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Juan Montoya edges Michael Andretti in the greatest open wheel race ever!
by Mark Cipolloni

7/23/00


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Photo Finish
Tarso Marques gives Juan Montoya just the tow he needed to edge Michael Andretti at the line
Photo by David Cipolloni Copyright 2000 AutoRacing1

Juan Montoya beat Michael Andretti by 0.040 sec. in a side-by-side duel to the line to win the Michigan 500 in what was the most exciting open wheel race ever. Using a tow from the lapped car of Tarso Marques, Montoya just eked out the win in a race that saw 162 unofficial lead changes, a world record. 

The entire race was a battle like we have not seen since the first Handford Device race here at Michigan two years ago.  Not only were there 162 lead changes, the swapping of positions occurred throughout the entire field, the entire race.  Unfortunately, only 55,000 fans were in the grandstands to witness the best open wheel race in history.

The end of the race was one of the most exciting of the CART FedEx season as Juan Montoya put his Toyota/Lola on the outside of Turn Four, survived a couple of slight touches with Michael Andretti, and beat Andretti to the line  to win the third-closest finish in Champ Car history.



Andretti and Montoya put on a show the fans will never forget
All photos by David Cipolloni

The two swapped the lead back and forth throughout the last 15 laps, and Andretti held the advantage as the white flag flew. Andretti was on the outside going into the first turn as Montoya dove low and took the lead coming out of Turn Two. 

Andretti tucked in behind Montoya down the back straight, then dove below Montoya in the third turn. He pulled up alongside Montoya as the cars sped out of turn 4. The two appeared to touch wheels twice coming out of the fourth turn (although they claim they never did) and Andretti was ahead by the width of a  tire but the two cars were fast approaching the lapped Ford/Swift of Tarso Marques before they got to the finish line.

Marques looked to be going low but then went to the high side, drifting directly in front of Montoya, who used the draft off of the Marques car to get the tow he needed. The slight tow was just enough to pull Montoya ahead of Andretti as the cars streaked across the line.

Andretti at least came away with the series points lead, after pre-race leader Roberto Moreno failed to finish, retiring after 97 laps with a bad gearbox. 


This sort of close battling went on all race long
(Click on any photo to see enlargement)

Third place finisher Dario Franchitti also had a close battle with Max Papis for the third spot, but Papis’ Ford-Cosworth powerplant blew three laps from the end, allowing Franchitti to claim the final podium spot. Patrick Carpentier came home fourth followed by Helio Castroneves who led the most laps on the day. 

Christian Fittipaldi survived a wild ride in his Newman-Haas Ford/Lola with 30 laps to go as he lost control and spun through the infield grass at over 200mph. His car bounced over the infield grass and access roads but remained upright before coming to a rest. Kenny Brack was not so lucky early on, as he hit the Turn Three wall after contact with Fittipaldi while battling for a top-three spot. 

A piece of the debris from Brack’s car landed in Gil de Ferran’s cockpit, giving him a slight fracture of the left index finger. It was not known if the injury would affect de Ferran’s status for next weekend’s Target Grand Prix of Chicago.  

While the early duel between Andretti and Montoya presaged a spine-tingling finale between the two, the interim saw Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske assert his dominance en route to a race-high 85 laps led.

At various times from Laps 34 through 229, the lead was also held by Kenny Brack (Shell Ford Reynard) of Team Rahal (18 laps); Christian Fittipaldi (Big Kmart/Route 66 Ford Lola) of Newman/Haas Racing (13); Adrian Fernandez (Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing Ford Reynard) of Patrick Racing (13 laps); Andretti (42 laps); Max Papis (Miller Lite Ford Reynard) of Team Rahal (nine laps); Montoya (13 laps); Alex Tagliani (Player's Forsythe Racing Team Ford Reynard) of Player's Forsythe Racing (five laps); Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) of Team KOOL Green (eight laps) and Oriol Servia (Telefonica Toyota Reynard) of PPI Motorsports (two laps).

That set the stage for the final restart of the event on Lap 230, with Andretti in the lead and Montoya running seventh. By Lap 234, Montoya was running second, where he remained until passing Andretti for a three-lap stint on the point on Lap 238.

Andretti led Lap 241; Montoya, Lap 242; Andretti, Laps 243 through 246 and Montoya, Laps 247 and 248 before Andretti took the point for the final time on Lap 249. He held it onto the back straightaway, at which point Montoya drew alongside and the two held their lines, each giving no quarter, until heading into Turn 3.

Andretti, on the inside, wiggled slightly, moving Montoya higher on the track, and Andretti appeared to be in position to maintain the slight advantage that ensued to the checkered flag. But by moving higher, Montoya caught a slight draft behind Tarso Marques (Panasonic/Swift Ford Swift) and suddenly drew ahead of Andretti by the slimmest of margins as the two flashed past the start/finish line.

Patrick Carpentier (Player's Forsythe Racing Team Ford Reynard) of Player's Forsythe Racing finished fourth, followed by Castroneves. Carpentier scored his seventh top-10 finish, and fifth top-five, in eight starts this season while Castroneves recorded his best finish since recording his first career FedEx Championship Series victory at Detroit last month. 

WHAT THEY'RE SAYING

MICHAEL ANDRETTI, # 6 Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford-Cosworth Lola - "The race came down to a lapped car. Tarso had a choice of whether he was going to help me or Juan and he chose Juan. He went high and gave the tow to Juan. We were both fighting for his draft. I knew that if Juan and I could separate from the pack it would be a shootout between the two of us. Everything was working out the way we had planned. We were keeping up with the pack for most of the race and conserving a lot of fuel to be in the hunt in the end and we were. I wanted Juan to lead through one and I would get back by in three. Everything was going as planned until we came upon Tarso. He had been running low all day so I thought he was going to go low but he went high. I thought he would go to the middle and we would win. If he would have just gone down one half of a car width on the track we could have won. Juan and I were racing clean and giving each other room. I tried to take care of him and give him room and he did the same. It was a fun finish for the fans. I'm very happy to bring the Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline car home today in the points and take the Championship lead. I said that finishing this race was going to be instrumental for the Championship and I am so happy to have a strong race today. What a disappointment to be so close and not win." 

CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI, #11 Big Kmart/Route 66 Ford-Cosworth Lola - "They started shouting 'don't lead, don't lead' so I backed off and gave up the lead. You would burn too much fuel when you led so I lifted to let everyone by. When I went off, the whole pack had lifted cause no one wanted to be in front. I've never seen anything like it before in racing. Imagine a race where you lift because you don't want to lead. I was running close to Michael so I had to get on the brakes or I would have hit him. I stood on the brakes and pulled out from behind the pack and then went off. I don't know why I went off. I spun very easily though. I was very lucky. Other than the accident, this was another race that we were competitive in but have nothing to show for it in terms of points. The Big Kmart car was very good on the first stint and we kept changing it. After dropping to 16th, we came back up and were back in contention. The car was very good. It's a shame how it turned out."

PAUL TRACY, #26 TEAM KOOL GREEN HONDA/REYNARD/FIRESTONE: (Started 1st / Finished 7th ; Currently 3rd in the standings with 80 points) “We were marginal on fuel towards the end, so we decided to make an extra stop just to play it safe. I think that the strategy would have been alright if the guys in the back had just kept up with the lead pack on the re-start. But by the time the green flag fell we were half a straigthaway behind, so we were screwed. By the time I was free of the slower guys, I was three-quarters of a straight behind. You just can’t make that up. 
“We were saving fuel the whole race. That’s why we dropped back on the start. We had to dial the KOOL car in some, but mainly I was just trying to save fuel and not lose touch with the leaders. In the end, we picked up some solid points and kept our momentum up going to Chicago next week.” 

DARIO FRANCHITTI, #27 TEAM KOOL GREEN HONDA/REYNARD/FIRESTONE: (Started 4th / Finished 3rd ; Currently 11th in the standings with 58 points) “It was an interesting day out there – very exciting racing. The KOOL car became very good towards the end. It was kind of strange in the middle of the race with everybody trying to stay behind each other to do the draft and save some fuel. It was pretty boring at that point, but it really picked up over the last 10 laps. It was really exciting, but I didn’t have enough to catch up to Juan (Montoya) and Michael (Andretti). It was fun trying. “There was a lot going on out there with guys making hard contact. I actually ran over some debris a couple of times, which always concerns you. We cut three tires, but fortunately we were able to stop right away and change them.” 

Alex Tagliani,  "I was surprised by the bump and I just lost the rear part of the car," explained Tagliani. "As soon as I took the lead, I was lifting off so that the others could catch up, but it seemed that no one wanted to pass. Maybe when I was lifting off, I touched a middle line and picked up- the bump. I'm sorry for the Player's crew because the car was great and we were headed for a strong finish."  "It was a driver mistake; I take full responsibility for it. But I was surprised by a bump on the track and I just lost the rear of the car. I don't know why. I'm very sorry for the team because my car was great, and we had the car to win today. It was just as soon as we took the lead I was lifting in some of the corners and upshifting just to wait for everybody, but it seems nobody wanted to pass me." DID YOU TAKE A DIFFERENT LINE ININ HITTING THAT BUMP? "Maybe a little bit, like a middle line just to save my tires. I was not squeezing the line up to the apron, but it was very difficult because the car was great and it was good behind traffic. As soon as I got into the lead I was flat out all the way around and I had to wait because I didn't want to use too much fuel. Suddenly I got surprised because the car reacted very strangely over that bump and I lost it."

Patrick Carpentier  - "At that point, I wanted that podium badly," remarked Carpentier. "But the car had a bit of push in corners 3 and 4, and my guess is that Dario knew about it, so he was cutting my air out every time so that I wouldn't pass him. I wish I could have made it to the podium, but I'm happy with the result. It was a lot of fun out there. Team Player's delivered a very competitive car, we battled hard and we were right there at the finish."

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ (#40 Tecate/Quaker State Ford-Cosworth) - Finished 6th - "The car was very good from the beginning and I was just taking it easy from the beginning. I came out of the pits, and for ovals now we change to a throttle that is very smooth, very soft because in the past I used to get cramps in my foot from trying to keep the throttle flat out all the time. It doesn't give you too much feel, so when I came out of the pits I had more throttle than I really needed, and I spun on cold tires which was a bummer. But I just kept my cool and my car was very good. We managed to pass everybody, stay out and catch that lucky yellow (flag), and right there we recovered our two laps. And that was very good for us because that put us in contention. And then from there on some sets of tires, some others were not that good, (the car) sometimes loose, sometimes pushed. I think we could have won the race if we didn't go to yellow at the end because I was pulling away from them and everyone was saving fuel, and I knew we had them because Helio Castroneves had to pit. So that last yellow really cost us the race, and I knew it was going to be hard to hold them because even though the car was fast, it wasn't fast enough for the front guys. I didn't have enough straight speed with our aero balance package, and it was just very hard. It was a good result for the guys considering all the problems."

MAX PAPIS (#7 Miller Lite Ford-Cosworth) - Finished 9th - "We were right in a good position with 20 laps to go. I was racing Dario (Franchitti) and we were closing on Juan (Montoya) and Michael (Andretti). The team did a great job on our strategy. We stayed up with the leaders. They didn't want me to lead because our fuel mileage was better when I followed people in the draft. But I think the engine got a little soft towards the end and I couldn't get pass several guys to move to the front. I found out later that we were leaking oil on the last pit stop. The engine was strong early. It was great. We just didn't get to the end. Hey, it's another great race that I didn't get on the podium here. But I'm confident we will be a contender in the races in the second half of the season. Just like last year."

TARSO MARQUES (#34 Panasonic Ford-Cosworth) - Finished 21st - "The car was well, but on the last pit stop we changed the tire pressure and I had a big understeer so I was running a lot slower than I was before. But as for the rest, everything worked really well. I think we couldn't have gone much faster than this. We didn't run much faster than this all weekend, so I think the car was better balanced compared to the conditions that we had, and the engine felt great throughout the race." YOU CERTAINLY ENDED YOUR WEEKEND ON A POSITIVE NOTE. "I think so, because especially right in the beginning, in the draft it's normally very difficult to run because the car is very loose and for the first half of the race I could pass some cars and try to make some good runs. But after that it was getting more difficult and I was just thinking about finishing the race. We didn't have much luck though, as we lost two positions on the last caution because we pitted just before the yellow (flag) came out. I'm very pleased that we finished the race."

KENNY BRACK (#8 Shell Ford-Cosworth) - Finished 22nd - "I think we had a good car, and I think we had what it took to be there at the end. I don't think that anyone had anything over us." WHAT HAPPENED WITH YOUR INCIDENT? "Well, Christian put me in the wall. I don't know why he did that. I mean he must have known I was there because we went side by side into the corner. I really don't know (what happened). All I know is that he drifted up on me and I was on the outside and 'boom," that was it." HOW DO YOU BOUNCE BACK NEXT WEEK IN CHICAGO? "Well, we're doing everything we can. Obviously I couldn't do anything about that (incident). If someone drives straight into you, what can you do about it? You've got to go on to the next one (race). The crew, I feel sorry for them for this race, but we're a good team and we'll bounce back and be good."

ROBERTO MORENO (#20 Visteon Ford-Cosworth) - Finished 23rd - "We had a mechanical problem in the gearbox, I don't know what it is yet. Handling was also not very good today. We tried to fix that, but the gearbox broke and that was the end of our day. I think that this will be a bit of bad luck out of the way, it's a competitive championship and you've got ups and downs. We've had a couple of races where we were down, and we'll try to catch up later on." WHAT DO YOU NEED TO BOUNCE BACK AFTER FAILING TO FINISH IN TWO RACES FOLLOWING YOUR WIN IN CLEVELAND? "We'll be competitive in the next race, that's for sure. The team is good, we've got a great engine so I have no reason to believe that we won't be competitive again."

MAURICIO GUGELMIN - # 17 NEXTEL PACWEST MERCEDES-BENZ – 13th “That’s the hardest day’s work I have ever done for no result,” said Gugelmin. “We battled hard all day - everyone. The Nextel crew did a fantastic job on all my pit stops and I really feel for them because we came up nine laps short. “This race is a thinking man’s race and we really had to think about our strategy today because we knew we did not have the pace to run with the leaders. “I tried to conserve fuel all day to keep us in touch and I had a little in reserve when we had the failure.” 

MARK BLUNDELL - # 18 MOTOROLA PACWEST MERCEDES-BENZ – 19th “I could see things getting hotter and could feel things getting tighter,” said Blundell. “I made a stop to check everything and went back out, but it was all over before I got to turn two. I guess an autopsy will be done when it is pulled apart. “It is very disappointing because we had worked hard to get our lap back we lost earlier in the race and were running some quick laps and making good fuel mileage. “The Motorola crew did everything in its power to get us back in the race with our stops. “If you think I am frustrated spare a thought for the guys. We all deserved better today. “We need to re-group and see if we can put on a decent show in Motorola’s home town of Chicago next weekend.” 

TONY KANAAN  - “I was having a really good time out there. I had a good race car and I was moving my way up in the order pretty steadily. But once I got into the top 10, our water temperature got a little high and we just couldn’t seem to fix the problem. We didn’t want to risk anything happening out there on the track, so we retired the car. It’s the safe thing to do ... count your losses and move on. Otherwise, it’s great to be back. Ten days ago, I couldn’t drive at all. A week ago, I was driving a go-kart. And today, I’m here defending my championship in the Michigan 500. It’s unfortunate that the day had to end the way it did. I had a dream last night that I was going to be there at the end. But it didn’t turn out that way. Let’s go to Chicago!” 

NOTEWORTHY

· Once again, Michigan Speedway cemented its reputation as one of the most competitive venues in the FedEx Championship Series, hosting 52 official lead changes at the start/finish line. When added to the Champ Car-record 62 lead changes at Michigan in 1998 and 29 more last year, that means that the past three FedEx Championship Series events at Michigan Speedway have resulted in a combined 143 lead changes.

· The margins of victory of the past three FedEx Championship Series events contested at Michigan Speedway have added up to one-third (.331) of a second. Included are victories of .259 seconds by Greg Moore over Jimmy Vasser in 1998; .032 seconds by Tony Kanaan over Juan Montoya in 1999 and .040 seconds by Montoya (Target/Toyota Lola) over Michael Andretti (Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Lola) this year. 

· Montoya's victory helped tighten the FedEx Championship Series points race behind leaders Andretti (104 points) and Roberto Moreno (90). Third through 13th places in the championship are now separated by just 24 points, with Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) holding down third at 80 points and Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard) holding down 13th at 56. With Sunday's triumph, Montoya moved from eighth to fifth in the championship, with 74 points.

· With Sunday's victory on a superspeedway, Montoya has now scored career victories on all four types of venues contested in the FedEx Championship Series. He owns short-oval victories at Nazareth and Chicago last year and Milwaukee this year; a permanent-road course win at Mid-Ohio last year and temporary street circuit victories at Long Beach, Cleveland and Vancouver last year. His other career victory came at Rio de Janeiro last year. Among active drivers only Andretti and Jimmy Vasser have scored victories on each of CART's four types of tracks. 

· Montoya added to an already impressive list of performances in 500-mile events, which now includes victories at Indianapolis and Michigan Speedway this year; a runner-up effort at Michigan last year and a fourth-place performance at Fontana last year. 

· Christian Fittipaldi (Big Kmart/Route 66 Ford Lola) of Newman/Haas Racing led 13 laps Sunday, marking the third time in his career that he had led a FedEx Championship Series oval event. The other two occasions came at Rio de Janeiro last year, where he led two laps and at Fontana last year, where he led 37.

· Oriol Servia (Telefonica Toyota Reynard) of PPI Motorsports led Laps 205 and 206 Sunday, the first two laps the rookie had led during his FedEx Championship Series career.

· The crew for Patrick Carpentier (Player's Forsythe Racing Team Ford Reynard) earned the wild-card position in the championship finals of the Craftsman Pit Crew Challenge by virtue of its performance on Sunday. Carpentier spent the least time in the pits among drivers finishing the race, giving his crew a free pass into the season-ending competition at California Speedway in October, at which $50,000 and a Waterford Crystal trophy will be awarded to the top pit crew in the FedEx Championship Series by Craftsman, the Official Tool of CART. Carpentier's crew will be joined by four others to be determined during a season-long competition at which crews earn points based on the least amount of time spent in the pits, according to the same scale used to score FedEx Championship Series drivers. The remaining finalists will be determined following Round 19 at Australia, and the five qualifiers will go head-to-head for a shot at the top prize, which was won last year by the crew for Paul Tracy. 

· Luiz Garcia Jr. (Hollywood/Embratel/Tang/Banco Sofisa Mercedes Reynard) won the Budweiser Hard Charger Award for showing the most improvement from start (23rd) to finish (11th). He receives $1,000 from Budweiser, the Official Beer of CART.

- Today's victory by Juan Montoya is the first-ever in a 500-mile race by a Toyota-powered Champ Car. It's the second straight Toyota win on an oval after Montoya won at Milwaukee in June. 

- Montoya's victory is his second of the season and the second ever for Toyota. The win is the ninth career victory for Montoya. 

- Juan Montoya led 39 laps in extending his series-high laps led total to 580. In addition, Toyota leads all manufacturers with 662. 

- Cristiano da Matta quickly moved up through the field into the top-five after a 14th-position in qualifying only to suffer a pit incident that sidelined him on Lap 142 to finish 17th. It's the fifth consecutive race that da Matta has run in the top-five consistently. 

- After leading the first two laps of his Champ Car career, Oriol Servia also lost any chance at victory with consecutive drive through penalties for pit blend lane violations. The Spaniard continued to run strong and finished eighth - his best-ever oval finish. It's Servia's fifth top-10 showing of the season. 

- Former Toyota Atlantic ace Memo Gidley earned three Championship points with his second career top-10 finish in his first start for Della Penna Motorsports. Gidley was especially impressive when he blew past the leaders at the midway point of the race to regain a lap. 

- With 20 Manufacturer's points today, Toyota has now earned 165 points after 11 races, more than doubling its previous best season total of 80 set last season. Toyota has now closed within four points of Honda for second place in the Manufacturer's Championship and 29 behind leader Ford. 

· CART Charities raised $5,100 during its first-ever "Ultimate Garage Sale" in the Michigan Speedway paddock Saturday afternoon. Proceeds from the sale will benefit CARA (Championship Auto Racing Auxiliary) and the Buonoconti Fund, part of the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis.

WHAT'S NEXT

The FedEx Championship Series continues with Round 12, the Target Grand Prix Presented by Energizer, next Sunday, July 30, at Chicago Motor Speedway in Cicero, Ill.


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Provisional race results from Michigan Speedway follow:

1) Juan Montoya, No. 1 Target/Ganassi Toyota/Lola, (250 Laps) 
2) Michael Andretti, No. 6 Kmart/Texaco Ford/Lola, (-.040sec)
3) Dario Franchitti, No. 27 Team KOOL Green Honda/Reynard, (-1.621) 
4) Patrick Carpentier, No. 32 Player’s/Indeck Ford/Reynard, (-2.105)
5) Helio Castroneves, No. 3 Marlboro Penske Honda/Reynard, (-3.130)
6) Adrian Fernandez, No. 40 Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Ford/Reynard, (-3.843)
7) Paul Tracy, No. 26 Team KOOL Green Honda/Reynard, (-6.886)
8) Oriol Servia, No. 96 Telefonica/PPI Toyota/Reynard, (249 Laps)
9) Max Papis, No. 7 Miller Lite/Team Rahal Ford/Reynard, (247, engine)
10) Memo Gidley, No. 10 DirecTV Toyota/Reynard, (247) 
11) Luiz Garcia Jr., No. 25 Hollywood/Embratel-21 Mercedes/Reynard, (246)
12) Tarso Marques, No. 34 Panasonic/Coyne Ford/Swift, (246)
13) Mauricio Gugelmin, No. 17 Nextel/PacWest Mercedes/Reynard, (241, Mechanical)
14) Christian Fittipaldi, No. 11 Big Kmart Ford/Lola, (220, Accident) 
15) Michel Jourdain Jr., No. 16 Herdez Mercedes/Lola, (162, Mechanical)
16) Alexandre Tagliani, No. 33 Player’s/Indeck Ford/Reynard, (161, Accident) 
17) Cristiano da Matta, No. 97 Pioneer/MCI World Com/PPI Toyota/Reynard, (142, Fire)
18) Gil de Ferran, No. 2 Marlboro Penske Honda/Reynard, (140, Accident) 
19) Mark Blundell, No. 18 Motorola/PacWest Mercedes/Reynard, (131, Mechanical)
20) Shinji Nakano, No. 5 Walker Racing/Avex Honda/Reynard, (105, Mechanical)
21) Jimmy Vasser, No. 12 Target/Ganassi Toyota/Lola, (102, Gearbox)
22) Kenny Brack, No. 8 Shell/Team Rahal Ford/Reynard, (97, Accident)
23) Roberto Moreno, No. 20 Visteon/Patrick Ford/Reynard, (97, Gearbox) 
24) Tony Kanaan, No. 55 Hollywood/Mo Nunn Mercedes/Reynard, (61, Overheating)
25) Takuya Kurosawa, No. 19 Sports Today Ford/Lola, Withdrawn

 

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