CHAMPCAR/CART: Vasser takes Houston by storm

By Chris Speigner - Houston, TX - With the drop of the green Gil de Ferran shot to the front followed by Jimmy Vasser of Team Ganassi. Dario Franchitti finds the wall and ends his day before it begins. This brought out the first...

By Chris Speigner -

Houston, TX - With the drop of the green Gil de Ferran shot to the front followed by Jimmy Vasser of Team Ganassi. Dario Franchitti finds the wall and ends his day before it begins. This brought out the first yellow of the day. "I hit the wall coming out of the second turn and then coming into turn one something broke and I went into the tires."

Juan Montoya moved from sixth to fourth in the initial sprint. Paul Tracy followed Montoya up to fifth place. At the same time, #32 Carpentier spins at turn nine. Safety workers got the car restarted, but Carpentier lost two laps to the leaders before getting back into the race. Green came on lap six. Before the completion of the next lap, Max Papis lost power and found Memo Gidley climbing his rear suspension. This brought out the second caution of the first two laps.

During this extended period, most teams started to consider making this a one pit stop race. Many teams took time to get a splash of fuel with a run through the pit. Gidley was able to repair his car and return to the race four laps down. Green racing returned on lap twelve.

As the field went green, Helio Castroneves and Montoya began swapping paint like NASCAR drivers as they traded third and fourth positions through two consecutive turns. Montoya was able to retain his third place position. The drivers were able to settle into a rhythm and continue racing to the first scheduled pit stops.

By lap forty, de Ferran retains the lead followed by Vasser, Castroneves and Montoya. The first scheduled pit stops began on lap forty-eight with de Ferran first through the pits. Vasser takes over first and de Ferran returns to the track in twelfth. Castroneves, Montoya, Tracy and Michael Andretti pit on lap fifty.

Castroneves and Tracy bring the NHRA to CART with a drag race leaving the pits. Vasser pits on lap fifty-two for his only stop of the race. Vasser re-enters the race in second place behind de Ferran and followed by Montoya, Tracy and Adrian Fernandez.

Under yellow, caused by a stalled Tarso Marques, de Ferran pits for fuel and hands the lead to Vasser on lap seventy-three. De Ferran rejoins the race in third place. The final caution of the day cam out on lap seventy-eight for a four car incident involving Michael Andretti, Kenny Brack, Cristiano da Matta and Oriol Servia.

Safety workers cleaned the track and green flag waved for the final time on lap eighty-three. Vasser had opened his lead to six seconds over Montoya when the white flag waved to signal the final lap. Vasser made the final lap and crossed the finish line to gain his first win since 1998 and ninth career victory.

He was followed by teammate Juan Montoya and Team Penske's Gil de Ferran. Vasser became the first American to win the Grand Prix in Houston. Team Ganassi became the first non-Honda team to win with their Toyota Lola's.

This is Vasser's third podium appearance in 2000. He finished second in Rio and third in Long Beach. "I owe it all to my guys. Anybody could have driven that car today. The Toyota engine had great fuel mileage and the tires were fantastic... I was just trying to keep by pace. I had a perfect car today. It's been a long time since I've been in victory lane and it feels pretty good. The ball bounced my way for once finally."

Juan Montoya's second place finish gives him his fourth podium of the season. His praise was for his teammate Vasser. "Jimmy did a great piece of driving today. I want to congratulate him. He really deserves this win."

Gil de Ferran retains his championship points lead. His third place run had left him a little spent. "I'm very very tired. We had to push really hard throughout the race, especially the middle stint. I was on the qualifying pace all the way, and that really makes you tired. There were some really tense moments there toward the end of the race being the meat in the sandwich between Juan [Montoya] and Paul [Tracy]."

Other titles handed out today included; Rookie of the Year honors to Kenny Brack and the Budweiser Hard Charger Award was given to Alex Barron for his twelfth place finish in the Grand Prix. Baron started in twenty-third place and worked his way up through the field for an eleven-position improvement.

The Champ car's next stop will be Surfer's Paradise, Australia.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Memo Gidley , Max Papis , Adrian Fernandez , Tarso Marques , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Oriol Servia , Kenny Brack
Teams Team Penske