CART // News // 1999 News Archive // 31 OCT 99

Fernandez and Montoya the Victors on a Very Difficult Day

Fernandez wins the race with very little fuel left. Montoya and Franchitti tie on points, but Montoya takes the crown by winning more races. The CART family loses the talented Greg Moore.
by Marc Sproule
FONTANA, Calif. -- There is no way around facing the unpleasant truth. The CART family lost a young and talented driver today when Greg Moore crashed on the 10th lap of the last race of the season. He lost control of his car coming off turn 2 right after a restart. He crashed very hard into the concrete wall on the inside of the track.

The race had to go on, though, and Adrian Fernandez was the one on whom fate smiled.

With roughly 50 miles to go, Fernandez's team confirmed that they were going to gamble and run out the race without another stop for fuel. They did so and Fernandez came home with the fifth victory of his career.

Adrian took over the lead when those in front of him -- Max Papis, who had once again been the seemingly unbeatable leader, Christian Fittipaldi, Juan Montoya and Jimmy Vasser -- all had to pit for a splash of fuel, giving Fernandez the lead and eventually the victory.

Papis was the first, his crew taking no chances that he would run out as he did while in the lead at the most recent 500-miler in Michigan. Papis and his Rahal team had once again showed that they were the masters of the superspeedway this season. Max led 111 of the 250 laps today, but the way the yellow flags played out dictated that a stop for fuel was going to be needed shortly before the end. Papis ended in 2nd, about seven seconds behind.

Fittipaldi and Vasser were the next to stop, a lap after Max did. Montoya made his final stop two laps later. When they were all done Fittipaldi was in 3rd close behind Papis, Montoya and Vasser. Fittipaldi had a safe cushion on Montoya and Juan in turn had basically the same on his teammate Vasser.

All Montoya had to do to clinch the championship was run out the remaining laps holding his 4th position. He did and he and Dario Franchitti tied in the points at 212, with the crown going to the rookie because he had seven wins to Dario's three.

Like so many others, Dario's day was determined by mechanical woes. On his first pit stop, the right rear wheel didn't seat properly and Franchitti had to pit to have another set of tires installed -- they're matched. That set didn't have the proper pressures and he had to return for another set. That was effectively the end of his run for the title. It was done for certain when he had to stop again for a splash shortly before the end.

Paul Tracy and Michael Andretti were two others who might have been winners today. Both of them were very fast, and could have won the race but went out with mechanical problems.

Paul charged up through the field from his 19th starting spot and led four laps before his motor was strangled by electrical problems. He still beat Andretti to 3rd in the points, making it a 2-3 finish for the disappointed and saddened Team KOOL Green group.

Michael led, too -- 62 of the 71 laps he ran, to be exact. He may well have had the car to beat today. That didn't matter though, when he had a fire at the rear of the car on his second stop. He ended his year 4th in the points.

Scott Pruett and Al Unser Jr. ran their final Champ Car races today too. Junior finished the race a lap down in 7th after a difficult season. Like Fernandez, he gambled on the fuel. He had a good car today, but at the end it wasn't fast enough to keep up with the leaders.

Pruett had planned all along to take it easy, not stress his car and not fight for the lead from his pole position. In the end his motor also let him down and he ran less than 100 miles in his last appearance in the series. It wasn't the finish he deserved.

At the request of Greg Moore's parents, the CART banquet will still be held tomorrow night. It will be a difficult but fitting tribute to a talented young man who died doing what he loved. He will be missed.

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