Helio Castroneves swept to his third win this year at Laguna Seca, heading home new Championship leader Gil De Ferran in a race remarkable for its lack of overtaking.
There was a distinct case of follow the leader at Laguna Seca on Sunday as for the second year in succession, the pole position holder led virtually every lap en-route to victory with Helio Castroneves taking the honours in another Team Penske one-two.
The only time Castroneves was headed during the 83 lap event was during the first round of stops when Juan Montoya held top spot for two laps in a race where no less than five of the top ten qualifiers held their positions until the flag. This was not the most enthralling CART race of all time to say the least.
Castroneves led away from the start with De Ferran, Dario Franchitti and Montoya following at respectful intervals. In fact the only pass during the opening 20 laps came at the first corner when Montoya went around the outside of Bryan Herta to relegate the returning American to fifth place, one spot ahead of the man who replaced him in the Team Rahal squad, Kenny Brack.
The top six stayed that way until the first round of stops when Montoya did his usual magic trick of putting in a stunning in and out lap to take second from De Ferran and Franchitti although the Colombian could do nothing about the red and white car ahead of him.
The first moment of excitement came on lap 45 when Roberto Moreno tried too hard in his efforts to displace Max Papis from 15th position and spun into the tyres at Turn Six. A little way behind the Brazilian, Alex Tagliani joined him in the dust after getting pushed aside by an over zealous Michel Jourdain Jr, but as Tagliani gathered himself together and continued the ultra consistent Moreno was out.
For the first and only time the pace car was deployed and as the drivers made their second and final stop, a tense fuel economy run to the finish was set up. The main loser in the second round of stops was Montoya, whose air hose failed dropping the Target Lola-Toyota to the ground and costing the Colombian five places.
Away from the re-start, several drivers elected to make a precautionary third stop just to ensure that they had enough fuel to get to the finish, Michael Andretti, Mark Blundell and Paul Tracy included, and although they were now at the tail of the field they were able to run with more boost and therefore make up most of their lost ground.
As Montoya swiftly dealt with Mauricio Gugelmin for sixth place, Brack was a tougher nut to crack and despite many determined attempts to wrest fifth from his Swedish rival, each one fell short and the Colombian had to settle for sixth.