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CART: Fittipaldi Wins Fontana, de Ferran Survives Battle of Attrition For Championship

30 October 2000

by David Treffer
Contributing Motorsports Editor
FONTANA, CA: For Team Penske/Marlboro driver Gil de Ferran the race could not end quickly enough. Spread out over two days due to inclement weather. de Ferran dodged and weaved his way around mishap after mishap to take third place and clinch the CART Championship. The emotions of the realization of his accomplishments were almost too much for the usually calm Brazilian. "This championship is just fantastic...I cannot believe it...but it is really true..Fantastic!" de Ferran exclaimed just moments after climbing out of his racecar.

For Newman-Haas/K-Mart driver Christian Fittipaldi the race ended just right and $1 million dollars richer. The victory for Fittipaldi was an exclamation point on a season of so many ups and downs that he must have felt like a rollercoaster. Fittipaldi's best finishes this year were two third place finishes on road courses. Perhaps this victory at Fontana will propel Fittipaldi to contend for the championship next year.

For both drivers the day ended in a winners circle. For de Ferran his third place finish was more than enough to take home the Vanderbilt Cup for winning his first-ever CART Championship. Aside from the $1 million dollars in prize money, de Ferran also gave owner Roger Penske his 8th CART Championship.

With Halloween but a day away, de Ferran certainly must have wondered if the engine goblins or some other mishap was just waiting to pounce on him. de Ferran's Honda engine was the only Honda running at the end. In fact out of the 26 starters, only six cars were running at the end. Early in the race de Ferran missed by literally inches being collected in a mishap that involved Oriol Servia and Michael Andretti.

de Ferran's pause for concern was justified. His teammate Helio Castroneves was involved in a severe single-car crash 24 laps from the finish. Castroneves' engine expired on the end of the front straight. The resulting engine oil spewed onto Castroneves' tires that caused him to lose control of the car. Castroneves condition was not available at this time.

Almost overlooked in the celebration was the fact that the Roberto Moreno quietly drove his way to finish second place. Eliminated from consideration for the over-all championship on Saturday after de Ferran clinched pole position, Moreno moved two places up the championship ladder to take third place in the final standings. The likable Brazilian was effervescent in pit-lane after the race. "This is unbelievable...I wanted to win the this will have to do!"

Another driver over-looked during the post-race celebration was Patrick driver Adrian Fernandez. He was the only driver that stood a realistic chance of challenging de Ferran. Try as he might, Fernandez never threatened for the lead of the race. His fifth place finish clinched second place in the final standings. However, one could tell that Fernandez will leave Fontana wondering what might have been. For de Ferran their is no second-guessing...just elation that the engine-gremlins of Halloween were

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