28 May 2000
De Ferran takes historic victory.
The next caution of the race came after 115 laps when Norberto Fontana hit the wall. Crucially, of the cars on the lead lap only Kanaan and Vasser stayed out while the rest pitted. This left Kanaan leading from Vasser with Tracy, sitting behind some lapped traffic in third. De Ferran emerged in fourth place ahead of Moreno and Brack, Montoya down in seventh after a troubled stop. Fittipaldi had also dropped back after a poor stop and now found himself surrounded by the remaining cars on the lead lap comprising Andretti, Fernandez, Gugelmin, Castroneves and Oriol Servia who was driving well in his PPI Motorsports Reynard Toyota.
For the third time in the race, a re-start saw chaos ensue as on this occasion Michel Jourdain Jr spun directly infront of the pack. Tracy, following closely rubbed past the Lola Mercedes driver as cars went in all directions but Montoya was not so fortunate. The Colombian ran into the back of Moreno's car and damaged his front wing. This necessitated a pit stop which dropped him to thirteenth behind his team-mate Vasser who had now decided to pit. Thirteenth soon became twelfth however as Tracy was given a drive through penalty for overtaking under the yellow flags, dropping him to the tail of the lead lap.
When the race finally went green Kanaan and De Ferran led the field away. Pretty soon a gap began to emerge between the lead pair and the chasing Moreno and Brack, Kanaan was able to fend off the Penske challenge thanks to his lighter fuel load. Behind the leading four, Gugelmin, Andretti and Fernandez occupied the next three places while Montoya was on a charge through the field. Seeing his chances of completing a unique double victory this weekend disappear, the Colombian passed Vasser, Castroneves and Servia and was lying ninth when Jourdain crashed for good on lap 154.
Kanaan dived into the pitlane, emerging thirteenth and out of contention. De Ferran now led from Moreno, Brack, Gugelmin, Fernandez, Andretti and Montoya, now up to seventh.
The next caution went a long way in deciding the outcome of the race. On lap 167 Castroneves, still trying to make up lost ground, collided with Mark Blundell. Both cars were heavily damaged and out of the race although neither driver was injured. Blundell remained at the circuit's medical facility for some time but was later released. Such was the level of debris, the race stays under caution for another 22 laps meaning the leaders could now make the finish on just two fuel stops. There was no need of a third stop which effectively ended Kanaan's and Vasser's hopes.
The next re-start came on lap 190and De Ferran once again led away. Montoya made another flying getaway and swept passed first Andretti and then Fernandez to take fifth place behind Gugelmin. Soon the Colombian was reeling the Brazilian in and looked set took take fourth until he got caught in traffic. As the leaders fought their way through the slower cars Gugelmin was able to overhaul Brack for third position leaving the Swede to fend off attacks from Montoya and Fernandez. As Gugelmin crept away and began pursuing the second placed Moreno, Fernandez was able to get passed both Brack and Montoya to take fourth.
As the race entered its' closing stages, it was clear to see that Moreno was in some kind of difficulty as Gugelmin relentlessly closed in. On lap 214, with Brack and Montoya (both having re-passed Fernandez) behind him, Gugelmin took second from Moreno as the Team Patrick driver to slid high after suffering a slow puncture. This brought out another caution and erased De Ferran's handy advantage. Gugelmin was driving his best race since 1997 and had managed his fuel to perfection. He was able to run his mixture slightly richer than De Ferran which meant that when the green flag fell with just four laps to go, the PacWest driver was all over De Ferran like a rash.
Knowing the wait that Roger Penske has had to endure, De Ferran was not going to pass up the opportunity of a win and stuck to his guns, taking the win by eight tenths of a second. Gugelmin was a delighted second while Brack scored his first ever CART podium with a well deserved third place.
“It's a very special day,” an emotional De Ferran said after the race. “I've got to thank the team because it's just fantastic, it was one of those days when everything just comes easy.” De Ferran's win vaults him into fourth place in the Fed-Ex championship, 17 points behind Tracy who retains his championship lead despite finishing in tenth place.
Montoya finished just off the podium and was left to rue more bad luck. Toyota will have to wait another week at least to take their first Champ Car win. He and seventh placed Vasser now have to turn their attention to tomorrow's Indy 500.
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