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.
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.