IndyCar » 18 September 2000
Andretti opens Gateway for Montoya.
Juan Montoya scored his third win of the year in dominant fashion at the Gateway oval but only after Michael Andretti lost a certain victory when his engine blew.
Although the final result would suggest that CART's final visit to the 1.27-mile Gateway oval in St Louis was a rather one sided affair with Juan Montoya winning by eleven seconds and only one other car finishing on the same lap as the Colombian, the statistics merely hide the fact that Sunday's Motorola 300 was a gripping event that kept the crowd enthralled for every one of the 236 laps.
The opening 40 laps saw a sterling fight between Target/Chip Ganassi team-mates Montoya and Jimmy Vasser for the lead as Paul Tracy, Dario Franchitti and Tony Kanaan battled for third position just a few car lengths behind. Pre-race talk of passing being almost impossible due to the Handford Mk 2 wing set-up proved wide of the mark as Vasser made attempt after attempt to wrest the lead from his team-mate.
Vasser finally made the move stick on lap 30 after the two had come within inches of one another on countless occasions although Montoya soon fought back, re-taking the place four laps later. Less than two seconds behind this pair, Kanaan put his Mo Nunn entered Reynard-Mercedes into third position as Tracy began to conserve fuel and Franchitti started encountering gear selection troubles that would eventually put him out of the race.
The main action behind the front five came from Michael Andretti who had jumped from 15th to sixth inside the first 40 laps and was now heading a train of almost ten cars, including Adrian Fernandez, Patrick Carpentier, Gil De Ferran and Max Papis. This train was soon catching the ailing Franchitti and when the Scotsman pulled into the pits for the first time on lap 45, Michael swept into fifth and was just four seconds behind the leader, bringing the chasing pack with him.
With no caution flags forthcoming, the first round of scheduled pit-stops took place under green flag conditions and it was here that the Newman-Haas team came into their own. Andretti and the closely following De Ferran came in together and despite some very swift pit work by the Penske crew, the red and white car was some way behind the black machine of Andretti when the two regained the track. Only in the following five laps did the magnitude of the stop become clear for as Montoya and Vasser made their stops and left the pit-lane, Michael was already into the first turn and away.
Taking the lead on lap 75, Andretti proceeded to pull away from his challengers at a staggering rate and by half distance only Montoya and Tracy were on the same lap as the leaders. The Newman-Haas Lola-Ford was working like a dream and when Andretti came up to lap the group that were battling for fourth all the way down to 15th, the car simply glided by with ease.
Tracy and Montoya continued to dispute second place but they were lapping almost a second a lap slower than Andretti and as the 150 lap mark approached, the black machine was breathing down their exhaust pipes. Not since Nigel Mansell did his disappearing act at Michigan in 1993 had CART seen this level of domination by a single driver.
The pace of the race was also astounding and as the second round stops approached on lap 170, it had been green flag running all the way. Considering his pace, it was surprising that Andretti was not the first man to pit and at one point, there were only half a dozen drivers within two laps of the leader.
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