Rain Interrupts Marlboro 500
Monday, October 30th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6
FONTANA, Calif. (AP) â€” Things got a bit easier for Kenny Brack in his long shot quest for the CART championship, even though the season-ending Marlboro 500 was interrupted by rain.
With Paul Tracy's blown engine knocking him out of the title battle during the 33 laps that were run Sunday, Brack needs to catch and pass Gil de Ferran and Adrian Fernandez when the race resumed to win the $1 million Vanderbilt Cup.
De Ferran holds a six-point lead over Fernandez and is ahead of Brack by 20. Tracy started Sunday's race tied with Brack.
``De Ferran obviously needs to bring his car home, Adrian needs to finish in front of Gil and I need to finish in front of both of them and lead the most laps,'' said Brack, a CART rookie. ``That's the plan. Easy, huh?''
The wet weather postponed the rest of the scheduled 250 laps until Monday at 1 p.m. EST, weather permitting. An unusual fall storm threatened Southern California with more rain on Monday.
A further postponement would move the rest of the race to Tuesday.
Before the red flag flew, halting the action Sunday, Tracy went out of the race on lap 23.
Cristiano da Matta apparently ran over a piece of debris from the blown engine and his right front suspension collapsed, sending his car hurtling into the fourth-turn wall.
Da Matta walked away without injury, but Tracy drove slowly to the pits knowing his championship chances were over.
``I don't really know what happened,'' Tracy said. ``There was no warning. We were just cruising. I looked at the car when I got out and the top of the engine was gone.
``I'm disappointed, but I can't complain,'' the Canadian driver added. ``Everyone on our team has done their best and you can't foresee something like that happening.''
De Ferran, virtually assured of his first CART championship if he finishes in the top three in the race, started from the pole after winning the pole with a closed-course record lap of 241.428 mph.
The first 22 laps developed into a somewhat surprising battle at the front between de Ferran and Penske Racing teammate Helio Castroneves, who powered from fourth to first before the first lap around the 2-mile oval was completed.
With de Ferran's championship very much in doubt, the teammates battled wheel-to-wheel, swapping the lead five times before the caution flag brought everyone in for a pit stop on lap 26.
``Obviously, I'm disappointed by the delay, especially with our car running so well,'' de Ferran said. ``Now I'm just going to stay as focused as I can.''
Juan Montoya, the defending series champion, making his final start for Chip Ganassi Racing before heading for Formula One, came in fourth and got off pit road first. He was trailed by Tracy's teammate Dario Franchitti, Michael Andretti, de Ferran and Montoya's teammate Jimmy Vasser.
Brack was sitting in sixth and Fernandez ninth after both made major chassis adjustments during the stop.
Castroneves stalled his Reynard-Honda during the pit stop and lost time while it was restarted. He slipped to 18th in the 26-car field.
There remain a maximum of 21 points, with 20 going to the race winner and one for the driver leading the most laps.
``Penske is very strong again,'' Fernandez said. ``That's the reality of the situation and we just have to deal with that. They're not unbeatable in a long race where anything can happen.''
It was the fourth time this season a CART race had been postponed by rain or snow, but the first time since the race in Elkhart Lake, Wis., in 1986 that a race has been postponed after being started. That event began on Sept. 21 and was completed on Oct. 4.
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