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INDY 500: Quick work in the pits pivotal in Montoya's victory

30 May 2000

Posted By Terry Callahan
Motorsports Editor, The Auto Channel
INDIANAPOLIS -- Tom Anderson and Lee Kunzman, team managers for the one-two finishers in the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, agreed totally that the race was won by Juan Montoya in the pits and not on the track.

Rookie Montoya beat 1996 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Lazier to the checkered flag by 7.184 seconds.

"We were quicker on the average on lap speed than he was," Kunzman said, "but their pit stops are phenomenal. Ours were good, but theirs were phenomenal."

Kunzman estimated that the Ganassi team was about four to 4 seconds quicker per stop.

"Weve got to figure out why," he said.

Anderson knew why.

"I think the big advantage we had is that these guys did pit stops yesterday," he said.

The Montoya crew worked the pits Saturday when CART ran at Nazareth, Pa. Montoya started on the pole in that race and finished fourth. On Sunday at Indy, he started second.

"Its the same guys who were here today," Anderson said.

"Theyre a good group, weve been working hard, really hard, with them. They were really embarrassed when they lost the pit-stop contest (during Coors Carb Day on Thursday). They had a long talk with themselves and really worked hard today."

An example of their speed came on the final stop. Montoya took on fuel and tires in 11 seconds. It took 16 seconds for the Hemelgarn Racing team to complete the same task for Lazier. On the previous stop at Lap 145, Montoya was out in 10 seconds compared to 14 for Lazier.

Thats nine seconds in Montoyas favor. Lazier tried but could not make up that advantage on the racetrack.

"We did all we could, there was nothing left on the table," Kunzman said. "It just didnt quite work right. Our pit stops were good, theirs were better."

In his last five Indianapolis 500s, Lazier has finished first, fourth, second, seventh and second.

"Weve had pretty good success here, its paid us well," Kunzman said. "We ve been fortunate to take a lot of money out of this place."

Montoyas over-the-wall gang under the direction of crew chief Steve Gough of New Zealand consisted of: Right front - Robin Hill, Woking England; right rear - Simon Hodgson, Pickering, England; left front - Wayne Westplate, Kenosha, Wis.; left rear - Greg Stsydesky, San Diego; fueler - Tim Keene, Marlette, Mich.; and vent/jack - Barry Wanser, Otisville, N.Y.

Anderson credited Montoya with using a special skill to put the quick pit stops to good use.

"Juans probably one of the best drivers Ive ever seen on cold tires," he said. "He just has an incredible feel.

"Im really, really glad that car ran all day. That G Force/Aurora ran all day to where Juan could showcase his strength."

Anderson first saw Montoya at the Homestead track in south Florida during CART spring training in 1999.

"Actually, Chip Ganassi and Morris Nunn flew to Barcelona, Spain, and saw him drive the Williams Formula One car," he said. "And Morris made the comment that this kid is saving it before its gone, that he just had never seen a pair of hands like this kid had.

"He told Chip to hire him. And Alex Zanardi told us to hire him. So we did, and let him tell you, they were certainly right."

Said Kunzman of Montoya: "Hes one hell of a race driver. Hes the best CART has to offer."

Kunzman did come up with one "if" that could have changed the finish.

"Also, on the (final) restart there we got behind Foyts both cars, and that held us up six or seven seconds," he said. "It just slowed our momentum down. If wed had had a clean shot at him, it would have been interesting."

"But they just beat us. Its that simple."

Montoya had a 10.4-second lead over Lazier with six laps remaining. Lazier turned two laps at 217 mph and Lap 198 at 218.491, but Montoya countered by clocking a 217.089 on Lap 198 and 217.690 on Lap 199.

He cruised under the checkered flag with a 209.046-mph circuit as raindrops began to fall and flash bulbs popped throughout the darkening grandstands.

"What I like about the whole system of the IRL, the best they have to offer, the rules package has done so well that it has a level playing field," Kunzman said. "I think thats pretty damn great."

Anderson has the same opinion.

"I just have to take my hat off to Brian Barnhart (Indy Racing League director of racing operations) and Phil Casey (technical director)," he said.

"I mean, this IRL deal is really a professionally run deal. Ive really got to take my hat off to them. Brians got control of these drivers to where theyre good sports on the racetrack. They all did a tremendous job. "Youve got really a lot of, lot of talent over here and it really is an honor to be a part of it."

Text Provided By Paul Kelly

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