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Proud team owner Barry Green with his two boys, second place
finisher Dario Franchitti left and race winner Paul Tracy.
Chevrolet Joins HSP
Herta Takes A Step
Toward Hawaii
Montoya Sails
Through Vancouver
More Montoya In
Title Far From Over As The
Hawaiian Super Prix's Top 12 Takes Shape
HAWAII (September 26, 1999) - Juan Montoya (Target Honda Reynard) and Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard) are both heading to the $10 million Hawaiian Super Prix, November 11 - 13, but it remains to be seen who will hit Oahu with the title of Big Kahuna. A possible chance to seal the 1999 FedEx Championship Series in Houston this past weekend ended early for points leader Montoya which allowed Franchitti to close to within 13 points of the quick Colombian with two races remaining.
At the end of the day, however, it was Franchitti's teammate Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) who won big in Houston, Texas style. Team KOOL Green enjoyed a stellar day at Sunday's Texaco Grand Prix of Houston as Tracy emerged victorious and Franchitti re-emerged with a vengeance in the FedEx Championship Series title race with a runner-up finish on the downtown streets of Houston.
Tracy was extremely dominant en route to his second victory of the season and first on a temporary street circuit since winning at Australia in 1995. He led a race-high 85 of the 100 laps on the 1.527-mile temporary street layout as he rolled to a comfortable 13.733-second margin over his Team KOOL Green teammate. It marked the third time this season that Team KOOL Green has finished one-two, the others being Franchitti wins at Toronto and Detroit. Michael Andretti (Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Swift Ford) thrilled the title sponsor by taking third.
"My car was just perfect," Tracy said. "I couldn't have asked for a better car today. My goal was to get ahead of Bryan on the start, and I was able to do so quite easily. Then I just wanted to stay behind Juan until the first pit stop. [On the incident between Juan Montoya and Helio Castro-Neves] I saw it, and then I just told myself to relax and be smooth and do what we know how to do, and I was able to pick up a second a lap. [Regarding his teammate, Dario Franchitti's, pursuit of the PPG Cup] I'll do everything I can. I like to think that I helped the situation with Dario by keeping the pressure on Juan."
Franchitti battled back from an ill-handling car at the outset and benefited from the way the caution flags fell for his pit stops to post his series-leading 10th podium of the season. With series leader Montoya being held scoreless, Franchitti's performance allowed him to close the gap in the championship race to 13 points, 200-187, with two races and a maximum 44 PPG Cup points remaining.
Both Team KOOL Green drivers benefited from the misfortune of Montoya, who started from the pole and led the first 12 laps before trouble struck. A full-course caution came out on Lap 12 for Helio Castro-Neves (Hogan Motor Leasing Mercedes Lola), who made contact with the tire wall in Turn 10. Montoya entered the turn and clipped Castro-Neves' car, ending his day as well.
"This was not the way we wanted to end this day," Montoya said. "We had a great car all weekend and we were really fast early in the race. Obviously, I'm very upset about running into Helio Castro-Neves, but the season is not over. We still have two races to go."
The incident allowed Tracy to inherit the lead and gave Franchitti a huge opportunity to carve into the 29-point deficit he was facing entering Round 18 of the 20-race season. Tracy was the initial benefactor as he grabbed the lead and took off from the field on the restart. At one point - Lap 45 - he had manufactured a 28.059-second cushion and only relinquished his lead for three laps to Franchitti when he made his only pit stop of the afternoon.
Franchitti had his work cut out as his first pit stop on the Castro-Neves' caution dropped him to 19th in the 26-car field. He deftly sliced his way upward and moved from 14th on Lap 33 to the lead on Lap 49. Franchitti led for three laps before making his final pit stop under caution on Lap 52 and returning in fifth place. He picked off Jan Magnussen (Visteon Patrick Racing Ford Reynard) and Tony Kanaan (McDonald's Championship Racing Honda Reynard) to move to third and then made a daring move on Christian Fittipaldi (Big Kmart Ford Swift) that resulted in contact between the two to gain second place.
Andretti, like Franchitti, pitted out of sequence in the early stages and the gamble paid off. It allowed him to gain his fifth podium of the season and 84th of his career. The top-five finishers were closed out by the Team Rahal tandem of Max Papis (Miller Lite Ford Reynard), who was fourth, and Bryan Herta (Shell Ford Reynard), who was fifth. It was the ninth top-five finish for Papis and fifth top-six effort for Herta.
Each of the top six finishers improved their chances of making the Top 12 cut for the Hawaiian Super Prix. Only the top dozen points finishers in this year's FedEx Championship Series will make the historic race in Hawaii.
Montoya's teammate Jimmy Vasser (Target Honda Reynard) also failed to finish in Houston but remain in the critical Top 12.
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