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ANDRETTI DRIVES TO CART-LEADING 40TH CAREER VICTORY AND SIXTH AT MOLSON INDY OF TORONTO

by Ed Donath
July 16,  2000


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TORONTO (July 16, 2000) - Michael Andretti of Newman/Haas Racing, CART's all-time leader in career wins, moved into sole possession of third in all-time Champ Car history courtesy of his sixth career victory at the 15th Molson Indy before a record-setting crowd of 72,976 at Exhibition Place.

The win was the 40th of Andretti's illustrious career and snapped a tie with Al Unser for third place on the all-time Champ Car career list (1909-current). The all-time record is held by A.J. Foyt with 67 and he is followed by Mario Andretti with 52.

Andretti (Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Lola) also registered the sixth win of his career at Toronto following triumphs in 1989, '91, '92, '94 and '95. The six career wins are the most for Andretti at any CART venue, with the latest breaking a tie with his five victories at The Milwaukee Mile.

As the green flag flew for the start of the 15th edition of the Molson Indy of Toronto messy morning weather and wet street conditions had been replaced with bright sunlight and dry breezes. Helio Castroneves received the Greg Moore Memorial Pole Award a few minutes earlier, making a heartfelt acceptance speech by referencing the namesake of the award. That greatly pleased the partisan Canadian crowd.

Minutes later on Lap 1 Castroneves locked his brakes entering Turn 3, forcing Juan Montoya and Dario Franchitti to lock-up behind him. Montoya and Franchitti made contact, bringing out a full-course yellow. Both drivers limped to the pits but their cars' collective damage was terminal. 

Cristiano da Matta assumed the race lead in the confusion. Local favorite Paul Tracy, who had started twelfth, picked up five positions on the first lap, thanks to a combination of his aggressive driving and the early attrition at the front.

Spanish rookie Oriol Servia patiently dogged Tracy and was able to pass him to assume seventh place with a classic inside move coming into Turn 3. That maneuver may have included some overly gutsy wheel banging. 

Meanwhile, Mark Blundell's PacWest Reynard/Mercedes went dead stick on Lap 19 in the exit of Turn 2. This caused course workers to have to execute a very risky operation in which they pushed Blundell's car off-course just as the leaders came back around. A full-course yellow was probably in order under such a circumstance. The best ongoing dice behind da Matta was between Michael Andretti and Helio Castroneves for second. 

Back-markers Tarso Marques and Norberto Fontana got together in Turn 8 on Lap 33 and both slid into a tire wall. Team Rahal perfectly anticipated the ensuing yellow and had Rookie of the Year points leader Kenny Brack's Shell Reynard/Cosworth in for service just as that full-course caution was declared. The rest of the leaders pitted the next time around. 

During that session of pit stops Bryan Herta's Hollywood Mo Nunn Reynard/Mercedes caught fire and Christian Fittipaldi clipped Gil de Ferran alongside de Ferran's pit. Fittipaldi was forced to retire while de Ferran did a stint with a broken rear wing. Fittipaldi's Newman-Haas teammate, Michael Andretti was much more fortunate. He climbed to P2 as a result of a flawless pit stop.

Oriol Servia appeared to be in way over his head during a dangerous multi-corner dice for P4 with Adrian Fernandez. He eventually spun into a tire wall, probably as a result of an adrenaline overdose. Simultaneously, Castroneves pitted - smoke emanating from his Marlboro-Penske Reynard/ Honda - it was a dnf for Helio as a result of a broken header. Adrian Fernandez inherited third place behind daMatta and Andretti. Notably, by Lap 50 Alex Tagliani, who had started 19th, made it up to P7 despite early contact with Roberto Moreno.

Meanwhile, Andretti kept increasing his pressure on da Matta. Pushing hard on Lap 68 in his Newman-Haas Big Kmart Havoline Lola/Cosworth, Cristiano was forced to take evasive measures to hold off the charging wily veteran, Andretti. 

Da Matta was the first of the top-three to pit on Lap 72…Kenny Brack followed him in. After the rest of the leaders had all completed their pitstops by Lap 74, Andretti passed Fernandez for second and Paul Tracy got by da Matta for fourth on lap 78. Roberto Moreno, who was last to pit, had inherited the lead when the other leaders came in. Moreno pitted two laps later and that gave the lead to Andretti. Fernandez, in his Patrick Racing Tecate-Quaker State Reynard/Cosworth and Tracy, in his Team Kool Green Reynard/Honda, meanwhile continued to dice for second. 

Da Matta dropped to fourth and the other previous race leader, Moreno, retired with a seized gearbox on Lap 99.

Andretti held off the competition and led for the remainder of the race. He cruised, thusly, to his sixth victory in the streets of Toronto and his milestone 40th victory overall. Incredibly, it was his first on a road or street course since 1996. With the victory Andretti inched to within two points of Moreno's Championship lead, making up 20 points of a 22-point deficit.

All three drivers on the podium (Adrian Fernandez second - Paul Tracy third) are former winners of the Molson Indy of Toronto. Though he "keecked" while the "keecking" was good, Cristiano da Matta finished a disappointing fourth. Alex Tagliani - in a brilliant Canadian fan-pleasing ride - rounded out the top-five.

Andretti rolled to a comfortable 6.527-second win over runner-up Adrian Fernandez of Patrick Racing while Scarborough, Ontario native Paul Tracy of Team KOOL Green delighted the locals by finishing third.

The performance was pivotal in his chase for his second series championship - his title came in 1991 - as he closed the gap on series leader Roberto Moreno (Visteon Ford Reynard) from 22 points to two as the series reached the midway point of the 20-race season. Moreno, held scoreless after incurring mechanical problems late in the 112-lap event, holds a 90-88 advantage heading into next week's Michigan 500 Presented by Toyota at Michigan Speedway.

Andretti averaged 98.248 miles per hour for 112 laps of the 1.755-mile temporary street circuit. He led 34 laps and took the lead for good on Lap 80 when leader Roberto Moreno pitted just after Andretti had passed then-second-place Fernandez heading into Turn 3. He went on to his second win of the season, following a previous victory at Japan. This year becomes his first with multiple victories since 1996, when he recorded five wins.

Fernandez (Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing Ford Reynard) scored his second podium finish of the season and first since a victory at Rio de Janeiro. He also logged his fifth top-nine performance in his past six appearances at Toronto, including a victory in 1996. 

By finishing third, Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) extended a run which has seen him finish seventh or better in nine career starts at Toronto. Like Andretti and Fernandez, he is a former winner at Toronto, in 1993. 

Rounding out the top five were Cristiano da Matta (Pioneer/MCI WorldCom Toyota Reynard) of PPI Motorsports, who finished fourth and led a race-high 73 laps, and Canadian rookie Alex Tagliani (Player's Forsythe Racing Team Ford Reynard) of Player's Forsythe Racing, who finished fifth. Da Matta recorded his third consecutive top-five finish and fifth of the season, highlighted by his first career podium result of third at Cleveland. The 73 laps were the first he has led in his two-year career. Tagliani's finish was his best since a career-high fourth at Long Beach.

WHAT THEY'RE SAYING

MICHAEL ANDRETTI, Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Lola:
"I am happy to get my 40th win here in Toronto," said Andretti. "I love this place. The Big Kmart/ Texaco/Havoline team did a superb job and won this for me in the pits. I think Michigan and Fontana will be the two key races for the championship. Who ever can finish those races will be in good shape. I started out all over (second place) Helio and noticed his tires started to go off. I tried to push him into a mistake but he only made small ones. I tried to be patient and rely on my experience and just decided to leave it up to the crew. They did a superb job and got me out in front of Helio in the pits. Again it was almost the same scenario with (race leader) Cristiano. I was pushing him as hard as I could and trying to get him to make a mistake. I decided to again wait for a stop and the Big Kmart/Texaco/ Havoline guys got me another position. He went in one lap before me and when I pitted and came out, I was immediately in front of him on the track and had to hold him off on cold tires. After that, I had a run on Adrian when he was coming out of the pits and knew I had an advantage since he was on cold tires. I went beside him and then I had it. I knew I had to get by him since he pitted later than I did and would be tough to pass after his tires warmed up. The Ford engine ran perfectly all day. I was really counting the last 15 laps down and just hoping we would make it to the end. It's been a long time since I won on a street course and it is a nice feeling." I'm really happy to get my 40th win here in Toronto, the fans here are so great."

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ, Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing Ford Reynard: "For us, it was a good race. We gained two positions at the start when [Juan] Montoya and [Dario] Franchitti got together, and I got by [Gil] de Ferran on the restart. Then, I saw Paul coming and I said 'Here we go again.' He did the same thing at Cleveland. I really had to concentrate. I had kind of a big moment with Oriol Servia, and after that, there were really no yellows. My brakes started to fade toward the end and I had to be careful not to completely kill them before the end of the race. We made up a lot of positions on fuel. After the last stop, I got out ahead of Michael, but he had more temperature in his tires and he was able to get past. But it was a great result for Patrick Racing today."

PAUL TRACY, KOOL Honda Reynard: "It was an up and down weekend with the weather and various problems we had. I'm very happy with the way things turned out. It was almost disastrous at the start. I hit the wall and bent the suspension, and I had a problem with the right front tire. It would build up too much pressure, so I had to be really careful. It was a handful all day, and I'm glad we were able to come home in third. [On paying tribute to Greg Moore with his helmet design this weekend] "It's not too emotional. I mean, we're all sad about what happened, but now it's time to pay tribute to Greg's life. It was an honor wearing his helmet today; I think it was a little push from behind today. I want to thank Ric [Moore, Greg's father], his wife, and his whole family for letting me do this here this weekend. We've been able to do some really great things for the Greg Moore Foundation."

CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI - "Michael and Gil were side-by-side and neither could decide who was going to move ahead and then Gil suddenly stood on the brakes and darted in his pits," said Fittipaldi. "I knew his pit was further down but I didn't expect him to stand on it. I thought he would pull over then brake like others do. It damaged my nose and broke the studs so we couldn't put on a new one. This has been a really tough year for the Big Kmart/Route 66 team. I have to admit it. We have run in the top-four in the past four races but only have one finish to show for it." 

Jim Aust, Toyota vice president of motorsports: "It was great to see Cristiano out front, leading so many laps. It's unfortunate that it didn't culminate in a win, but his time is definitely coming - as is Oriol's. He had one of the fastest cars on the track today. It was a shame to see Juan get knocked out so early, though. It's something different every week in his case and very little has been his doing." 

Cristiano da Matta, #97 Pioneer Electronics/MCI Toyota: "I am a little bit disappointed, but I am proud of myself and the team that we led more than half the race. When you put yourself consistently up front in the top five or six, everything starts to happen your way and you are going to win. I am looking forward to the second half of the season because we have come so far the past few weeks." 

Michel Jourdain Jr., Car #16, Herdez/Bettenhausen Motorsports: "One lap before I pitted, the car was not the same. Later in pits, when I tried to restart it, it did not work." 

Joe Ward, Team Manager, Herdez/Bettenhausen Motorsports: "Michel (Jourdain Jr.) had a good start. He stayed clean through the accident on the first lap. We were running a conservative race, as we knew there would be lots of attrition. We were lucky that a full course yellow happened as we were about to pit. Unfortunately the engine went flat as he came in. After replacing some parts, we were unable to restart the engine." 

WHAT'S NOTEWORTHY

· Michael Andretti's (Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Lola) victory was his first FedEx Championship Series triumph on a road or street course since 1996 at Vancouver. It was also Lola's first on a road or street course since that same event. 

· Andretti led 34 laps, extending his CART-leading career total to 6,194, almost twice the total of second-place Rick Mears (3,286).

· The FedEx Championship Series points race tightened up considerably after leader Roberto Moreno (Visteon Ford Reynard) went scoreless Sunday. Andretti closed to 90-88 while Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) drew to third place with 75 after finishing sixth. Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) stands fourth at 73 points, followed by rookie Kenny Brack (Shell Ford Reynard) with 66. Brack also holds a 66-36 lead over Alex Tagliani (Player's Forsythe Racing Team Ford Reynard) in the Jim Trueman Rookie of the Year standings.

· Ford has now won back-to-back FedEx Championship Series events on road or street courses, the first time that has happened since 1996, when Andretti won consecutively at Road America and Vancouver. Ford also holds a 178-153 lead over Honda in the CART Manufacturer's Championship.

· Runner-up Adrian Fernandez (Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing Ford Reynard) has finished among the top five drivers in five of his past six appearances at Toronto, topped by his first career FedEx Championship Series victory in 1996. He also finished seventh in 1995, ninth in '98, and sixth in '99.

· Tracy's third-place finish was his seventh top-10 at Toronto in nine career starts. In addition to his victory in 1993, the run includes finishes of fifth in 1994, eighth in '95 and '96, 10th in '97 and second last year. 

· Cristiano da Matta (Pioneer/MCI WorldCom Toyota Reynard) led the first 73 laps, only four shy of the entire laps led total for Toyota-powered drivers in road or street course events (77) in Toyota's previous 4 ˝ seasons of FedEx Championship Series competition. 

· Sunday's top five finishers are all graduates of CART's Ladder System of driver development, which encompasses the Dayton Indy Lights Championship and Toyota Atlantic Championship. Andretti and fifth-place Tagliani are products of the Atlantic series while Fernandez, Tracy and da Matta apprenticed in Indy Lights before moving up to Champ Cars.

· Tagliani's fifth-place effort extended a run which has seen a FedEx Championship Series rookie finish sixth or better in each of five road course events this season. Tagliani began the streak by finishing fourth at Long Beach and was followed by Oriol Servia (Telefonica Toyota Reynard), who finished third at Detroit, and Brack, who finished sixth at Portland and second at Cleveland, respectively.

· With the departure of polesitter Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard) after completing 45 laps, Andretti remains the only driver in 15 FedEx Championship Series events at Toronto to have won from the pole. He accomplished the feat in 1991 and went on to the FedEx Championship Series championship. The last time the polesitter even completed the event was in 1995 when eventual series champion Jacques Villeneuve finished third. 

· Team Rahal co-owner David Letterman, host of CBS-TV's The Late Show with David Letterman, attended Sunday's Molson Indy, making his first appearance of the season following heart surgery earlier this year.

- The fourth-place is da Matta's fifth top-five finish of the 2000 FedEx Championship Series season. 

- With 13 points today, Cristiano da Matta moved into seventh-place in the FedEx Championship Series points race at the midway point of the season. Da Matta has now scored 62 points this season and is just four points out of 
fifth. 

- Juan Montoya's series of misfortune continued today at Toronto. After qualifying fourth, the Colombian was hit on the first lap by Dario Franchitti, resulting in significant right rear damage which ended Montoya's day. 

- Jimmy Vasser earned his seventh top-10 finish of the season with a ninth today. He now sits sixth in points, just three points out of fifth. 

- Oriol Servia was the fastest car on the track for much of the race. The Spaniard moved up from 11th to fifth early in the race, consistently clocking the fastest laps on the track. Unfortunately, he made contact with the tire wall while passing Adrian Fernandez for fourth. After losing three laps, he went on to finish 11th. 

- With 13 Manufacturer's points today, Toyota has now earned 145 points at the half-way point of the CART season, 65 higher than Toyota's previous best total of 80 set last season. 

· The three-day Molson Indy attendance of 168,353 established a record for the 15 years of the event.

WHAT'S NEXT

The FedEx Championship Series continues with its fifth event in six weeks, the Michigan 500 Presented by Toyota, Sunday, July 23, at Michigan Speedway in Brooklyn, Mich.

Finishing Order

Pos Driver Car#     Lap Pits Laps Led Start Grid Status B. Leader
Engine Chassis Time # Lap  
1 Michael Andretti 6   Ford Lola 1:00.045 2 74 30 3 RUNNING 0.000
2 Adrian Fernandez 40   Ford Reynard 1:00.244 2 77 4 9 RUNNING 5.302
3 Paul Tracy 26   Honda Reynard 1:00.340 2 75 0 12 RUNNING 10.243
4 Cristiano da Matta 97   Toyota Reynard 1:00.511 2 73 72 2 RUNNING 16.441
5 Alexandre Tagliani 33   Ford Reynard 1:00.582 2 74 0 19 RUNNING 22.843
6 Gil de Ferran 2   Honda Reynard 1:00.647 2 75 0 8 RUNNING 24.336
7 Patrick Carpentier 32   Ford Reynard 1:00.546 2 76 0 17 RUNNING 27.483
8 Max Papis 7   Ford Reynard 1:00.587 2 73 0 14 RUNNING 29.246
9 Jimmy Vasser 12   Toyota Lola 1:00.694 2 75 0 13 RUNNING 36.054
10 Kenny Brack 8   Ford Reynard 1:00.282 2 73 0 7 RUNNING 47.828
11 Oriol Servia 96   Toyota Reynard 1:00.368 3 79 0 11 RUNNING 3LAPS
12 Luiz Garcia Jr. 25   Mercedes Reynard 1:00.863 4 95 0 25 RUNNING 5LAPS
13 Roberto Moreno 20   Ford Reynard 1:00.530 2 78 2 16 MECHANICAL 10LAPS
14 Shinji Nakano 5   Honda Reynard 1:00.959 2 55 0 21 ELECTRICAL 53LAPS
15 Mauricio Gugelmin 17   Mercedes Reynard 1:01.234 1 34 0 10 ELECTRICAL 64LAPS
16 Helio Castroneves 3   Honda Reynard 1:00.902 2 44 0 1 MECHANICAL 64LAPS
17 Christian Fittipaldi 11   Ford Lola 1:00.885 2 36 0 6 CONTACT 72LAPS
18 Bryan Herta 55   Mercedes Reynard 1:01.115 1 35 0 18 MECHANICAL 73LAPS
19 Michel Jourdain Jr. 16   Mercedes Lola 1:01.432 1 35 0 20 MECHANICAL 73LAPS
20 Norberto Fontana 10   Toyota Reynard 1:01.537 0 0 0 22 CONTACT 76LAPS
21 Tarso Marques 34   Ford Swift 1:01.501 0 0 0 23 CONTACT 76LAPS
22 Mark Blundell 18   Mercedes Reynard 1:01.091 0 0 0 15 MECHANICAL 90LAPS
23 Takuya Kurosawa 19   Ford Lola 1:04.687 1 7 0 24 MECHANICAL 101LAPS
24 Juan Montoya 1   Toyota Lola 5:07.567 1 1 0 4 CONTACT 108LAPS
25 Dario Franchitti 27   Honda Reynard 5:20.394 0 0 0 5 CONTACT 108LAPS
X -- Alternate Car unofficial


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