Inside CART

Motorola 300 at St. Louis
Dan Maldonado
Race Date: September 17, 2000
236 Laps
1.27 miles per lap
2000 Race Winner: Juan Montoya

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Other's by Dan

This is my 10th in a continuing series of articles that take a different perspective on races, i.e. what happened that others might have overlooked. Check back with the week following every race for my latest article.

Misc. Ramblings...

With the exception of Homestead, this was the best short-oval race of the season. This is the intention of using the Handford wing. There was passing and their was close tailgating too. Right from the beginning, the race created the expectations of a great race. Target on the front row for the first time since 96. Juan Montoya has been the man to beat on the ovals this year. It came as no surprise to me that he took the pole. I was pleased to see Jimmy Vasser move up to snag the outside of the front row. I was equally as pleased to see Jimmy battle his teammate in the opening laps. Uncharacteristic of a Ganassi prepared car was Juan's car falling off the pace. This set up some exciting passes for the lead. 

Lending to the expectations of a great race was Team Kool Green sweeping the second row. There is no doubt that Barry Green reaffirmed the importance of racing as teammates. Of course, we can't forget the coming together of Team Kool Green at this very track just the year before. This year unfortunately the gearbox gremlins that have plagued the Reynard cars eliminated both from competition. Bad news for Tracy who is still in contention for his first championship. Bad news for Franchitti who is still trying to get back to last year's winning form. 

Curiously, Penske wasn't on the fast and furious pace that we have come to know in recent races. The Penske-Reynards have been so-so on the ovals and not too reliable, particularly for the number 3. Certainly, their oval efforts have not been as strong as they have been on the road and street courses. Helio had a terrific showing at Gateway last year as he chased Michael Andretti to the checkered. The Penske drivers played smart strategy and kept it on the course. They were certainly ready to pounce if any of the front runners faltered. 

In the Laguna Seca edition of Inside Cart, I talked about the differences in the way the Lolas and Reynards leave a slower corner. In it, I described that the Reynards put the power down more efficiently than the Lolas. That is a showing of rear downforce for certain. Of course the engine management has something to contribute but let's just concentrate on the chassis. This would almost certainly lead us to believe that Lola would be at a somewhat disadvantage at Gateway where rear downforce is critical. Then we see the Ganassi Lolas storm to a 1-2 starting position with 2 Reynards on the second row. Intriguing indeed, but I wonder what the real differences are between putting power down on a road or street course versus on an oval. 

We have seen the platypus aero additions to the Reynards before but, the coverage didn't allow too much in the way of seeing any aerodynamic changes in the cars but the broadcast made an interesting comment. Jon Beekhuis intercepted a communication from Chip Ganassi to Montoya to change his rear dampener. This is the first time that I have heard this and I know I haven't read it anywhere. If this is indeed the case, this is a tremendous onboard adjustment. Don't forget that it was the Ganassi team that we first heard the use of "the button". That button is now employed throughout the field. We'll keep an eye on it. 

Michael Andretti proved that the Lolas were a force as he was the class of the field today. Although Michael says differently, they ran a couple of conservative races in Vancouver and Laguna. Gateway showed a renewed vengeance. Andretti lapped the field with the exception of Montoya who eventually got his Lola sorted out and shook off his persistent teammate. I was reminded of the 1994 Indy 500 where Emerson Fittipaldi had put a lap between himself and the rest of the field. Today just as it was in 1994, this type of dominance wouldn't lead to the checkered flag. I rarely will say that someone deserves to win but in this case, Michael deserved to win. 

1st Place: Juan Montoya is this year's king of the ovals. In the opening laps, I was surprised to see that the set-up went off so soon after the drop of the green. We all see Juan in opposite lock during races and that is what makes it so exciting to see him run, but a loose car on an oval makes for a long day. 

2nd Place: Patrick Carpentier has had a season of ups and downs. It has even effected his opportunity to stay with Players at year's end. The team is still reviewing their options. This second place is just what Patrick needed to show that when the car is right, he is fast. Nevertheless, he ran a smart race and brought home some points. 

3rd Place: Roberto Moreno has certainly been the surprise of the season. We all knew that he had talent but without a full-time ride with a top-level team he never had a chance to show. This Patrick Racing team has brought out a lot in Roberto. While it has been somewhat of a struggle since his first win at Cleveland, he has stuck with it and stayed within reach of the championship lead. 

Honorable Mention…
Toyota has been the surprise of the year. Many were surprised when it was announce that Chip Ganassi would not renew with Honda instead going with the unproven winless Toyota. So it was fitting that Chip's team would bring Toyota their first Champcar victory at Milwaukee. Everyone talks of how powerful the Fords are but it has been Toyota that has been strong on the ovals. 

The PPI teammates Servia and de Matta have had a breakthrough year. They have consistently been at or near the front of the field. It is no wonder that they are so greatly sought after by the other owners in the paddock. 

Jimmy Vasser showed excellent form in the opening laps of the race. Unfortunately, his finish doesn't represent how good a run he had. I believe that change is good and change will be good for Jimmy wherever he lands next year. 

Of course, it would be wrong if I forgot to mention Michael Andretti. He definitely has the secret to this place like he did for so many years at Homestead. He dominated today. There can be nothing more said about it. The strategy was on this weekend and Michael was going for it. It'll be interesting to see how the next 2 races pan out. Newman-Haas hasn't been particularly strong on the street-courses and that is what stands in the way. Fontana shouldn't be a problem but it will hinge upon how good a showing he has in Houston and in Australia. 

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