IndyCar » 17 July 2000
Stalker Andretti claims sixth Toronto victory.
Back in the pack, the remaining Team Penske car of De Ferran was also struggling, being passed by Tagliani and Vasser on consecutive laps. In this case though there was nothing wrong with the machinery, more the confidence of its driver who has never finished higher than 15th in Toronto in his career.
As lap 70 approached Tracy had closed the gap to Fernandez and was now just 1.5 seconds behind the leader with Brack chasing him hard. The Swede made several half hearted attempts at getting passed on the back straight until on lap 69 he got alongside the Team KOOL Green Reynard on the run down to Turn Three and almost managed to poke his nose ahead. Tracy though kept Brack on the outside where there was less grip and was able to fend him off although the Swede quickly darted across the track to get a run on the inside going into Turn Five where Tracy once again somehow managed to hold him off.
Aside from those brief flurries of action, the race was surprisingly calm as the leaders readied themselves for their all important final fuel stops. The situation was made even more intense by the fact that the eleven cars left on the lead lap were all covered by six seconds as the pit-window opened on lap 72.
Unsurprisingly in view of his rapidly deteriorating tyre situation Da Matta was the first to stop, coming in on lap 75 along with Brack and Papis. All three stops were solid and the trio rejoin the track in much the same positions as they left it.
Next time by it was the new leader Andretti who led the way along the pit-road with Tagliani and De Ferran in tow. For the second time of the afternoon the Newman-Haas crew were superb in their servicing of Andretti who rejoined the track on the run down to Turn One just as Da Matta was crossing the start/finish line. Despite being on cold tyres, Michael used his innumerable years of experience to keep Da Matta at bay until his tyres had gained some heat.
Meanwhile at the front Fernandez, Carpentier and Moreno had all saved enough fuel for at least one more lap and it was left to Tracy and Vasser to occupy pit-road on lap 77. The Team KOOL Green crew continued in the same form that Tracy had been in all afternoon while Vasser was slow engaging gear as he left his pit-stall. Tracy's crew had done such a good job that he was leading as he rejoined the track and carefully made his way down to Turn One. However Andretti and Da Matta were both carrying more speed and were on warmer tyres leaving Tracy open prey along the back straight. First Andretti dived by and then, in one of the bravest moves all day, Da Matta flirted with the outside wall as he braked incredibly late to slot infront of the Canadian as they rounded Turn Three.
The incredible Moreno became the fourth leader of the race as he was able to squeeze yet another lap out of his fuel tank while Fernandez and Carpentier finally exhausted their supply and had to pit on lap 78. The Patrick crew capitalised on having to put slightly less fuel into the car than the earlier stoppers and were able to get the Mexican out just ahead of Andretti, a la Tracy. Almost the exact same scenario followed with Andretti using his warm tyres to calmly out-brake Fernandez round the outside of Turn Three. Da Matta wasn't so lucky though and had to make do with third, for the moment.
Once he had some clear track ahead of him, Andretti quickly hammered home his advantage and had built up a comfortable three second cushion by lap 82. Fernandez was consolidating his second place although Tracy was beginning to threaten, the Canadian having passed Da Matta a lap earlier when the Brazilian slid wide at Turn Three. The PPI driver now had to contend with the close attentions of Moreno who had finally stopped on lap 79. There was a small gap back to Tagliani who had moved into sixth ahead of Brack. De Ferran still led the second Player's car of Carpentier and the strangely subdued Papis in tenth. Vasser's tardy getaway had cost him time and he now brought up the rear of the leaders, eleven seconds behind Andretti.
In a race which included periods of stability interrupted by sudden bursts of action, the final round of stops represented the final real moments of excitement and with Andretti leading comfortably the event began to wind down to the finish. Fernandez did his best to keep things interesting by pressuring the leader for all that he was worth, safe in the knowledge that he was fine on fuel figures whereas Andretti may not be. The Newman-Haas team had done their sums correctly however and Michael cruised home for a record sixth victory in Toronto and his first since 1995.
At the chequered flag, the American had five seconds to spare over Fernandez and seven seconds over the unrelenting Tracy whose day was made even more special as he wore a specially designed helmet incorporating the colours of his late friend and Toronto native Greg Moore.
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