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The Inside Track

Nazareth 225
Dan Maldonado
May 30, 2000
225 Laps
0.946 Miles
2000 Race Winner: Gil de Ferran


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Other's by Dan

This is my second in a continuing series of articles that will take a different perspective on races, i.e. what happened that others might have overlooked. Check back with AutoRacing1.com the week following every race for my latest article.

Misc. Ramblings…

The CART series returned (again) to Nazareth Speedway after the original race was postponed due to the snowout earlier this season. This reschedule is the best thing that could have happened to Nazareth. Maybe not for Ganassi or Walker who had to shuttle back and forth between Indy and Nazareth, but for the fans because now they could enjoy a day of great racing without the fear of cold weather. Maybe CART needs to look at the stands for this race when determining Nazareth's position on next year's schedule. Obviously, when given a good date, people will come out to watch the Champcars (Editor's note - although decent, the grandstands were far from full). I think most of us understand that on ovals CART isn't going to fill the stands like NASCAR. That is right now. Give it some time. I think CART knows what they need to do. Now, they just need to do it. 

What is with ABC and CART's timing and scoring? You mean to tell me that ABC and CART didn't test the system before going live on national TV that the on-screen-scoring pylon wouldn't work? That ought to be better prepared because they did manage to get it going by the end of the broadcast. 

I would have liked to have been in the driver's meeting. It looks like the backmarkers need to be a bit more aware that racing is happening in the middle of their Sunday drive. Of course, we heard the usual complaining from the Ganassi team that Montoya was getting held up

As we have seen so many times before, Montoya managed to pull a healthy lead in the opening laps of the race. 

It's a shame Franchitti was too aggressive on cold tires to spin himself out of the race. It looked like last weeks podium finish in Japan was a signal that Franchitti was ready to get back to the form we expect from last year. We guess not. 

I think the battle between Tracy and Fittipaldi in the early stages of this race is a demonstration of Tracy's newfound patience. In the past I have seen Tracy make mistakes that shouldn't have happened. Tracy has found success at Nazareth in the past and it is no surprise that he was running well. Also, the battle with the Penske guys demonstrates that teams determination to win. 

Castroneves is one driver that sets up passes right on the gearbox of the car ahead. That was never more evident in the way he set up the pass with de Ferran. Usually you see a driver hang back before making his move. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or not. It is bold that's for sure. We are always hearing that the car loses downforce if it follows too closely behind another car. I would think that the tight turns on the Nazareth tri-oval put a premium on downforce. 

What a great pit stop by Team Kool Green! Last week, I talked about Andretti crowding Brack in the pits. This week I think it is definite that Montoya was BLOCKING when he left his pit box. Tracy was clearly ahead of him. Montoya charged ahead of Tracy at the second restart anyway. Of course, the first start was aborted when Garcia spun on his way to the green. That is another driver who needs to rethink his situation. He has sponsors and new equipment but a propensity for mistakes. 

Norberto Fontana's brush with the wall brought out a late caution. Most of the teams dove for the pits. Again another great pitstop by Team Kool Green! Montoya out in 5th? That is not something we have come to expect from Ganassi. With the trouble in Japan Montoya ought to look at ways to light a fire under that crew again. This stop introduced us to someone who had been running a clean race. Moreno and de Ferran come on strong at this point. I think these 2 have a similar approach to racing. It is essential to get to a point where you can challenge for the win. They watch their equipment and play the stops right. Not only a testament to the drivers but a reflection of the caliber of team they represent. 

Here we go again. Yet another aborted restart. This time it's Jourdain Jr. who spins on his way to the green. In the resulting melee Montoya, Tracy, and Moreno have contact. Trying to avoid the accident, they become part of it. Montoya had to stop for a wing change. During the logjam created by the spinning Jourdain Jr., Montoya rides right up the gearbox of Moreno. If you notice, Vasser is in the pits when Montoya's team is changing the nose. Vasser's team was topping off the fuel to set-up a charge to the front. Tracy's car escapes damage and he stops for fuel. What cockiness on the part of Team Kool Green. They don't even send the guys out to inspect for damage. It appears to be shaping up to be a fuel stop race. Fernandez has been getting terrific mileage and looks to make a charge to the front. The report is that he has been running well over 2.6 miles per gallon. That is exceptional mileage on the part of Ford Cosworth. 

Oh no, a huge hit by Jourdain Jr.! You know, I'd like to see that team get themselves together. They have the necessary sponsorship and an experienced team. We know that Jourdain is talented but he just hasn't been able to show it this year. It's a shame. 

The closing laps of the race were just spectacular. While we did see some passing during this race, the best passes were made during the closing laps. After the Blundell/Castroneves incident Montoya charged past Andretti on the restart. Gugelmin was able to hold Montoya off. Third place Brack has to start concentrating on a hard charging Gugelmin in 4th place and an even harder charging Montoya in 5th. Unable to pass on the very tight Nazareth track, the competition packs up when the leaders come into traffic. Gugelmin and Brack come within an eighth of an inch of each other with Gugelmin pulling off the pass. Fernandez follows Gugelmin through and moves Brack and Montoya to 5th and 6th respectively. What great racing! Moreno gets a little high in the gray and tests the wall ending a great run. What a shame. Up until that moment he had completed every lap of competition this year. Johnstone mentioned earlier in the broadcast that Moreno is a driver that rarely puts a wheel wrong. I agree. This won't be a recurring problem with Moreno.

Do you think it would be possible to get a green flag restart that would actually get the race back underway? Too many times there were aborted restarts because of spins. At this level of racing I expect more. 

Car stuff…

My applause to Parker Johnstone for finally observing on the air that the Penske Reynards have been heavily revised. The rear of the side-pod, the cowling and the "vanes" at the leading edge of the lower front of the side-pods are reminiscent of last years PC 27B. 

Speaking of chassis differences, have you noticed how little angle the front wings on the Lola carry? That tells me that they are either producing some serious mechanical grip or the undertray of the car is doing a great job. Last year, we saw Castroneves putting in great times with the Lola. There is no doubt that the Lola is suited for these short ovals. 

Incidentally, Swift had a great race here last year but Marques was a no-show all race. The only time we saw him was when he was getting passed time and time again.  

And I can't forget to mention that the Ganassi team is running the side-pod kick-ups for this race too. I am real interested in this part of the Lolas. One thing I noticed is that Brack was running the more traditional road-course front wing. I know that the Rahal team runs a different shock program than the other teams. Could it be that Team Rahal isn't producing as much mechanical grip?

Podium…

1st place: Gil de Ferran. This win represents the 100th win for the Captain. It has been since Gateway 1997 since Penske has visited winners circle. This is the year of change at Penske Racing. New chassis, engine, drivers, and team manager round out a renewed commitment by CART's winningest team. This win also marks de Ferran's first win on an oval. There is no doubt that we will see this team in winner's circle again. It is too bad that Castroneves wasn't able to hold on. I hope that team is able to turn it around. This is definitely the best opportunity he has had in his career. 

2nd place: Mauricio Gugelmin. I am glad to see Mo and PacWest on the podium again. This is the best finish for Mo since his 97 win at Vancouver. Mercedes finally provided an engine with the right drivability and power to move to the front.  Mercedes has been lacking in the power department this year, maybe they are beginning to catch up.  However, Nazareth is not a horsepower track so we'll have to wait and see before passing final judgment.  With their F-1 engine doing so well, we would have expected some of that technology to make its way to their CART engine program.

3rd place: Kenny Brack. I like watching this "rookie". He has a very unique line around the track. He lets the car drift far out to the wall. This is no doubt a result of his IRL experience. I think that Rahal made a great choice in offering Brack a chance to move up to the Champcars. Expect great things from the Shell car. I just hope Max can shake the bad luck. I think Team Rahal is on the brink of awesome success. 

Personally, I have come to expect great racing at Nazareth. This year's race is no exception. There was a lot of great moves on the track. This finish represents the 5th different winner in as many races. There has been talk of replacing Nazareth. CART has to do what they got to do. I just hope that they reconsider and get behind Nazareth. It is CART's only Northeast race and that isn't fair to take it away from those fans unless they give them Watkins Glen in return. In one week, the series continues at the Milwaukee Mile. That too is always an exciting race. It's fast and furious with traffic. I look for there to be a 6th winner. Moreno showed well during testing. You can bet that the usual cast will be pushing hard. Andretti always runs well in Milwaukee. As does Tracy and Vasser and of course, you can't count out Montoya. 

Honorable Mention…

Roger Penske for having the courage to make such sweeping changes this year to get his team back on track. And for giving the underrated de Ferran a chance to run for the championship.

Lola's quick-change front wing. This demonstrates that racing is a team sport. Just this little forethought was enough to allow Montoya to stay within striking distance after the nose change.

Oh my…Servia finished. (enough said)

Mercedes/Ilmor has enjoyed tremendous success in F1, but have struggled in CART. Hell, it even caused Penske, a partner in Ilmor, to seek a customer engine deal with Honda. I'll keep my opinion of this showing close. Last year, Mercedes won Homestead with the late Greg Moore only to go on to another miserable season. However, it is certainly worthy of an honorable mention.

Well we will see you next week when the series runs at Milwaukee.

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