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Inside CART

Molson Indy Vancouver
Dan Maldonado
Race Date: September 3, 2000
90 Laps
1.802 miles per lap
2000 Race Winner: Paul Tracy


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Other's by Dan

This is my 8th 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 AutoRacing1.com the week following every race for my latest article.

Misc. Ramblings...

I guess that since I didn't produce and Inside Track for the race at Elkhart, Paul Tracy felt the need to repeat victory in Vancouver. Yes, Paul I have noticed and therefore I have to open with a few remarks about Elkhart before moving on to talk about the great race at Vancouver. 

Normally I look forward to each year's race at Elkhart Lake. It is without a doubt the most beautiful track on the circuit and perhaps one of the most challenging on many levels. First, the track is a tick over 4 miles long. That is the longest track on the CART circuit. And as a result, fuel mileage contributes to the challenges of Elkhart. There is a very narrow pit window when you're dealing with a 4-mile track. If a driver misses his pit stall or a team neglects to give the driver enough advanced notice to dive into the pits, it means 4 very long miles of crossed fingers and short shifts. Third, Elkhart is fast. The teams have to balance handling and downforce while trying to reduce drag. Put all this together with 24 of the world's best drivers and you have the ingredients for a terrific race. Well? What happened? In case you forgot, only 11 cars finished. That doesn't mean 11 cars finished on the lead lap, I'm talking 11 cars were running (or limping) when Jim Swintal waved the twin checkered flags. 

This is not to take away anything from the superb drive of Paul Tracy. He did have to battle back after falling to 23rd place on the opening laps. He did have to keep his patience, conserve his tires, and keep the gearbox in one piece. We've all talked about the new found patience and maturity of Paul Tracy and we've talked about Paul's recklessness. Hell, we've done that during the same season. I hope Tracy can keep it together and make a serious run at the championship. I enjoy seeing him race. 

On another note, I'd like to note that the silly season is breaking loose and with only a handful of races left in the 2000 season many drivers are trying to prove their worth. One notable free agent for next year is Jimmy Vasser. Chip Ganassi and Jimmy held a press conference to announce that Chip would buy out the remaining year of Jimmy's contract. Jimmy is a past champion and has been a valuable component of the Ganassi Dynasty. I understand that racing is a business and Chip has to do what is right for his business. I want to see Jimmy go to a decent situation where he can regain his confidence and start winning races again. It's good to hear that Honda wants Jimmy back in the family. This might ensure Jimmy a ride with a good team. 

Vancouver Race

I am beginning to wonder if some of these races start under yellow as a tactical move on the part of the polesitter. It psyches out the rest of the field and it helps fuel mileage. When the race does get underway we see, as we have so many times this year, Christian Fittipaldi with a big brake lock-up going into the first turn. I have speculated before that the Lola isn't quite up to par with the Reynards in the braking department. Today's race gave us a good look at the braking of Montoya's Lola. Montoya was forced to follow the Reynard of Castroneves. Forget for a moment that this is the Penske-Reynard and you will see that Castroneves doesn't have a problem braking later than Montoya. The Toyota and the Honda looked evenly matched on the straights but Castroneves could hang on deeper into the corner.

For much of the race, I thought for sure that Franchitti would bring home his first victory of the season. He ran away from his teammate and the rest of the field. He made it look almost easy. It's a good thing that we had a good battle within the middle of the field to keep us occupied. 

Gidley has another tremendous run in the DirecTV Toyota for Della Penna. Servia showed extremely competitive but couldn't keep his patience. He had a strong car and was running well but pushed too hard and backed it into the wall. Thankfully, the contact was only a light brush. It's a shame that Servia getting sideways caused such a ruckus with Kanaan and Jourdain. Jourdain finally put together a good weekend and showed serious potential. Unfortunately, Kanaan got on the brakes early to let Servia back on the line. Jourdain didn't expect it and ran right up the back of Kanaan. This effectively ended both drivers weekend. The Mo Nunn Racing crew managed to fix Kanaan's Reynard and turned the rest of the afternoon into a test session. 

Kanaan wasn't the only snake bitten Hollywood car on the streets of Vancouver this weekend. Luiz Garcia Jr. spent the race trying to find his way around. This team got off to a late start and with the limited test schedules (and limited budget) couldn't put together a proper preseason. While that consideration might be valid in the opening races, we are 15 races into a 20-race season and Garcia has not progressed. CART, in my opinion, is not that desperate to fill grid positions that they should not address this situation. Garcia qualified almost 3-seconds off the pace. 3-seconds doesn't sound like much but consider this: Franchitti averaged 106.144 MPH with Garcia at 100.072. That's a difference of over 6%.  Within the 10% CART rule but barely within the 7% F-1 rule.  Maybe CART should adopt the more stringent F1 rule.

I can't for the life of me figure out why Alex Tagliani was so aggressive during the race. His job is secure from what I understand. It's obvious that there are problems within the Player's team. Tagliani went under Carpentier and that put Carpentier into the barrier. It's just unfortunate that Blundell took a wide line and collected the tail end of Carpentier. Both men out and both left scratching their heads about their futures.

There is no doubt that Penske has shown the greatness of years past during 2000. But, what is with the bizarre right front suspension failure on Castroneves' Reynard. The tape doesn't show the actual incident but it does show enough to see that the right front just gives away and Castroneves is a passenger of a 150-MPH carnival ride. It's a shame because Castroneves certainly was on his way to another great finish. 

Franchitti dominated this race today. As I mentioned before, I was certain that he was going to take the victory. I should have known that there is no certainty in Champcar racing. Franchitti had what sounded like to me more than enough revs to drop the clutch and resume his dominance. As we saw, the car lurched forward and stalled. Maybe it had something to do with Honda's new rev limiter.  What an agonizing set back to what was certain to be Franchitti's return to form. Again, nothing is certain in Champcar racing. While I was sad to see Franchitti fall to second, I was impressed with the way Barry Green determined that Tracy would go on mostly unchallenged for the win. Last year, Franchitti lost the championship on a tiebreaker with Montoya. It was hard to keep from wondering how things might have gone in the 1999 championship if Green had Tracy let up for Franchitti in Houston. I imagine that it is hard to keep both sides balanced when you have 2 great championship caliber drivers such as Tracy and Franchitti. But, the bottom line is that the championship is the main focus. What is the sense in having a 2-car team if not to help each other to that goal? I am certain that if Tracy was holding up Franchitti, Barry would have let them battle for the win.

Podium

1st Place: Paul Tracy. This is 2 in a row for Tracy. He led the championship earlier this season and fell down in the standings with a run of bad luck. Paul is a proven race winner but never a champion. This could be his best shot at the championship. He has a 5-year contract and drives for one of the best teams in the paddock. He has to remain consistent and patient. 

2nd Place: Dario Franchitti. I would love to say that this is the beginning of a terrific finish of the season for Franchitti. However, it seems that whenever I say that, it doesn't happen. Instead, I'm going to say that it was a terrific race for Team Kool Green. It's a shame that he didn't take the win after dominating the first half of the race as well as Friday and Saturday. But the execution has to be perfect when the competition is so close and the championship yet to be determined. 

3rd Place: Adrian Fernandez. Suddenly Adrian finds himself in a very real position to make a run at the championship. Adrian is typically easy on equipment and good on fuel mileage. But, his qualifying needs some attention. He spends much of the race moving through the field and runs out of time as he starts making a run. Here is another guy caught amidst the silly season. Will he start his own team or will he continue on with Patrick Racing where he has enjoyed most of his success? 

Honorable Mention

I don't give enough credit to Juan Montoya. Perhaps it's due to the fact that many other publications rave about his accomplishments. I don't want to just follow suit. However, I would like to say that I am very impressed with the manner in which he has conducted himself after each of his 10 DNF's. He has led most laps this season but has only managed to finish 1/3 of the races this season. If the rumors are correct, he will go back to Williams F1. I hope he manages to shake this bad luck. It would be a shame for Montoya to suffer the same fate as Zanardi.

To the whole Team Kool Green. This team has been in the center of the silly season with speculation of both drivers leaving as well as Barry Green rumored to be going off to run BAR. They have managed to stay focused on the championship and have kept a reign on Tracy. Extra kudos to Barry Green for having the guts to tell both drivers how important it is for Tracy to go to victory. 

Memo Gidley is someone we have watched for a while. We knew of this Memo's talent. It's a shame that gearbox trouble took him out of competition but this guy is one of the good ones. 

I can't leave out Moreno. He hasn't had a great second half of the season but he remains only 11 points out of resuming the points lead. Moreno is consistent and focused. All they need is a little luck and Moreno will certainly be a player up until the end.

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