CLEVELAND (July 2, 2000) - Roberto Moreno of Patrick Racing brought a hefty dose of Brazilian emotion to the FedEx Championship Series for the second time in three weeks Sunday when he drove to the first triumph of his seven-year CART career before a crowd of 69,571 in the Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by Firstar.
Moreno (Visteon Ford Reynard), whose career-best finish entering the event was second - established at Laguna Seca last year and equaled at Homestead and Portland this season - became the eighth different winner in nine 2000 FedEx Championship Series events when he drove to a 0.826-second victory over runner-up Kenny Brack of Team Rahal. He extended his points lead to 90-68 over Michael Andretti of Newman/Haas Racing, who took over second place in the championship by finishing fourth.
The victory was Moreno's first since a 1988 Formula 3000 triumph in Birmingham, England. His victory followed closely on the heels of the first career triumph for fellow Brazilian Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske two weeks ago at Detroit.
The FedEx Championship Series record for different race winners in a season is 10, established last year. Eleven events, more than half the season, remain on the 2000 schedule.
Brack (Shell Ford Reynard), a FedEx Championship Series rookie, recorded a career-best finish, exceeding third at Nazareth, as did Cristiano da Matta of PPI Motorsports, whose third-place result bettered career highs of fourth at Nazareth last year and Rio de Janeiro and Japan last year.
Moreno, who started on the pole, became the second driver to win from the pole this season, following Juan Montoya (Target Toyota Lola), who accomplished the feat at Milwaukee. He also scored the second victory of the season for Patrick Racing, following teammate Adrian Fernandez' (Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing Ford Reynard) triumph at Rio de Janeiro.
That marks the first time two Patrick Racing drivers have won during the same season since 1986, when Kevin Cogan won at Phoenix and Emerson Fittipaldi won at Road America.
Moreno led a race-high 91laps, the first 33 and the last 58. He held a lead as high as 17.962 seconds over Andretti just prior to his final pit stop on Lap 68, which was executed by the Visteon Patrick Racing Team without him being required to give up the lead.
Brack turned in a fine runner-up effort from the 15th starting position. He has finished fifth or better in five of his past six starts and has taken a commanding 63-31 lead over Oriol Servia (Telefonica Toyota Reynard) of PPI Motorsports in the chase for the Jim Trueman Rookie of the Year Award.
Da Matta (Pioneer/MCI WorldCom Toyota Reynard) capped off a career-best weekend which saw him post a best-ever qualifying effort of fifth on Saturday. His podium finish was the second in PPI Motorsports history, following teammate Servia's third-place result at Detroit.
Rounding out the top five drivers were Andretti, whose fourth-place performance was his fifth top-six in the past six events; and Patrick Carpentier (Player's Forsythe Racing Team Ford Reynard) of Player's Forsythe Racing, whose fifth-place result gave him four top-fives in six starts this season.
Carpentier missed three starts at Long Beach, Rio de Janeiro and Japan while recovering from a minor fracture of the left wrist sustained in an early April accident at his Las Vegas home.
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING
ROBERTO MORENO, Visteon Ford Reynard: "Imagine, as a comparison, you dream about getting to the moon, and people say, 'Are you crazy?' But you believe and you push, and you push, and you push, and finally you get there, and it's just incredible. There were a lot of times that I was the only one who believed I could do it. It's what I do, and it's what I love. I love this sport. Qualifying went really well, everything was great with the car and the Ford engine the whole weekend. The car was very competitive from the word 'Go.' " (On allowing Brack to close in late in the race) "It looked like I had a good lead to the finish, so I started thinking about things I shouldn't. You can't imagine the emotion I was going through. It was just a case of it being a bit too early. When Kenny got close it dried up and I got going again."
KENNY BRACK, Shell Ford Reynard: "It was a weird weekend for us. We started off fast on Friday, put the car in the transporter and thought we'd be all right on Saturday, but we couldn't get the car sorted out and we slipped to 15th. Don [Halliday, engineer] completely changed the car last night and when we wheeled it out today, it was fast. We were lucky on the first lap because it was a big mess [in Turn 1]. I was conserving fuel for a lot of the race, and we managed to catch up to Roberto in the end, but we were still running pretty lean. I tried to push it but I couldn't get to him because I had to save fuel, and also Cristiano was really quick behind me. It's good to know I'm not too rusty [on road courses]."
CRISTIANO da MATTA, Pioneer/MCI WorldCom Toyota Reynard: "It was a very eventful day indeed. After I was tagged at the start, we had to go all the way to the back. I thought, 'I couldn't do anything from here, I'm in last place.' I was very mad, but the guys said, 'Don't worry, there's still 99 laps left.' I had to run pretty hard in traffic, but I spent a lot of time behind [Alex] Tagliani or [Patrick] Carpentier, so I was able to save fuel. At the end I was able to run a little more rich. I was able to catch Kenny, but I couldn't get close enough to make a move. I'm happy because it's my best finish and I should be happy, but I'm a little disappointed because I thought I could win today. But 14 points are good, and it must have moved me higher than 14th [place in the point standings, actually now eighth] where I was when I came here."
* Roberto Moreno (Visteon Ford Reynard) led 91 laps Sunday, over twice his career-high, single-event, laps-led total of 42, established at Gateway last year, entering the race. Entering Sunday, Moreno had led only 106 laps in his seven-year CART career.
* Moreno's victory was the first street-course triumph for a Ford-powered driver since Scott Pruett won at Australia in 1997. Honda-powered drivers entered Sunday's event with 16 consecutive street-course victories dating to the start of the 1998 season.
* Moreno's victory extended Ford's lead in the Manufacturer's Championship to 158-138 over Honda, while also extending Brazil's Nation's Cup lead to 156-116 over the United States.
* Kenny Brack's (Shell Ford Reynard) runner-up effort extended a run of five top-six finishes in the past six events. Also included are finishes of fifth at Japan, third at Nazareth, fourth at Milwaukee and sixth at Portland.
* Cristiano da Matta (Pioneer/MCI WorldCom Toyota Reynard) recorded his fourth top-five finish of the season, including fourths at Rio de Janeiro and Japan and fifth at Portland.
* Fourth-place Michael Andretti (Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Lola) has finished fourth or better in seven of 15 starts at Cleveland, including a victory in 1991, seconds in 1986, '92 and '98 and thirds in 1984 and last year.
* By leading Laps 34 and 35, Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) has now led at least one lap in five of his six career appearances at Cleveland, including 67 in 1995, 34 in '96, 49 in '97 and nine last year.
* Rookie Norberto Fontana (Della Penna Motorsports Toyota Reynard) earned his first career FedEx Championship Series points by finishing 11th. Fontana's previous best result in the first six starts of his rookie campaign was 14th at Detroit.
* Patrick Carpentier (Player's Forsythe Racing Team Ford Reynard) won the Budweiser Hard Charger Award for showing the greatest improvement, start to finish, of any driver in the 25-car field. Carpentier started 19th and finished fifth.
* Mo Nunn Racing announced Sunday that two-time FedEx Championship Series champion Alex Zanardi will test the team's Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Mercedes Reynard next weekend at Sebring, Fla. in a private session that will not be open to the press. "The door has been open for Alex to come test with us all season long, said team co-owner Morris Nunn, engineer of Zanardi's back-to-back series championships at Target Chip Ganassi Racing in 1997 and '98. "There are some very specific things that we need to take a look at in an effort to keep this program rolling along, and our regular driver [Tony Kanaan, recovering from a broken forearm] is not available right now. Having worked with Alex in the past, I really am interested in his feedback on our engine and chassis package. Also, looking to the future in the hopes of growing this team, we would like to keep Alex in the family in hopes that we'll run a second car beginning next year. If all goes well next weekend, and Alex is totally comfortable and agrees to it, we just might see him before Tony is fit to resume as our full-time driver."
After a weekend off, the FedEx Championship Series continues with Round 10, the Molson Indy, July 14-16 at Exhibition Place in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.