Castroneves wins Penske parade

Helio Castroneves took his second career CART win in the Miller Lite 200, leading home team-mate Gil de Ferran in a stunning display of Marlboro Team Penske dominance

Castroneves wins Penske parade

Roger Penske's Brazilian pair were virtually untouchable from the moment they took to the track for Friday practice. It was like 1994 all over again as the awesome pace of the red and white cars left their rivals resigned to fighting for the lowest step on the podium.

It was obviously the weekend for processional motor races, with the CART event only mildly more thrilling than the spectacularly tedious Formula One and Formula 3000 races that took place in Hungary.

De Ferran and Castroneves held their one-two formation from the green flag as Kenny Brack got the jump on Dario Franchitti for third.

Behind them, Max Papis, Christian Fittipaldi, Michael Andretti, Cristiano da Matta, Juan Montoya and Patrick Carpentier completed the top ten.

The Penske's early pace merely hinted at what was to come as they consistently lapped a second faster than anyone else. Franchitti passed Brack for third and looked like he could be the man to take the fight to the leaders, but a problem with the electronic gearshift mechanism soon brought him into the pits. The baffled KOOL Green crew sent him out again without realising what the trouble was, and it took several stops before the system was over-ridden and the Scot was able to continue, albeit two laps down.

Montoya was having an equally disastrous time. The Columbian's Lola-Toyota was suffering from spectacular oversteer, leading to a high-speed spin through the gravel. He continued, covered in dust, only to go off again and bounce high over the grass at turn one. Just to make the reigning champion's weekend even worse, he then retired after running out of fuel while struggling to pass Michel Jourdain Jr for 22nd...

"The car's been the same all weekend," he grimaced, "just terrible..."

The order remained static until the first pit stops. Castroneves' superior in and out laps allowed him to jump ahead of de Ferran for the lead. He extended the advantage at a phenomenal rate. While de Ferran spent lap after lap carefully picking his way through the traffic, Castroneves was in an uncompromising mood and just dived past the likes of Gualter Salles and Memo Gidley.

Among those backmarkers was Franchitti. His day ended when he tried to unlap himself from Jimmy Vasser and succeeded only in taking them both out with broken suspension.

Castroneves' lead was nearly 20s by the final pit stops. A slow service for Brack finally allowed the frustrated Fittipaldi up to third, while excellent fuel mileage allowed Papis and Adrian Fernandez to stay out longer than anyone else then dive into the pits when Shinji Nakano's spin brought out the yellows, allowing them both to make up places.

That meant a restart with 20 laps to go and Castroneves leading de Ferran, Fittipaldi, Papis, Brack, Carpentier, Fernandez, Andretti, da Matta and Paul Tracy. It was in the tightly packed bunch at the bottom of the top ten that all the chaos then occurred. Fernandez nudged Carpentier and dropped back, allowing Andretti to get a run on him.

The Newman-Haas driver's move was blocked and he was left to fend off Tracy, who had passed da Matta on the restart. Then Tracy found himself being passed on the outside into the Esses by Alex Tagliani. The Canadian rookie turned in but his right rear wheel hit Tracy's left front, resulting in the KOOL Green car spinning in front of the pack. Da Matta and Kanaan both slammed into Tracy's Reynard and of the trio only Kanaan was fit to continue after stopping for a new nose.

This brought out a second yellow and almost put Penske under pressure. While Castroneves was able to serenely extend his lead once more, de Ferran had the feisty Fittipaldi all over him in the final laps. However, nothing was going to spoil the Penske formation finish today.

Behind the all-Brazilian podium came local outfit Team Rahal, Papis leading Brack home to complete the top five. Fernandez passed Carpentier for sixth while Andretti's eighth place extends his series lead to 19 points over de Ferran.

Erstwhile series leader Roberto Moreno lost time after colliding with Mauricio Gugelmin early on and damaging a front wing endplate, then suffered a fire at his first stop. He trailed home 11th but remains third in the championship.

The stunning Elkhart Lake track is next on the agenda in a weeks time, and invariably provides a spectacular race. However, the Penskes were extremely quick in last week's test at the venue and the Marlboro cars are starting to look ominously invincible on the road courses.




1 Helio Castroneves Penske Reynard-Honda 83 laps
2 Gil de Ferran Penske Reynard-Honda + 4.425s
3 Christian Fittipaldi Newman-Haas Lola-Ford + 5.912s
4 Max Papis Rahal Reynard-Ford + 8.087s
5 Kenny Brack Rahal Reynard-Ford + 8.861s
6 Adrian Fernandez Patrick Reynard-Ford + 9.564s
7 Patrick Carpentier Forsythe + 10.046s
8 Michael Andretti Newman-Haas Lola-Ford + 10.806s
9 Alex Tagliani Forsythe Reynard-Ford + 11.329s
10 Oriol Servia PPI Reynard-Toyota + 1 lap
11 Roberto Moreno Patrick Reynard-Ford + 1 lap
12 Memo Gidley Della Penna Reynard-Toyota + 1 lap
13 Tony Kanaan Mo Nunn Reynard-Mercedes + 1 lap
14 Mark Blundell PacWest Reynard-Mercedes + 1 lap

Retirements:

Michel Jourdain Jr Bettenhausen Lola-Mercedes
Paul Tracy Green Reynard-Honda
Cristiano da Matta PPI Reynard-Toyota
Tarso Marques Coyne Swift-Ford
Shinji Nakano Walker Reynard-Honda
Mauricio Gugelmin PacWest Reynard-Mercedes
Jimmy Vasser Ganassi Lola-Toyota
Dario Franchitti Green Reynard-Honda
Gualter Salles Coyne Lola-Ford
Juan Montoya Ganassi Lola-Toyota
Luiz Garcia Jr Arciero Project Reynard-Mercedes



1. Michael Andretti 125 points
2. Gil de Ferran 106 points
3. Roberto Moreno 100 points
4. Kenny Brack 88 points
5. Adrian Fernandez 87 points
6. Cristiano da Matta 82 points
7. Paul Tracy 80 points
8. Helio Castroneves 77 points
9. Juan Montoya 77 points
10. Patrick Carpentier 71 points

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