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Tracy takes home win in Team Green parade
4 September 2000
Paul Tracy became the first Canadian driver to win the Molson Indy Vancouver when superior pit-work helped him narrowly beat team-mate Dario Franchitti to the flag.
The Team KOOL Green Reynard-Honda squad held its grip over the rest of the CART field all day in Vancouver to score an utterly dominant one-two in front of a wild Canadian crowd.
With Greg Moore's legacy looming large over the event, it was fitting that the late Vancouver native's best friend on the CART tour, Dario Franchitti, was the recipient of the first Greg Moore memorial award for gaining pole position at the tight 1.8-mile track. The emotion of the event was raised even further when Tracy swept to an immensely popular victory, moving him to within six points of series leader Michael Andretti.
Not even the two Team Penske Reynard-Honda's of Gil De Ferran and Helio Castroneves or the Target/Chip Ganassi Lola-Toyota of Juan Montoya had an answer to the two green and white machines as Franchitti led the pack away from the start to lead the first of 90 laps. Tracy tucked dutifully into second place and allowed Franchitti to pull away into a steady five second lead. In third position, De Ferran remained close to Tracy but was unable to mount a serious challenge on a track where overtaking opportunities are scarce.
Castroneves in the second Marlboro sponsored car held down fourth place but was continuously hassled by Montoya who had the edge over the Brazilian but was unable to make the pass. Time and time again the two would arrive at Turn Six side by side but on each occasion Castroneves clung grimly to the inside line to keep the Colombian behind.
The race was disrupted in the early stages by a series of unnecessary caution periods, almost all of which involved the Player's Forsythe car of Alex Tagliani. The Canadian rookie engaged in some very physical racing with his team-mate Patrick Carpentier in the opening laps, finally pushing Patrick into the tyres at Turn Ten on just the third lap. Mark Blundell also became involved and while Tagliani motored serenely on only to get involved with the Swift of Tarso Marques and the second PacWest machine of Mauricio Gugelmin in Turn Six on lap 14.
Two spins behind the safety car and a reluctance to make way for the leaders also failed to enhance the young driver's popularity and he eventually called it a day citing handling difficulties as the reason for his many indiscretions.
Up at the front there was no stopping Franchitti who was able to hold off the attentions of his team-mate despite all the stoppages. However as the two were making their final stops with some 40 laps to go, Franchitti stalled the engine allowing Tracy to take the advantage. Despite protests from the driver, Team Green orders state that the driver who emerges from the final stops in front is to remain there barring incident. With the Championship table so precariously poised, Dario dutifully followed his team-mate home, keeping within a second of the leader at all times just to prove a point.
The biggest challenge to the Team KOOL green steamroller came from Montoya, who used a short first stop to emerge ahead of Castroneves. When De Ferran stumbled mid race and dropped to the tail of the top ten, Montoya quickly homed in on the two leaders, despite having to make an extra fuel stop. Sadly for the reigning CART Champion, the Toyota's fuel system cried enough as he was making his way in for his final stop and despite having fuel in the tank, Montoya coasted to a halt.
Third place should have gone to Castroneves who had put in a very determined first stint but sadly on lap 43 the left front suspension on his Reynard collapsed as he was approaching Turn Six and he was pitched into the tyres at a considerable rate of knots.
Cristiano Da Matta emerged from the chasing group in third place after Montoya parked it although the fuel tank on the PPI Motorsports Reynard-Toyota wasn't as big as the team would have liked and the Brazilian was forced to make a late race splash and dash, which dropped him to seventh.
Gratefully receiving the final podium slot was Adrian Fernandez who made several early stops for fuel when the race was under caution and was able to take advantage of Shinji Nakano's crash on lap 49 to make his final top under caution. The Mexican moves into third place in the title hunt as a result of another consistent performance from the Patrick Racing crew although team-mate and fellow championship hopeful Roberto Moreno had a troubled run to tenth, one lap down.
Christian Fittipaldi held down sixth place in the early going and gradually moved up the order as others fell by the wayside. In a trouble-free run Fittipaldi headed home a train of cars for fourth place, which included De Ferran, Jimmy Vasser and Michael Andretti. De Ferran was credited with fifth place while Vasser restored some honour to the Target/Chip Ganassi camp with sixth. Andretti meanwhile coasted to a halt with two laps to go after running his Newman-Haas Lola-Ford dry as he attempted to pressure Vasser and picked up a solitary point for twelfth.
It was a bad day all round for the American driver who watched all five of his title rivals outscore him for despite stalling his car and clipping the tyre barriers Kenny Brack brought his Team Rahal Reynard-Ford home in ninth place, just half a second behind team-mate Max Papis.
Oriol Servia wound up in eleventh place after making light contact with the wall at Turn Eleven in the early laps. The young Spanish driver looked very racy at the start of the event and fought tooth and nail with Vasser, Moreno and Andretti only to lose out with a moment of over-exuberance.
Rounding out the finishers were Alex Barron, Tony Kanaan and Luiz Garcia Jr, all of who suffered at least one delay during the event. Memo Gidley was unable to make it five points scoring finishes from five starts for the Della Penna crew when he was black flagged for engine smoke whilst lying in eighth place.
Thanks to Andretti's late misfortune, the top six in the title chase are now separated by a mere 20 points going into next Sunday's race at Laguna Seca and it really is anyone's race.
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