Stewart-Gordon feud gains steam

Posted: Monday, August 21, 2000

BROOKLYN, Mich. -- If the squeaky clean NASCAR circuit needed a little feud to spice things up, it has one.

Rusty Wallace's third win of the season was almost upstaged Sunday by another altercation between Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart.

Wallace, riding with four fresh tires on his Penske Ford, took the lead with 15 laps to go and steadily pulled away from Ricky Rudd's Ford and Bobby Labonte's Pontiac in the Pepsi 400.

''We had a great car all day,'' Wallace said.

Yet for the second straight week, the outcome of the race was less interesting than an incident involving Gordon and Stewart.

The brash Stewart, as he did a week earlier at Watkins Glen, took Gordon into a wall, causing serious damage. That time, the two almost got in a fist fight. But it didn't lead to such bad blood on this occasion.

Stewart was running second to Wallace when his car got loose and touched pole-sitter Dale Earnhardt Jr. on lap 37.

Earnhardt Jr. drove on, but Stewart's Pontiac began to swerve badly. The car got sideways between the first and second turn and spun into Gordon, who was trying to get past the trouble on the high side.

Gordon's car slammed into the wall, damaging the front end, and he had to take the multi-colored Chevrolet in to have the brakes repaired.

''I just lost it down there,'' Stewart said. ''We were just racing hard out there. It was my fault. I just got down into one and I don't know why I got loose. I hadn't been loose there all day.

''For some reason, it just got loose that one lap down there and I crashed a bunch of people I didn't mean to crash. It was my fault. I just lost it.''

Actually, the only driver he caused to crash was Gordon. But that was enough.

The start of the race had been overshadowed all week by the feud a week earlier between Gordon and Stewart. In that race, Stewart caused Gordon to go into the wall while Gordon was trying to pass on an 'S' curve. Gordon vowed a payback during a shouting match later in the garage area.

''I'm sure a lot of people were wondering what was going to happen with the 20 and 24,'' said Gordon, whose car was taken to the garage. ''But it had nothing to do with this weekend at all. He was racing hard and it looked like he just got real loose.

''I saw the 20 car wiggle and it looked like it got real sideways.''

The race went on for 41 laps while Gordon's crew installed new brakes. He rejoined the race while the leaders still had 119 laps to go, but completed only 141 laps before retiring the car.

Wallace, who beat Rudd by 2.971 seconds, averaged 132.586 mph in a race which took 3 hours, 1.01 minutes to complete.

Dale Jarrett was fourth and Johnny Benson of nearby Grand Rapids, Mich., was fifth.

Motorola 220

ELKHART LAKE, Wis. -- Paul Tracy's race was almost over before it began.

That only made his victory in Sunday's Motorola 220 a little more difficult and a lot sweeter.

''I went for the start and started coming up the hill and the engine just died and the thing shut off,'' said Tracy, who fell from seventh to 23rd on the first lap after the throttle sensor stuck on the Honda engine in his Team Kool Green Reynard.

Finally, the engine turned over and Tracy began a charge that carried him to his second victory of the season and the 17th of his CART FedEx Series career.

''I got a quarter-lap behind and then I just go in the zone and just kept going faster and faster and faster on every lap,'' he said. ''The guys did a great job on every (pit) stop and I was able to come through.''

The 55-lap race on Road America's 4.048-mile, 14-turn road circuit was filled with attrition, with only 11 of the 25 starters running at the end.

Most of the problems were broken gearboxes, which eliminated rookie Alex Tagliani, defending series champion Juan Montoya and Gil de Ferran, who started second on Sunday and was second in the points standings heading into the race.

Tracy steadily moved through the field, finally taking the lead for the first time on lap 26 when Tagliani's car, which had been leading by nearly six seconds, coasted to a stop on course.

The new leader made his final fuel stop on lap 45, giving up the top spot to Roberto Moreno while taking on just enough methanol to finish.

When Moreno had to make his last stop on lap 51, Tracy reassumed the lead and pulled away to win by 7.450 seconds over Adrian Fernandez. CART rookie Kenny Brack was third, followed by Moreno, Jimmy Vasser, Memo Gidley and Max Papis, the last driver on the lead lap.

Tracy then ran out of fuel on the fifth turn of his cool-down lap. He hopped out of the car, waved to the spectators, then jumped back into the cockpit and took the remainder of his victory lap while towed to victory lane by a safety truck.

''I didn't know how low we were on fuel and I don't think the team knew, either,'' Tracy said. ''We just drove hard to the end.''

Tracy's other win this season came on the temporary street circuit in Long Beach, Calif., where he came back from 17th place.

Tagliani, trying to become the 10th driver with a victory in 13 races this season, was the story until his gearbox broke.

The young French Canadian charged from a third-place start to take the lead before the first turn and appeared to have by far the best car in the field.

He led until pitting on lap 16, giving up the lead at that point to Moreno, who was getting the best mileage among the leaders throughout the race.

Montoya, who started 12th, was up to fourth place by the time the first round of pit stops began. When he finally came into the pits on lap 18, his crew gave him a short load of fuel and the 24-year-old Colombian was able to beat everyone back onto the track.

He steadily pulled away from second-place Tagliani and was leading by more than 10 seconds when the shifter cable in his gearbox snapped on lap 29, ending his race day and giving the lead temporarily back to Tagliani.

Michael Andretti and de Ferran, the drivers who began the day at the top of the standings, were both out of action before the halfway point.

De Ferran was passed at the start by Tagliani. Moments later, his Reynard-Honda slowed dramatically and de Ferran pulled into the pits with the broken gearbox that ended his race day.

Andretti, carefully nursed his fuel and hung with the leaders until lap 18. At that point, while running third, he began to slip back into the field and finally pitted with a broken CV joint.

Andretti remained in the season lead with 125 points. Moreno has 112, de Ferran 106, Fernandez 103, Brack 102 and Tracy 100.

Subscribe to Peninsula Clarion

Trending this week:


© 2018. All Rights Reserved. | Contact Us