However it was all about to come unglued for the leader and as the 200 lap mark approached, a faint trail of smoke began to emanate from the rear of the Andretti mount. As other drivers began to report a spattering of oil on their visors, the trail turned into a plume and as he crossed the start line to complete lap 195, Andretti's engine cried enough and the disconsolate American pulled to the side of the track.
Andretti's quickness of thought in pulling off the course meant that the race continued apace but as he trudged forlornly back to his pit-stall, 70,000 fans all shared a thought for him.
Montoya therefore inherited the lead although he still had Tracy stuck fast in his wheel tracks. Behind these two, no-one else was remotely in the picture.
The battle for the lead remained at boiling point until lap 209 when the chasing Team KOOL Green Reynard suddenly lost fifth gear and pitched Tracy sideways. The Canadian controlled the spin magnificently but was unable to prevent his right rear tyre from hitting the wall and puncturing, damaging his suspension beyond repair. This brought out the first, and only caution of the race and Montoya was now left with a clear run to victory lane.
Such was Montoya's pace that as he inherited the lead, only one other car on the lead lap as the Colombian was Carpentier who had managed to break away from the third place dice, as it was before Tracy retired, thanks to some excellent fuel mileage and some superb pit-work. Although his task appeared pointless, the Canadian driver set about reducing Montoya's 30 second lead in the final 20 laps and even though the Colombian was driving to conserve his car, Patrick took a full second per lap out of the leader in the final 30 tours and was easily the fastest man on the track as he came home to equal his career best finish.
Third place, a lap down, fell to Roberto Moreno who drove with patience and speed to usurp Cristiano Da Matta from the podium on the final run to the flag. After 300 miles of racing, positions three to twelve were covered by a mere five seconds in what was a thoroughly entertaining race.
Oriol Servia put the second PPI car in fifth position to end a great day for Cal Wells while Max Papis also moved through the field with style to claim sixth spot. Vasser faded to seventh at the end while De Ferran kept his Championship lead with a steady run to eighth on a day where both he and team-mate Helio Castroneves, who followed him home in ninth, complained of constant oversteer.
Title contenders Adrian Fernandez and Kenny Brack came home tenth and eleventh although with Andretti and Tracy both retiring and points leader De Ferran not scoring well, both are still very much in the title picture. The final point went to Christian Fittipaldi in the second Newman-Haas car, a machine far removed from Andretti's.
Kanaan eventually faded to 13th after his set-up went away from him while the lacklustre Alex Tagliani, Tarso Marques, Michel Jourdain Jr and Alex Barron completed the finishers.
The Fed-Ex Championship has a rare weekend off before heading to downtown Houston for a real 'Race around the houses.' Gil De Ferran still leads with three races remaining although his gap at the top is now a mere eight points from Roberto Moreno. Andretti, Tracy, Fernandez and Brack are all still up there too.