Sunday's Freightliner/G.I. Joe's 200 at Portland International Raceway provided CART fans with a journey back in time to the days when Rick Mears, Emerson Fittipaldi and Al Unser Jr ruled the Champ Car roost in Roger Penske's distinctive cars.

Gone are the Penske chassis, the team nowadays preferring customer Reynards but the framework is still essentially the same with Gil De Ferran and Helio Castroneves dominating the 112 lap race in a fashion not seen for many years.

The last time Penske had a year where they achieved as much success as they have so far in 2000, was 1994 when Fittipaldi, Unser Jr, and Paul Tracy finished 1-2-3 in the championship. On Sunday the two Marlboro sponsored machines were a cut above the rest of the Champ Car field although Roberto Moreno gave De Ferran a real fright in the closing stages.

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Things started well for Penske on Sunday with De Ferran and Castroneves topping the early morning warm up session. Both drivers had been instructed not to try anything silly on each other on the run down to the tight, narrow festival curves complex on the opening lap.

The two Brazilians duly obliged when the field were flagged away with Castroneves taking full advantage of his pole position and sprinting into an early lead. Unfortunately those behind the two Penske's did not exercise the same discipline and after Moreno had nipped through in third place all hell broke loose.

Kenny Brack started the ball rolling when he nudged fourth placed starter Dario Franchitti into a spin as the field negotiated the first part of the chicane. With 20 cars directly behind the spinning Team KOOL Green machine it was unsurprising that chaos broke out as everyone tripped over one another trying to avoid the melee. When the dust settled Max Papis was out on the spot while a number of others were limping back to the pits with damage to their cars. Somehow Franchitti had avoided any serious damage and after sorting himself out he rejoined the field, now under caution, back in 21st place directly ahead of his team-mate Paul Tracy who also was forced off the prepared surface.

Yet further behind the championship leader was Adrian Fernandez who had to make a precautionary stop to check his car over while Jimmy Vasser didn't make it back out of the pits after his Ganassi crew discovered terminal bodywork and suspension damage to his Lola-Toyota.

Castroneves still led the field as they toured around behind the pace car although behind him, much shuffling of positions had occurred as a result of the first turn free-for-all. Behind Moreno in third was now Christian Fittipaldi who neatly avoided both Brack and Franchitti directly infront of him. Juan Montoya had risen to fifth from eighth on the grid, ahead of Da Matta and Tagliani who had rocketed around the outside of the trouble, picking up nine positions from his starting slot.

The instigator of the mayhem, Brack, was now back in eleventh and apparently none the worse for wear.

On the re-start Castroneves got the drop perfectly on his team-mate and quickly opened up a one second advantage while Fittipaldi forced his way past Moreno for third. However Christian's efforts had come at the expense of his tyres and by lap ten he was reporting a bad vibration. This hampered his progress and Moreno was soon back in third and hassling De Ferran. Against his teams wishes, Fittipaldi eventually pitted for new tyres and fuel, but only after arriving in his pit on one lap to find his team weren't ready. This mishap added to the time he was already going to lose with an early stop but it also put him on a different fuel strategy than the rest of the field.

Fittipaldi rejoined the race at the tail of the field but now knew that he had to pit two more times and would not have to try and conserve fuel, letting him attack for the remainder of the race.

Fittipaldi's delay briefly gave Moreno some breathing space in third although he was soon hunted down by the charging Montoya and Da Matta. Cristiano was driving an inspired race and managed to out-brake an off-song Montoya into the festival curves.

On lap 15 Tracy's race got worse when he was forced to pit to replace a deflating tyre. His team-mate had already been an early visitor, serving a stop/go penalty for infringing the rules as he returned to the track following his opening lap activities. Tracy was able to continue but was now stone last.

At the sharp end of the field Moreno, Da Matta and Montoya were all locked in a great scrap for third which had become a scrap for second by lap 20 as De Ferran had now been caught up in it. Castroneves meanwhile continued to control the race from the front and had built up a lead of five seconds on lap 30.

If the race for the lead was non-existent at this point, the racing for the lesser placings was just warming up. Aside from the De Ferran, Moreno, Da Matta, Montoya struggle, Michael Andretti and Tagliani were putting on a highly entertaining show for sixth place that was going the way of the Newman-Haas driver.

A little further back, Brack and Oriol Servia were fighting for eighth place while Tarso Marques was holding up a train of cars in tenth. The only Swift chassis in the field is still underdeveloped but Marques was making the most of it, holding off Mark Blundell, Shinji Nakano, Luiz Garcia Jr, Bryan Herta, Patrick Carpentier and Mauricio Gugelmin. Behind this snake of traffic came the recovering Franchitti and Fittipaldi who were both lapping up to two seconds a lap quicker than those around them. The only other two cars running at this stage were Tracy and Fernandez who were both a lap down after their various difficulties while Norberto Fontana, Takuya Kurosawa and Michel Jourdain Jr had already added their names to the list of retirements.

Just after the 30 lap mark, all those still on their original pit-stop strategies, began to look for an opportunity to pit. No caution was forthcoming and so on lap 33 Tagliani and Gugelmin began the first round of green flag stops. One by one the leaders trickled in with all stops being carried off without drama.

Almost as expected, Montoya gained ground on his stop, passing Da Matta for fourth in the process, n what was the only change in the top five. By virtue of not stopping, Fittipaldi had risen to sixth and was still absolutely flying and was the fastest man on the track by a clear margin.

De Ferran had pegged Castroneves' lead back to 3.5 seconds after the stops and was just four seconds clear of the raging battle for third which had seen Da Matta audaciously overtake Montoya for the second time in a single race. Da Matta's efforts to get passed Moreno in the festival curves nearly spelled disaster for both parties as contact was made, but luckily both were able to continue.

As Castroneves approached traffic, De Ferran began to close the gap on a lap by lap basis, reducing the deficit to just 1.6 seconds by lap 55. In an effort to defend his line, Castroneves dropped his pace which allowed the third placed trio to close right up the rear of the two Penskes and we suddenly had a five car battle for the lead on our hands.

Behind the lead five, Fittipaldi's charge was halted momentarily when he had to make his second stop which put him back in twelfth behind Andretti, Tagliani, Servia, Brack, Nakano and Carpentier. However the Brazilian was still fired up and it took him little time to dispose of Carpentier and Nakano with two physical moves at the festival curves.

The drivers now turned their attention to their fuel gauges to see if they would have to make a third stop or if they could manage the race on two. As a result, the lead battle quickly petered out slightly as everyone turned their attention to their consumption figures. For Andretti though, this presented a golden opportunity as his Newman-Haas crew had already decided that a third stop would be necessary and told Michael to turn the boost up. That he did and within two laps he had passed Montoya who had fallen behind the leaders to the tune of seven seconds.

On lap 68 Tagliani once again started the ball rolling for the second round of stops although sadly his pit partner in the opening stop, Gugelmin, was not with him, the Brazilian joining his PacWest team-mate Blundell on the sidelines with engine problems.

On lap 72 De Ferran made a superb stop which got him out ahead of his team-mate when Helio pitted a lap later. However it was Moreno who had made the most of his fuel and led for three laps until he pitted on lap 76 leaving De Ferran in the lead. De Ferran's stop was too quick for a full tank of fuel and judging by his searing pace, a third stop was definitely on the cards.

Indeed, the plan for both Penskes was to give them a light fuel load which would enable them to draw clear of the pack before a late race splash 'n dash. However Castroneves received a full tank of fuel which was to compromise the rest of his race and he could only watch as De Ferran disappeared up the road.

By lap 80 De Ferran had a lead of ten seconds over his team-mate who was now having difficulty selecting third gear. Not only that, but he also had his mirrors full of Da Matta, and Andretti in third and fourth places respectively. Fittipaldi was continuing his mesmerising rise up to fifth until he was forced to make his third stop which gave the place back to Moreno who had eased off a bit to ensure he had enough fuel to last the distance. An increasingly off-colour Montoya was next along with Tagliani trying everything he knew to get past the Colombian. Servia and Brack still battled for eighth as it became, although they now had to contend with the recovering Fittipaldi who would certainly not have to pit again.

On lap75 and almost unnoticed, Tracy pulled into the pits and switched his engine off after another miserable weekend, he would now need a minor miracle if he was to retain his championship lead.

De Ferran was setting fastest lap after fastest lap and on lap 85 the gap back to Castroneves was out to 18 seconds. Da Matta was looking highly accomplished and was pressing hard on Castroneves who was desperately trying to save fuel aswell as not using third gear. Behind them, Montoya's race came to a disappointing end when his Toyota motor blew, leaving the Colombian to coast back to the pits, his championship hopes now seriously dented.

With 20 laps remaining, De Ferran ducked into the pits for his final stop. He had a 22 second cushion over Castroneves but after a nine second stop, he was down to fourth behind his team-mate, Da Matta and Andretti who were circulating as one. Moreno was within striking distance in fifth and Tagliani, now freed of Montoya, was able to close on the Brazilian in sixth. Brack had got the better of Servia for seventh but both were about to be engulfed by the Fittipaldi whirlwind, still the fastest man on the track.

De Ferran's stop brought him back onto the track four seconds behind the leading trio but with their fuel worries, De Ferran was quickly closing them down.

On lap 96 Andretti pitted and rejoined behind his amazing team-mate in sixth while Moreno was now showing his true colours and began to ease up on De Ferran slightly, moving into third on lap 102 when Da Matta peeled off into the pits for a lightning quick stop. The Brazilian re-joined in sixth place, half a second behind Andretti and 30 seconds behind the leader with just ten laps to go.

Castroneves gearbox worries were worsening to the extent that on lap 105 both De Ferran and Moreno had now caught him, the three Brazilians running within a second of each other.

Sadly for Castroneves his fuel tank cried enough and on lap106 he came charging down pit-road where his crew gave him the absolute minimum amount of fuel to get him to the finish. He was sent out in fourth place behind Fittipaldi, whose efforts had now brought him to within ten seconds of the leaders.

Confusion now reigned over Moreno's fuel situation as he was the only driver not to have made a third stop and was showing no signs of letting up on De Ferran at all. Moreno has always been able to eke out a small advantage over his rivals when it comes to fuel consumption but this was the acid test. Fittipaldi's charge would not be enough to give him a shot at the leaders, leaving the top two to fight it out to the death.

Into the last three laps they charged with De Ferran maintaining an ever so slight advantage. This was nullified when they came up to lap tenth placed Carpentier on the penultimate tour. Instead of giving way, the Canadian blocked De Ferran which allowed Moreno to have a look down the inside of his countryman. De Ferran held him off and finally forced his way through as the leaders entered their final lap. Sadly Moreno was not able to do the same and Carpentier came back across the track infront of him, effectively handing De Ferran the win.

Carpentier's obstructiveness cost Roberto nearly three seconds on the final lap alone and he is still waiting to score his first Champ Car victory. However as a consolation, he is now the new points leader as neither Tracy or Vasser added to their tally's. De Ferran is now just one point behind the Patrick driver while Tracy was pushed back to third overall.

Fittipaldi was a drained third, happy with the car but disappointed that his early race tyre problems had cost him a possible victory. Judging by lap times alone, without the delay Fittipaldi would have won by a country mile.

In fourth place should have been Castroneves but, in an amazing miscalculation, his team failed to get enough fuel in the car on his final splash 'n dash and the tank ran dry as he exited the very final corner. Helio's demise allowed Andretti to take fourth just ahead of Da Matta and Brack who finally rid himself of Servia in the closing stages and closed dramatically on the battling Andretti and Da Matta.

Castroneves crawled across the line in seventh, the Brazilian experiencing total joy and utter despondency in the space of two weekends.

Servia finished in a lonely eighth place, some ten seconds clear of Franchitti who was the last man on the lead lap. The Scotsman was unable to replicate the fine charge shown by Fittipaldi after his own early delays but still lapped quickly enough to bring him through the mid-field runners.

Behind the Carpentier roadblock in eleventh came Shinji Nakano who acquitted himself well on his first trip to Portland while Fernandez claimed the final point after a spirited drive from over a lap behind. The Mexican was on the same pace as the leaders throughout the race but was too far back to make any real inroads, picking up places when others encountered difficulties. One of those unfortunately afflicted with late race dramas was Tagliani who was embroiled in the battle for fourth with Andretti et al when he stalled leaving the pits on his final stop. The resulting delay dropped him to 13th where he eventually finished, two laps adrift.

The only other cars still running at the end were Garcia Jr, Marques and Herta who all had their own problems as the race progressed, not least for Herta who made no less than five pit-stops trying to cure a problem with the re-fuelling nossle. The Mo Nunn crew could not get enough fuel into the car time and time again which meant the team had to adopt a rather less successful five stop strategy.

In terms of championship standings, only five drivers now lie within a single race win of the championship lead. Moreno has 68 points and De Ferran 67 with Tracy a further eight back in third. Andretti has risen to fourth, 12 points behind Moreno while Vasser has dropped to fifth. Montoya meanwhile, sits eighth overall with 46 points, two ahead of Franchitti and Castroneves.

The CART circus now moves to Cleveland and the Burke Lakefront airport track where De Ferran has always been strong. Montoya and Franchitti have already voiced their concerns over the pace of the Penske twins and judging by their pace on Sunday, their fears are justified.