Detroit Free Press from Detroit, Michigan on August 9, 1999 · Page 29
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Detroit Free Press from Detroit, Michigan · Page 29

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Monday, August 9, 1999
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4 MONDAY, AUGUST 9, 1999 AUTO RACING DETROIT FREE PRESS 5D Merger or not, Archer wants Detroit on fast By STEVE CROWE FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER If the Detroit Grand Prix is in danger of being dumped, somebody forgot to tell the mayor. A seemingly imminent merger between CART FedEx and the Indy Racing League will likely mean one schedule in 2001. That's the last of a five-year deal between Detroit race organizer International Management Group and CART, which has raced in Detroit since 1989. Conjecture is that when CART (20 races) and the IRL (11) get together, several current venues are bound to go. And because the IRL races only on ovals, road circuits such as Belle Isle seem likely to be on the chopping block. Despite some feeling to the contrary among insiders, most at the sport's higher levels including Mayor Dennis Archer see the Prix lasting far beyond its current contract. "IMG has been a very good partner with the city of Detroit," Archer said of the Cleveland-based group, the Prix promoter since 1994. "We've worked very SHARP I CART goes extra mile for driver diversity From Page ID bending, tempers flaring. The anticlimactic finish under the yellow caution flag will certainly motivate those who already disliked the Belle Isle arrangement to further harp that Detroit doesn't belong on the CART schedule when the current contract expires in two years. But whether or not the city has a long-term future with CART, the struggling open-wheel racing governing body is banking on Francis potentially providing inroads into the city and a market that never really has embraced the sport. "Watts is as far removed from auto racing as you're going to get," Francis said. But you're never too far if the love is in your blood and the passion flows through your soul. Francis' thirst for speed comes from his parents, David Sr. and Betty, who belonged to a motorcycle gang called "L.A. Soulriders." Not to worry, Betty insists, "We were a good gang." Admirably, CART wants diversity among its drivers. All Francis wants is the chance to rise or fall on his merits. Just as it makes no sense to keep a poorly organized race simply because it's held in the home of the auto industry, it's equally unproductive to promote diversity if the person isn't talented enough to stand on his own. Francis has slowly graduated from motocross racing to the Barber Dodge Pro Series the past 10 years because he never let one door slamming in his face deter him from knocking on the next one. He learned his .racing technique through reading book after book and applied that knowledge on the track whenever he scraped up enough money to rent a ride for the day. Talent and tenacity propelled Francis into an object of appreciation Sunday. He signed autographs and posters while others patted him on the back, saying "It's about time." "CART should be commended on the creation of this new initiative and the speed in which it has gone from concept to reality," Mayor Dennis Archer said. "It will PRIX I Franchitti takes checkered flag under yellow From Page ID 131) and also with his fifth career win and second this year. It was far from Montoya's first meaningful moment Sunday. Montoya winner of four races this season started from the pole and stayed out front through the first 58 laps. That was partly because of a Ganassi Racing miscommunica-tion, apparently Montoya's error, that kept him on the track while the rest of the leaders pitted under caution after 44 laps. Montoya attempted to compensate by bunding a huge lead lo.o seconds over Franchitti before ducking in after lap 58. After his stop of about 10 sec-onds for fuel and four tires, Mon-toya re-entered the track eighth and on Tony Kanaan's tail. And between turns 3 and 4 of lap 61, Montoya essentially veered down across the nose of Kanaan's car into seventh place. Then came the horrific-looking crash of Cristiano da Matta, whose Reynard-Toyota made vio 'i m .mm v.fH ( f well together over the years. And as I've mentioned before, we have the automotive Big Three here. "And it is in their collective best interest, as it is for ours as a city, to have Grand Prix racing here." But Archer also is keenly aware of the "push and pull between Indy and CART," he said. "And their competition, frankly, is hurting them both. So at some point, I think it's pretty safe to expect a resolution. Whatever create a wonderful opportunity for many aspiring minority race-car drivers. I wish David the best of luck and hope to see him back here on Belle Isle in the future." But could it be as a guest rather than a CART Champ-car competitor? The two years remaining on the Grand Prix contract is probably two years too much for some of the racing teams who still find the temporary road course too restrictive. There were organizational complaints, such as a lack of helpful cooperation from volunteers or waiting in the rain Saturday for as much as an hour for a shuttle bus that never came. Neither CART nor the City of Detroit scored particularly high marks with me earlier in the day when the simple task of picking up a press credential turned into a three-hour exercise in frustration. Misinformation brought me to Belle Isle first when my credential was about a mile away at River Place. Unable to get a shuttle back, I walked down Jefferson Ave., where a homeless person offered me a swig from his wine bottle. I politely declined. But, hey, I got to experience "the city," right? When I finally arrived at CART's registration headquarters, the office was closed and I was promptly informed that anybody who didn't have a. credential four hours before race time was out of luck. One four-letter aria later and everyone sang a different tune. But once again, you're left wondering that if the organizers don't care enough to run a smoother operation, than why should we care if the race survives or not? CART's decision to initially introduce Francis in the city with the heaviest concentration of African-Americans on its racing calendar was a sound marketing move, but it badly dropped the ball in some other areas. And just as Francis must still prove that he belongs in CART, it also seems that so, too, must the city of Detroit. DREW SHARP can be reached at 313-223-4055 or dsharpfreepress.com lent right-side contact with the wall exiting turn 2 on the lap 65 restart. Da Matta's wreck which sent debris flying in all directions forced Al Unser Jr. into a spin behind da Matta, ruining Unser's lOth-place run. Montoya was among several drivers who said they were confused by the pace-car situation. "Nobody said anything to me," Montoya said. "Everyone said, Am I going?' Nobody knew if it was a restart or no. "And everyone went, and they brake, I brake, and I think it was Castro-Neves that didn't even bother to brake and went straight into the back of me. I think, well, I don't say anything 'cause I get in trouble again." Montoya was alluding to his hasty criticism of Michel Jourdain Jr. after the two crashed at Toronto. TV replays proved Montoya wrong. "By the time I knew that the track was still yellow," Castro-Neves said, "I had already hit Juan." In less than a lap Sunday, Max Papis got further proof that this V- ' ft. tt i-s 51 ERIC happens that way, I look forward to many more years of Grand Prix racing in the city of Detroit." Part of the good rapport between Prix president Bud Stanner of IMG and Archer seems to flow from that latter's genuine interest in the sport. In 1996, Archer attended the Skip Barber Driving School and raced in the Neon Challenge celebrity event on Belle Isle. Stanner cites Archer as perhaps the biggest reason that rac Juan Montoya, summoning a disconsolate wave to fans: "Someone is hitting me in the back. I anticipated it going green and put the power down. Then everyone brakes Castro-Neves didn't. The end of the race is confusing." I H ! 7 ERIC SEALSDetroit Free r Make up for lost time, Montoya is grounded By MICHAEL BRUDENELL FREE PRESS SPECIAL WRITER Despite being punted from pillar to post, tangling with fellow South American Roberto Moreno, and suffering from pit miscommu-nication at the Tenneco Automotive Grand Prix of Detroit on Sunday, Juan Montoya was smiling. Granted, he was signing autographs for a bunch of pretty female fans outside his motor home. But he still managed a grin and a wink. Only a few minutes before, the dashing Columbian had been struck from behind under yellow in his red Reynard-Honda by Brazilian Helio Castro-Neves on lap 69 of the crash-strewn race on Belle Isle, won by Scotland's Dario Franchitti. On lap 63, Montoya, who had been leading the CART FedEx Championship Series until Sunday, made contact with Moreno in turn 3. Montoya had been desperately trying to make up ground on the leaders after a pit stop dropped him to seventh. What seemed like an overly ambitious move by Montoya to take the corner resulted in both cars sliding across the track. Montoya and Moreno rejoined the race after a short, but costly, delay. "I braked late trying to turn in, bang, we hit," Montoya said. "Things happen. Moreno was just isn't his summer in this state. Leading on the last lap of the July ' 25 U.S. 500 at Michigan Speedway, Papis ran out of fuel, handing the win to Tony Kanaan. And entering the first turn of Sunday's first lap, the left front of Patrick Carpentier's car got too ' close to the right rear of Papis.' . That sent Papis crashing into a tire wall, causing enough damage to end tha Team Rahal driver's day. But Sunday's most terrifying moment was shared by Mauricio Gugelmin and Carpentier on lap 28. Coming down the straightaway into turn 3, the cars of Gugelmin and da Matta appeared to tangle. That turned Gugelmin sideways, then flipped him upside, down on top of Carpentier's car. Gugelmin's car completed its roll over Carpentier, coming to , rest against the fence. Taken from his car in a full neck brace, Carpentier was awake and alert when transported to Der troit Receiving Hospital, where it was reported that he had a cervi-'cal muscle strain and would be Max Papis, 0-for-Michigan, climbs out of his car after hitting the wall on turn 1 of the first lap Sunday on Belle Isle. Two weeks ago, he ran out of fuel while leading on the last lap oftheU.S.500 at Michigan Speedway. SEALSDetrott Free Press ing will stay in the city. "Well, I think Bud appreciates the fact that I truly enjoy motor sports, that I'm a great fan," Archer said. "You'll find me hanging out, watching, working the pits, walking all along there, and then watching the entire race. "So that when the drivers were saying, 'We need another place to pass,' we walked the "course and together arrived at the extension that went in last year. It's not perfect. But we've developed, I f jV n Press defending his teammate Michael's" (Andretti) position. Things happen like that in racing." Moreno, however, had a different version of the incident. "I never saw Montoya coming," Moreno said. "I thought he was mid-straight. I braked late there and was already turning in my Kmart Ford Cosworth. "You have to ask the other guy what was going on there was no way he was going to pass me without getting a better run on me." More misfortune was to strike Montoya a few laps later when Castro-Neves hit him from behind as the field was following the pace car through turn 14. The contact ended a frustrating day for Montoya, whose teammate, Jimmy Vasser, finished fifth. "What can I say?" Montoya lamented. "Someone is hitting me in the back. I anticipated it going green and put the power down. Then everyone brakes Castro-Neves didn't. The end of the race is very confusing." Montoya was unable to continue, finishing 17th, three laps behind Franchitti. "Had it not gone yellow towards the end of the race, we would have won the event," said Montoya, who has fallen five points behind series leader Fran-chitti's 136 points. ! "Detroit is a hard place to overtake. You've got to do what you can." held overnight. He is expected to compete this week at Mid-Ohio. ' "I said to the guys on tha radio that it was a pretty ugly way to Win a race," Franchitti said. "But we'll take'it any way we can." . Late in the race, knowing its strongest car Montoya's was gaining about a second per lap, was Franchitti concerned? "I was kind of worried," Franchitti said. "But we had been conserving so much fuel that we were ready to go for it towards the end. I mean, that wasn't going to be a worry at that point. And he had to come through some traffic." But as the final few moments played out, Franchitti didn't need a calculator to know he's the new points leader. "Yeah, it feels kind of nice," Franchitti said. "I knew something was up when I kind of looked at the Jumbo (TV) screen under yellow, and there was Juan walking away from the car." Now, that's racin'. STEVE CROWE can be reached at 313-222-2115. think, a course that is getting much better reviews." TRACT IN THE HCNTi Despite missing the season's first race at Homestead, Fla., while disciplined for rough driving late last season, Paul Tracy has fought his way into genuine CART title contention. His second-place Grand Prut finish Sunday, behind Team Green mate Dario Franchitti, was Tracy's sixth in the top five in his past seven starts. That success string started with his win June 6 at the Milwaukee Mile. His most recent three finishes include second at Toronto and third in the July 25 U.S. 500 at Michigan Speedway. Tracy entered Detroit sixth in points and left fourth, having vaulted past injured Adrian Fernandez and Christian Fittipaldi. "I had to let Dario go by early because I was struggling with my tires," said Tracy, whose second-place start was two positions ahead of Franchitti. "They were the set that I'd qualified on, and I had to use them up to set my fast time. "I was really hanging on, trying Irish flag prevails in battle of yellows By MICHAEL BRUDENELL FREE PRESS SPECIAL WRITER More flags were thrown in Sunday's Indy Lights race on Belle Isle than at a Lions game. But Derek Higgins of Ireland survived the yellow-flag fracas on the course and won his third Indy Lights race of the season in his Quaker State Mexico Lola. Indy Lights series leader Oriol Servia of Spain was second in his CataloniaRACCElf Lola, and Northern Ireland's Jonny Kane was third in the Team Green KOOLLola. Higgins, who started seventh after a poor qualifying run Saturday, averaged 79.060 m.p.h. Eleven laps were run under yellow. Ducking and weaving through the wreckage of four full-course cautions, the 31-year-old drove the race of his life. Afterward, holding his 2-year-old daughter, Mara which, in Gaelic, means Sea Higgins wondered if someone from above was looking down on him. "I hit the wall with my rear wheel coming out of turn 12, but I must have hit it dead square," Higgins said. "Normally, I would have broken something and been out of the race. "Today, I was blessed." Higgins said Sunday's effort was the best race he had ever driven. He thanked his new race engineer, Steve Miller, for much of his success. "It's unbelievable," said the talkative Irishman, who was quickly snapping at the heels of the front-runners following a couple of yellow flags. "On a street circuit as tough as Detroit, this is clearly my 15 min Snyder trades igloos for racing, wins in Detroit By MICHAEL BRUDENELL FREE PRESS SPECIAL WRITER Race car drivers and Alaska? The two are about as rare a combination as 50-pound gold nuggets on Jefferson Avenue. Don't tell that to Todd Snyder, who was born in Anchorage and drove Formula Vees, not snowmobiles, around local rundown race strips. Snyder, who now works and lives in Sheffield, Mass., has opted for the slightly slick surface of Belle Isle, where he won the Detroit Free Press Barber Dodge race at the Detroit Grand Prix. In a sprint to the line after a multi-car pileup brought out a full-course yellow eight minutes before the end of the race, Snyder held off fast-closing Iradj Alexander of Switzerland in second and Jamie Menninga of Iowa in third. "We haven't had much luck so far this season," Snyder said. "Maybe our luck has turned around." Snyder, an instructor for the Skip Barber Racing School, will run the rest of the series with an eye on winning the championship. "I'd like to run Indy Lights or do the Formula Atlantic series after that," said Snyder, who lived in Alaska for 14 years before Reading east to embark on a racing career. "I suppose I'm pretty lucky in coming from a place where the track to stay in front of Dario, but I had to let him go. I thought we'd get him later on in the race. I'm a little disappointed we couldn't race to the end, because I was staying with him. But I'm really happy for the team." It was the 125th career CART start for Tracy, the Detroit winner in 1994. bparc PARTS: What if they had been allowed to race to the checkered flag, instead of rolling to it slowly under caution? The final six laps and seven of the last eight were run under caution. "I don't know how they would have been on fuel," third-place Greg Moore said of Franchitti and Tracy. "We would have made it, probably by the skin of our teeth. But I don't know if Paul and Dario would have made it. Third place, considering the bad strong of luck we've had the last few races, is good for the team. They needed it and I needed it." . . . For the second straight year, the Grand Prix featured just one lead change when Juan Montoya pitted after lap 58, yielding the lead to Franchitti. utes of glory." Servia and Kane fought hard to stave off Higgins' charge but could do nothing to protect their early advantage. "Someone was playing back there," Servia said of Higgins. "He just came through when he felt like it, and there was nothing I could do. ... He was just amazing." Rookie Kane said he was pleased with his first trip to the podium in the PPG-Dayton Indy Lights Championship. "It would have been more fun if I had won, but I'm really happy with the result for Team Green." So why was Higgins so dominant on Sunday after a slow start to the weekend? "I was very focused today," said Higgins, who travels with his wife, Erika, and daughter to all the tracks on the circuit. "I felt upset that I had qualified so badly. I had to get myself into the race. I had nothing to lose a lot less than some other guys who are ahead of me in the series." What's in store for him? "Winning some more races before the end of the season, then maybe a Champ car ride or test," said Higgins, who has competed in both the Japanese and British Formula 3 championships. "I know I can make the jump if I get a chance." Despite his fifth second-place finish of the year and the bridesmaid's tag he's quickly earning, Servia leads the 1999 Indy Lights championship by 20 points. "I decided early that Derek was going to be hard to beat, so I tried not to make mistakes and finish the race," Servia said. fishing is much better known than the motor sport." Alexander credited his solid second to his crew making some wing changes overnight. "Maybe it was going to rain, maybe not," Alexander said. "We went for a bit less wing and softer suspension, and it worked out pretty well." Menninga, whose older brother, Chris, drives Indy Lights, said he decided to be patient, keep cool and stay out of the way of accidents. "I had a great result after a poor qualifying effort," he said. "I was fast when I needed to be in turns 3 and 7. I'm happy to be on the podium." The Barber Dodge Pro Series is one of America's most competitive and hard-fought junior formula championships. CART FedEx Champion Series star and Detroit Grand Prix pole-sitter Juan Montoya is a graduate of the class of '94. neon race: In the PPG Neon Charity Challenge, businessman Bob Stander won both races over the weekend. The event helped raise $258,000 for the Detroit Police Athletic League, an organization whose programs help the children of Detoit. "It was an exciting weekend for all of us," said Stander, an .executive for Johnson Controls, Inc. "There were lots of good, clean passes and good, close racing." -;

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