Editorial

Getting the Monkey off their back
Gil de Ferran gives Roger Penske his long awaited 100th win
Mark Cipolloni and Ed Donath
May 27, 2000


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Nazareth Race Report

Other Articles by Mark

Tomorrow might be Juan fine day for the Ganassi boys at Indy.  Today it was Roger Penske's first Memorial Weekend win since 1994 and Gil de Ferran's first ever on an oval.  Gil de Ferran finally gave Roger Penske his long-awaited 100th win at Nazareth Speedway, thereby evicting the monkey from Roger Penske's back.

After a nearly 2-month delay because of an early April snow-out, the Bosch Grand Prix of Nazareth finally got launched as a rare all-CART Memorial weekend event.  First the Mayor of Nazareth presided over a "Driver of the Century" tribute to favorite son Mario Andretti.

Then, Dario Franchitti's day ended before it began when he promptly lost control of his car in the last turn coming down for the green flag.  Dario did a lazy spin into the inside guardrail bending his rear wing and rear suspension.  Cristiano da Matta also spun trying to avoid the spinning Franchitti but did not hit anything and was able to continue.

After the short cleanup, polesitter Juan Montoya led easily over 2nd place Christian Fittipaldi and Paul Tracy.  Montoya was setting such a hot pace that by lap 48 he was right behind 16th place Michael Andretti looking to put him a lap down.  Andretti was struggling at Nazareth in April when the field qualified, and his struggles continued in the race, running an unfamiliar P16.

Nazareth is always a hard track on which to pass lapped cars and Montoya tried every trick in his book to get by Andretti.  Meanwhile Andretti was trying hard to get around Oriol Servia

On lap 74 Max Papis spun on the entry of turn 2 bringing out the 2nd caution  of the day and saving Andretti and others from going a lap down.

When the drivers made the mad dash for the pits, Paul Tracy came out on top, just nipping Montoya and Fittipaldi, Gil de Ferran and Brack.  Castroneves clipped his teammates air hose leaving his pit box and was assessed a stop and go penalty putting him at the back of the field for the restart.  On the restart Luiz Garcia Jr. spun on cold tires in the 4th turn, reminiscent of Dario Franchitti at the start.

Montoya was not content to sit in 2nd place long as he promptly passed Paul Tracy at the line on the restart and immediately opened up a comfortable gap.  Montoya has demonstrated his ability to take the car to the limit on cold tires without losing it and today was no different.  We have followed the careers of greats Jimmy Clark, Ayrton Senna, Mario Andretti and the like.  Montoya is every bit as good. Meanwhile Fittipaldi just barely held onto his 3rd place position over Gil de Ferran.

On lap 118 Norberto Fontana lost control of his car in the 2nd turn ,scattering parts everywhere.  Once again Paul Tracy's crew got him out of the pits first, but this time Montoya came out not only after Tracy bbut also de Ferran, Moreno and Brack.  Tony Kanaan and Jimmy Vasser didn't pit and inherited 1st and 2nd place.

Just before the restart the Newman-Haas crew called Andretti in for a quick top off of his tank in the hope that he could go all the way to the end with no more stops.  It was a calculated risk, one that would pay dividends later.  

On the restart Michel Jourdain spun in turn 4 in front of Paul Tracy and the rest of the field causing Tracy to spin to avoid Jourdain and causing Juan Montoya to brake hard and flat spot his tires and break his front wing against the wall.  Montoya pitted for a new front wing and topped off his tank and Paul Tracy did likewise just before the green flag.  Jimmy Vasser also pitted to top off his tank dropping him out of 2nd place.

Tony Kanaan and Gil de Ferran opened up a sizeable lead when the green flag dropped and held it until Michel Jourdain lost control of his car a second time, this time on lap 155 making hard contact with the 2nd turn wall.  The yellow gave leader Tony Kanaan a chance to pit for tires and fuel and handing the lead to Gil de Ferran followed closely by Roberto Moreno, Kenny Brack, and Adrian Fernandez.

The race went green on lap 166 and two laps later Castroneves and Blundell got together in turn 1 and both made very hard contact with the outside wall.  Fortunately, both walked away unscathed. The same could not be said for their cars - both were total write-offs. 

When the green unfurled again on lap 186 de Ferran led over Moreno, Brack, Gugelmin, Fernandez, Andretti and Montoya.  Roger Penske's 100th win was on everyone's mind.  Could Gil de Ferran hang on to 1st place?  We were about to find out.

On the restart Montoya drove like a wild man, quickly disposing of Andretti and Fernandez.  Gugelmin was the next victim in his sights, but had a hard time getting around Gugelmin on the tight Nazareth.  When they approached traffic Brack, Gugelmin, Montoya and Fernandez all got bottled up and Gugelmin and Fernandez took advantage of it to get around Brack.

Just when it looked like Gil De Ferran would have a clean run to the checkered flag, 2nd-place Roberto Moreno hit the 1st turn wall when Mauricio Gugelmin dove under him in the 1st turn pushing him off-line.  Moreno's slowly deflating tire prevented him from regaining control and he slid into the wall.

With 4 laps to go the green unfurled for the final time and de Ferran and Gugelmin jumped clear while Kenny Brack took third place.  They ran out the final three laps in that order followed by Montoya, Fernandez and Andretti.

Roger Penske got his long-awaited 100th win and Gil de Ferran was choked with emotion as he exited his car. Finally, Team Penske was able to get the monkey off their backs!

Paul Tracy, who finished 10th today, remains atop the drivers’ standings with 59 points, 11 more than Jimmy Vasser. Gil de Ferran and Roberto Moreno are tied for third with 42 points.

Round 6 of the FedEx Championship takes place next Sunday, June 4, on The Milwaukee Mile oval.

Nazareth Results

All photographs copyright David Cipolloni and Autoracing1.com

Post-Race Quotes

Carpentier - “The Player’s crew did a great job with the set-up of the car, and it was running really well until we came out of a pit stop and the power to the engine started cutting out,” Carpentier remarked, in explaining his retirement from the race. “I didn’t want to spin the car so I came in, and once I did, it shut down completely. Today was just one of those things, but we’ll come back strong for the next race in Milwaukee. The wrist felt fine today. I only wish I could have put in more laps to really test it.”

Tagliani - “We aren’t sure whether it was water or oil, but something started leaking and we had to bring the car in,” related Tagliani. “It’s too bad because just a few minutes before, my engineer, Alex Timmermans, had told me the engine was looking fine and that I only had to concern myself with fuel consumption. He thought we would probably be able to finish without another pit stop. I really believe we had a car to finish in the top 5. We may not have been able to finish the race today but with the great pit stops, it augurs well for Milwaukee.”

Fontana - Rookie Norberto Fontana’s day ended early at the Bosch Spark Plug Grand Prix after contacting the wall in Turn Two on Lap 115 of the 225-lap event. Fontana returns to action this weekend after missing the Firestone Firehawk 500 in Motegi Japan due to briefly losing consciousness after a practice crash on Friday morning (May 12). He is the first driver to utilize the HANS (head and neck system) device in a CART event. 

“I had a problem with my neck this morning (after my accident in Japan),” Fontana said, “so I was just taking it easy focusing on my race, running consistent good laps. I started to get a little understeer in the corner, but other than that the car was good. I felt the car go low on the right rear and then move back up again like I’d run over something. Something broke in the rear, but we don’t know what it was yet. We’ve had some very bad luck this year. It’s difficult to get your confidence back up (after an incident like in Japan) when you hit again. 

“The HANS device definitely did its job. I felt my head and body moving forward then the device pulled me back. It kept my muscles from being pulled again. It’s a good thing I was wearing it.” 

More quotes to follow......

Comments can be sent to the authors at contacts@autoracing1.com.

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