Penske takes 100th win

Gil de Ferran scored Marlboro Team Penske's 100th IndyCar victory by winning the snow delayed Bosch Spark Plug Grand Prix at Nazareth

Penske takes 100th win

The Brazilian held off a brilliant late charge from Mauricio Gugelmin to take the team's first win in three years.

Kenny Brack completed the podium, only just beating champion Juan Montoya as the Ganassi star fought back following yet more bad luck in the race.

As with most of the other races this season, Nazareth should have been the scene of Toyota's first CART victory. Montoya left the field standing in the early stages, quickly opening up a 6s lead from pole before traffic allowed Christian Fittipaldi and Paul Tracy to close in.

Montoya's title rival from last season, Dario Franchitti, was already out. The Scot spun into the inside wall as he misjudged his start on cold tyres. Cristiano da Matta also lost four laps after spinning and stalling in avoidance.

Max Papis brought out the second yellow by making minor contact with the wall on lap 71, sending the leaders onto pit road. Tracy duly picked up the lead but it took Montoya a matter of metres to reassert his authority at the restart, even allowing for a false alarm when Luiz Garcia Jr spun before the green flag could fly and forced CART to keep the pace car out for a while longer.

Fittipaldi was still third at this stage, ahead of de Ferran, who had worked his way up steadily from sixth on the grid. His Penske team-mate Helio Castroneves (who now spells his surname without the previous hyphen,) was right behind him in fifth but was given a drive-through penalty for running over de Ferran's air hose in the pits.

The order stayed virtually the same until lap 113, when Norberto Fontana met the wall in his Della Penna Reynard. The subsequent yellow allowed the leaders to pit and bad stops for both Montoya and Fittipaldi left Tracy comfortably in front of them. However it was now Tony Kanaan in the lead, the Mo Nunn Racing driver choosing not to stop at this stage.

Then came the most crucial moment of the race. As the race went green on lap 129, the lapped car of Michel Jourdain Jr spun in front of the pack, collecting the closely following Tracy. Several cars made contact in the ensuing chaos, but remarkably only Montoya suffered any serious damage. The front wing of his Ganassi Lola was smashed and he had to pit for a replacement.

Tracy dropped to 13th in the confusion, but assumed that as Jourdain's spin had happened before they crossed the startline, the race had never officially gone green and he was therefore entitled to work his way back through the pack under yellow and continue in third place. The CART officials disagreed and ordered the Canadian to take a drive-through penalty, dropping him to the back of the cars on the lead lap. He joined the recovering Montoya and Castroneves, plus Vasser, who made a late decision to pit under yellow after all.

Only Montoya made any progress when the race went green, rapidly charging back to ninth as Kanaan found himself under pressure for the lead from de Ferran. Roberto Moreno, always in contention in Patrick Racing's Reynard-Ford, was third at this stage but could not keep pace with the lead pair.

Kanaan pitted when Jourdain Jr did the job properly and made heavy contact with the wall, bringing out the yellows once more. No sooner had the race restarted, now with de Ferran leading Moreno, Kenny Brack and Gugelmin (who had both been in top ten contention throughout,) than the pace car had to come out again. This time Castroneves collided with Mark Blundell in turn one while trying to lap the PacWest driver, causing a huge accident. Blundell suffered bruising to his back but Castroneves was unhurt.

With debris scattered all over turns one and two, it would be 22 laps before the racing finally resumed. Moreno appeared to be struggling, allowing de Ferran to consolidate his lead. The main man on the move was Montoya, who went around the outside of Michael Andretti and Adrian Fernandez on the restart to take fifth.

The Ganassi star rapidly closed in on Gugelmin but was then held up by Garcia Jr. In the confusion that followed Gugelmin was able to pass Brack for third while Fernandez took fourth after slipping past both Montoya and Brack.

Gugelmin had conserved his fuel well and now began an all-out assault on Moreno for second place. With the Patrick driver fighting a slow puncture it was only a matter of time before Gugelmin got ahead, but as he did so Moreno slid wide and slammed into the turn one wall.

When the restart came there were just three laps to go. Initially it seemed that de Ferran had done enough with a lightning getaway as the greens flew, but Gugelmin was soon tucked up under his compatriot's rear wing. However, he ran out of time and had to be content with second, PacWest's first podium finish since 1997.

Brack was third as Montoya charged back around Fernandez to secure fourth. Andretti was a strong sixth, despite sliding back through the field and nearly being lapped as he fought understeer in his first stint.

Vasser and Kanaan rued their strategic miscues in seventh and eighth, ahead of PPI Motorsports driver Oriol Servia, who ran strongly with the leaders throughout but slowed on the final lap with a mechanical problem and dropped behind Kanaan.

Tracy and Fittipaldi finished tenth and 11th after more problems, Tracy having to take another penalty for passing da Matta under yellow and Fittipaldi pitting with a late puncture.

Tarso Marques was 12th after a very promising run in the new Swift, ahead of the unlucky da Matta. Garcia Jr completed the list of finishers after another difficult race for the Arciero Project team.

Among the more notable non-finishers were the Forsythe duo, both Alex Tagliani and Patrick Carpentier being thwarted by mechanical problems after fighting in the top ten in the early stages.

CART's entire Japanese contingent was missing from the race. Walker Racing's Shinji Nakano missed qualifying and testing after suffering head injuries back in March, opting not to race as a result, while Takuya Kurosawa crashed his Dale Coyne Racing Lola after just seven laps in morning practice and was briefly knocked unconscious. Although he soon recovered, CART regulations will not allow a driver who has been knocked out during a race weekend to take part in the event.

None of the title contenders had a particularly good day, but Tracy still holds the advantage with 59 points, nine clear of the consistent and impressive Vasser. Moreno, despite today's crash, is another eight points away in third.

Results from Nazareth:

1 Gil de Ferran Penske Reynard-Honda
2 Mauricio Gugelmin PacWest Reynard-Mercedes + 0.815s
3 Kenny Brack Team Rahal Reynard-Ford + 1.880s
4 Juan Montoya Ganassi Lola-Toyota + 2.108s
5 Adrian Fernandez Patrick Reynard-Ford + 4.718s
6 Michael Andretti Newman-Haas Lola-Ford + 5.577s
7 Jimmy Vasser Ganassi Lola-Toyota + 6.988s
8 Tony Kanaan Mo Nunn Racing Reynard-Mercedes + 8.589s
9 Oriol Servia PPI Motorsports Reynard-Toyota + 1 lap
10 Paul Tracy Team KOOL Green Reynard-Honda + 1 lap
11 Christian Fittipaldi Newman-Haas Lola-Ford + 1 lap
12 Tarso Marques Dale Coyne Racing Swift-Ford + 3 laps
13 Cristiano da Matta PPI Motorsports Reynard-Toyota + 4 laps
14 Roberto Moreno Patrick Racing Reynard-Ford DNF- accident
15 Luiz Garcia Jr Project Arciero Reynard-Mercedes + 11 laps

Retirements:
Helio Castroneves Team Penske Reynard-Honda accident
Mark Blundell PacWest Reynard-Mercedes accident
Michel Jourdain Jr Bettenhausen Lola-Mercedes accident
Alex Tagliani Players/Forsythe Reynard-Ford fluid leak
Norberto Fontana Della Penna Reynard-Toyota accident
Patrick Carpentier Players/Forsythe Reynard-Ford electrical
Max Papis Team Rahal Reynard-Ford accident
Dario Franchitti Team KOOL Green Reynard-Honda accident
Takuya Kurosawa Dale Coyne Racing Lola-Ford practice accident

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