IndyCar » 25 June 2000
Castroneves makes it seven from seven.
Sadly, on lap 14 Da Matta's fine run came to an end when his Toyota engine cried enough. The young Brazilian pulled forlornly into the pit-lane and climbed out of his machine to record another retirement and further watch his feint championship hopes disappear.
Cristiano's demise left Fittipaldi in fifth place although he was coming under increasing pressure from Papis, Moreno, Oriol Servia, Patrick Carpentier and Adrian Fernandez who completed the top ten. Andretti was still running in eleventh, a little way ahead of the still scrapping Vasser and Tracy who were now disputing the final points scoring position.
It had now become obvious to all and sundry that Franchitti was not happy with his car, Montoya's lead had suddenly grown to over four seconds and Castroneves was making an even more determined effort to pass the Scot. Indeed Franchitti told his team that his rear tyres were shot which allowed Castroneves to tuck in under the exhaust of the Team KOOL Green Reynard.
Franchitti wasn't the only driver who was unhappy with his car for Montoya had also radioed to his crew that there was something amiss with the balance of his car. Montoya's lack of balance, combined with traffic meant that as the leaders approached the 25 lap mark, the Colombian's lead had shrunk to a fraction over two seconds.
That gap was increased dramatically on the next lap when Franchitti made for the pit-lane for fuel and tyres. The Scotsman rejoined the track in ninth place behind the impressive Servia.
A lap later Montoya and Castroneves both pitted and although the Ganassi crew did enough to keep Montoya in the lead, Castroneves' stop was superb and the Penske driver came back onto the track ahead of Franchitti and closer to Montoya than he had been all afternoon.
Behind the lead trio, De Ferran had maintained his fourth position ahead of Fittipaldi, Papis, Moreno and Servia . Tracy had managed to find a way past Vasser and was now tenth while Andretti's day had gone from bad to worse when he was called back into the pits after breaking the pit-lane speed limit.
On lap 31 Fernandez, having an unspectacular run just outside the top twelve, spun at Turn 8 and stalled his Reynard-Ford. His machine needed to be cleared off the track which meant that the pace car was deployed for the first time.
The caution stayed out for a further three laps while the Mexican driver's machine was removed. As the green flag fell, Mark Blundell lost control of his Reynard-Mercedes and made light contact with the tyres. The Englishman kept the engine running and was able to rejoin the race after a slight delay, by which time the rest of the field had roared into the distance.
Montoya made a copybook getaway but so did Castroneves and during the next few laps, traditionally Montoya's strongest point in the race, Castroneves was able to peg the Colombian back. By lap 40 the gap between the top two was just 1.5 seconds and Castroneves looked comfortable in running at the same pace as Montoya. Behind them Franchitti had kept the pressure on Castroneves for several laps before he began to drop away, once again complaining of a poorly handling car.
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