART [Safety] Team; they got me restarted before the pace car came around. They helped me win this race. As the race wore on, the strategy that Team Motorola took began to work. It was quite a nice thing to do to drive all day and not save fuel. I passed a lot of cars today. That was fun. That's what racing is all about. I still never thought this is where we would end up. I had a lot of help from the competition. There must be something about Toronto. I love coming here, and I can't wait to come back next year! I'm so happy, and I'm so happy for Team Motorola. I didn't give them the credit they deserve. It's an awesome result. I knew from the first race this year that this team was able to win races, and it's starting to come together now."
ALEX TAGLIANI, Player's/Indeck Ford Reynard: "It's a team result. We've been trying to prove that we're a better team than last year, but we've had a lot of bad luck so far. At the beginning of the race, I had a great race with Adrian and Tony Kanaan. The Player's team did a great job on the first pit stop, and I was running second behind Gil de Ferran for a long time. My team said, 'If Gil is coming into the pits, come in behind him,' and that's what I did. I was saving fuel, and then Michael got past me on his last pit stop. I was trying to pressure him, but the team was telling me, 'Full lean, full lean.' The only great shot I would have had at Michael was at the end, and I got into the marbles when the Target car [Bruno Junqueira] came out of the pits in front of me. We just needed to get a good break, it's good that we got it here in Toronto."
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ, Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Honda Reynard: "First, I'm very excited for Fernandez Racing. It's our first podium in our first year, and we had a great day today as a team with me teammate, Shinji Nakano, also in the top ten. It's been a tough year, and it's good to get a good result. At the start, I had a boost problem and I couldn't do anything, but the boost came back and I was racing with Paul Tracy for a while. I was behind Helio [Castroneves] for a while, and was saving a lot of fuel, and it worked perfectly. I came into the pits, and unfortunately, we were having problems with first gear on all our stops. It was cracking a lot, and I stalled it trying to leave the pit. We lost the race there. Sometimes you're happy to be third, but inside you know it could be better. But I'm pretty happy all things considered."
* Michael Andretti (Motorola Honda Reynard) recorded his seventh victory in 15 career starts at Toronto and his 12th top-five result. The other victories came in 1989, '91, '92, '94, '95 and 2000. Andretti's remaining top-five finishes at Toronto include fifth in 1987, third in '88, second in '90, fourth in '97 and second in '98. The 25 laps he led en route to victory brought his career laps-led total at Toronto to 473 and moved him to 6,509 laps led for his career, by far the highest total in CART history. Rick Mears stands second on the CART career laps-led list with 3,286.
* Andretti's victory allowed him to extend a CART record that has seen him record at least one victory in 14 different Champ Car seasons. He also won for the eighth consecutive year (1994-2001), tying Al Unser Jr. (1988-1995) and Bobby Rahal (1982-89) for second on CART's all-time list, behind Emerson Fittipaldi, who won at least one race for 11 seasons (1985-95).
* Andretti became the seventh different winner in nine FedEx Championship Series events this season, joining Cristiano da Matta (Texaco/Havoline/Kmart Toyota Lola) at Mexico; Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard) at Long Beach and Detroit; Scott Dixon (Powerware Panasonic PacWest Toyota) at Nazareth; Kenny Brack (Shell Ford Lola) at Japan and Milwaukee; Max Papis (Miller Lite Ford Lola) at Portland and Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard) at Cleveland. The FedEx Championship Series record for winners in a single season is 11, established last year.
* Alex Tagliani's (Player's/Indeck Ford Reynard) runner-up finish was a season and career best. His previous career-best result was fourth at Long Beach last year, his season best prior to Sunday was ninth at Cleveland. Tagliani scored championship points for the fourth time in the past five events, including finishes of 12th at Milwaukee and Portland and ninth at Cleveland.
* Adrian Fernandez (Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Honda Reynard) finished a season-best third to bring the first podium result to the first-year Fernandez Racing team. It marked his best finish since a victory at Australia last year, which helped propel him to a runner-up finish in the FedEx Championship Series championship.
* Andretti's victory was Honda's fourth of the season, all on temporary street circuits. The others have come from Helio Castroneves of Marlboro Team Penske, at Long Beach and Detroit, and Dario Franchitti of Team KOOL Green at Cleveland. Honda has also won 21 of the past 25 FedEx Championship Series events contested on temporary street circuits, dating to the start of the 1998 season. Honda's victory allowed it to extend its lead over Toyota in the CART Manufacturer's Championship from four points (136-132) to 16 (158-142).
* Rookie Scott Dixon of the PacWest Racing Group finished fifth, the third top-five finish of his rookie season. He also owns a victory at Nazareth and a podium finish of third at Milwaukee. Dixon extended his lead over Bruno Junqueira (Target Toyota Lola) of Target Chip Ganassi Racing in the Jim Trueman Rookie of the Year standings to 31 points, 54-23.
* Dixon's teammate, Mauricio Gugelmin (Nextel PacWest Toyota) of the PacWest Racing Group finished a season-best seventh and scored championship points for the fifth time in the past six events. His previous season-best performance is 10th, at Milwaukee, Detroit and Cleveland. The finish was Gugelmin's best overall since seventh at Laguna Seca last year.
* Defending FedEx Championship Series champion and Molson Indy polesitter Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske finished 14th and scoreless, but reached a couple of career milestones in the process. De Ferran led a race-high 49 laps from the pole, moving him over the 1,000 laps led mark for his career. With 1,004 laps led, he stands 15th on CART's career laps led list, 21 behind 14th-place Johnny Rutherford (1,025). De Ferran also made the 118th start of his CART career, breaking a tie with Kevin Cogan and Hiro Matsushita and taking over sole position of 18th place on the CART career starts list.
* Sunday's record Molson Indy attendance of 73,628 improved the event's three-day total attendance to 169,023, also a record.
The FedEx Championship Series season continues with its fifth event in the past six weeks, the Michigan 500 Presented by Toyota, next Sunday, July 22 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Mich.