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CART: Down to the wire: Five drivers battle for championship honors at Fontana

28 October 2000

By David Treffer
Contributing Motorsports Editor
Gil de Ferran
FONTANA, CA: The 2000 CART Championship is being decided the way all championships should be: The last event of the season. The "Marlboro 500 presented by Toyota" winner will receive $1 million dollars. For five drivers the day could be a daily double. $1 million for winning the race and another $1 million for the CART Championship.

Mathematically five drivers (Gil de Ferran, Adrian Fernandez, Kenny Brack, Paul Tracy and Roberto Moreno) have a chance at winning the $1 million dollar championship grand prize. Realistically only four driver's are in the hunt.

Leading the way is Marlboro/Team Penske driver Gil de Ferran with 153 points. de Ferran is poised to win his first CART championship and is keenly aware of the moment at hand. de Ferran is also aware of the Penske history in CART. By winning the championship de Ferran would give the Penske organization an 8th CART Championship. It would also end a 6-year championship drought for the series' most recognized name.

Following on de Ferran's heels is Patrick Racing driver Adrian Fernandez. The likable and easy-going Fernandez holds down second place in the standings with 148 points. Fernandez carries the all-important momentum into Fontana. Two weeks ago Fernandez dodged and weaved his way around the carnage in Australia to bring home a victory for the Tecate/Quaker State Team. Fernandez is the defending champion of the Marlboro 500.

Third place in the standings is shared by Shell/Team Rahal driver Kenny Brack and Team Kool Green driver Paul Tracy. Both drivers have 134 points. Their chances of winning the championship are not great but certainly not remote. For Brack, who is already the 2000 CART Rookie of the Year, the season has been one of consistent finishes. Out of the five drivers in contention he is the only one without a victory this season.

Team Kool Green driver Paul Tracy has the chance to break through to win his first CART Championship. Tracy has finished third in the final CART standings three times. To overcome de Ferran and Fernandez, Tracy will need to drive the most calm, cool and collected race of his life. The sometimes temperamental Canadian has displayed a mature and strategy-minded side this season and maybe he is ready to prove to his critics that he is championship material.

The fifth driver in the equation of mathematical chances is Roberto Moreno. Realistically Moreno chances of winning are nil. Exactly 22 points behind de Ferran three things must happen. First Moreno must win pole position for 1 point. Second, Moreno must lead the most laps for another point. Third he has to win the race (20 points) and de Ferran must finish outside of the top twelve and Fernandez cannot finish higher than 10th place. Stranger things have happened but a reasoned approach says Moreno has no chance.

One irony that has been somewhat overlooked going into this final race is that Target driver Jimmy Vasser is tied with Moreno in points. However, Vasser does not have any tie-breakers that help him. None the less Vasser wants to depart the Target team in style. "A victory would be a nice parting gift for the guys and Chip. I'll do what I can." Vasser, who lives in Las Vegas, Nevada has a good history at Fontana. Commenting on that success Vasser said, "Maybe I can't win the championship but that $1 million dollar first place prize is their for the taking."

When the green flag drops at 2:30 pm EST on Sunday the strategies and chess-match movements begin. The race will be carried live by ESPN.

Editors Note: To view hundreds of hot racing photos and art, visit The Racing Photo Museum and the Visions of Speed Art Gallery.