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Better late than never for Fittipaldi/De Ferran.

Gil De Ferran took the 2000 CART Fed-Ex Championship a day late at the Fontana Speedway in Southern California in a race filled with drama and excitement than saw Christian Fittipaldi scoop the $1 million winner's bonus.

The Marlboro 500 presented by Toyota may have come a day late thanks to heavy rain on Sunday but for all the race fans who took the day off work and returned to the Roger Penske owned California Speedway in Fontana, Southern California, the Champ Car boys put on a tremendous show that culminated in Team Penske's Gil De Ferran being crowned the 2000 series Champion and taking the prestigious Vanderbuilt Cup.

After watching just 33 racing laps on Sunday, the 23 cars left in the race lined up for a 10 am PST start with Juan Montoya, De Ferran and Michael Andretti leading the field. Ahead of them were 227 hard laps around the two-mile oval after which either De Ferran, Adrian Fernandez or Kenny Brack would be crowned 2000 CART Champion.

A little over three hours after the green flag fell and it was the Reynard-Honda driver celebrating after a closely fought, attrition filled race in which almost every car on the track had a shot at winning the lucrative $1 million victors cheque. In the end it was the Newman-Haas Lola-Ford of Christian Fittipaldi who emerged victorious and became the eleventh different winner of what can only be described as the best Champ Car season to date.

In a race which saw the entire contingent of Mercedes and Toyota powered runners retire through engine or damage related failures, the durable Ford unit proved to be the deciding factor as of the six cars left running at the end, just one was not powered by the blue oval. That man was Gil De Ferran and it is when you consider that piece of information then the manner of De Ferran's win becomes clear.

Never a true front-runner, De Ferran stayed with the leaders all day and watched as car after car made their bid for victory only to have an engine failure and drop out and so the Brazilian bided his time and watched where Fernandez and Brack were running and controlled the car magnificently.

No Championship winner can survive without a little luck and someone was surely smiling down at De Ferran on lap 88 when Tony Kanaan, who had just taken the lead in a thrilling three-wide manoeuvre on the front straight past Brack and Helio Castroneves, had his Mercedes engine expire and covered the track in a thick smoke screen.

Running seventh behind Kanaan, Brack, Castroneves, Fittipaldi, Andretti and Oriol Servia, De Ferran moved to the top of the circuit as the entire field became blinded, however Andretti, who had been running almost directly behind Kanaan, braked much harder than the following Servia anticipated and the Spaniard ploughed into the rear of the Newman-Haas machine and the pair careered towards the outside wall and directly in front of De Ferran. While Servia's momentum moved him away from De Ferran as he stamped on the brakes, Andretti was on course to hit the Reynard amidships until a superb bit of avoidance driving by both somehow meant that contact was avoided.

As expected, De Ferran was made to fight every inch of the way for his win and during the course of the race, the title swapped hands numerous times between Fernandez and De Ferran as the leading order changed continuously. The ultra quick circuit made for excellent drafting and the officially recorded lead changes numbered close to this year's record-breaking race at Michigan.



Related Pictures

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Gil de Ferran - Marlboro Team Penske
Juan Pablo Montoya, driver of the #2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet V-6 IndyCar, and his team perform the traditional kissing of the bricks after racing to victory Sunday, May 24, 2015, winning the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana. Montoya went from near-last to first, winning the Indy 500 for the second time in his career. Chevrolet powered the top four cars in the race. (Photo by Michael L. Levitt/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Juan Pablo Montoya, driver of the #2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet V-6 IndyCar, drinks the traditional bottle of milk while celebrating his victory Sunday, May 24, 2015, winning the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana. Montoya went from near-last to first, winning the Indy 500 for the second time in his career. Chevrolet powered the top four cars in the race. (Photo by Phillip Abbott/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Juan Pablo Montoya, driver of the #2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet V-6 IndyCar, celebrates his victory Sunday, May 24, 2015, winning the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana. Montoya went from near-last to first, winning the Indy 500 for the second time in his career. Chevrolet powered the top four cars in the race. (Photo by Scott R. LePage/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Juan Pablo Montoya, driver of the #2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet V-6 IndyCar, crosses the finish line as he races to victory Sunday, May 24, 2015, winning the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana. Montoya went from near-last to first, winning the Indy 500 for the second time in his career. Will Power (left), driver of the #1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, finishes second. Chevrolet powered the top four cars in the race. (Photo by Andy Frame/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Penske team mates Juan Pablo Montoya and Will Power race side-by-wide during the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday May 24 2015. (Photo by: Jim Haines for IndyCar Media)
James Hinchcliffe during practice prior to Qualifying for the 99th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race (Photo by: Leigh Spargur)
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Will Power, driver of the #1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, qualifies second-fastest Sunday, May 17, 2015, and will start in the middle of the front row for the Verizon IndyCar Series Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana. Power will be joined in the front row by pole sitter Scott Dixon, driver of the #9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet and Simon Pagenaud, driver of the #22 Avaya Team Penske Chevrolet  who qualified third for the May 24 race. (Photo by Scott R. LePage/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Scott Dixon, driver of the #9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet IndyCar V6, celebrates after qualifying fastest Sunday, May 17, 2015, winning the pole for the Verizon IndyCar Series Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana. Dixon will be joined in the front row by Will Power, driver of the #1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet who qualified second fastest, and Simon Pagenaud, driver of the #22 Avaya Team Penske Chevrolet  who qualified third for the May 24 race. (Photo by Phillip Abbott/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Scott Dixon, driver of the #9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet IndyCar V6, qualifies fastest Sunday, May 17, 2015, winning the pole for the Verizon IndyCar Series Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana. Dixon will be joined in the front row by Will Power, driver of the #1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet who qualified second fastest, and Simon Pagenaud, driver of the #22 Avaya Team Penske Chevrolet  who qualified third for the May 24 race. (Photo by Phillip Abbott/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Scott Dixon after winning P1 at IMS for the 99th Running of the Indianapolis Mile Race on Sunday May 18 2015. (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Scott Dixon after winning P1 at IMS for the 99th Running of the Indianapolis Mile Race on Sunday May 18 2015. (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Scott Dixon after winning P1 at IMS for the 99th Running of the Indianapolis Mile Race on Sunday May 18 2015. (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Scott Dixon after winning P1 at IMS for the 99th Running of the Indianapolis Mile Race on Sunday May 18 2015. (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Scott Dixon leaves for his qualifying run for the 99th Running of the Indianapolis Mile Race on Sunday May 18 2015. (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Scott Dixon wins pole for the 99th Running of the Indianapolis Mile Race on Sunday May 18 2015. (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Scott Dixon wins pole for the 99th Running of the Indianapolis Mile Race on Sunday May 18 2015. (Photo by: Doug Mathews for IndyCar Media)

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