Sep 25, 2000
US Grand Prix, MBNA 400By JR Nerad
Schumacher Capture U.S. Grand Prix
Michael Schumacher added a bit of off-road racing to his repertoire on Sunday but still managed to win the U.S. Grand Prix, vaulting himself back into the lead for the 2000 Driving Championship. With just five laps to go the Ferrari driver, who later admitted he wasn’t paying much attention, suddenly spun and drove through the infield grass of the road course fashioned within the confines of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Frankly, it really didn’t matter. By the time Schumacher spun he had fashioned a 26-second lead over his teammate, Rubens Barrichello. After the mishap, Schumacher breathed a sigh of relief, regained his composure and finished more than 12 seconds ahead of Barrichello.
The race started oddly as David Coulthard of McLaren Mercedes grabbed the lead at the start only to be penalized later for jumping the initial green flag. Coulthard compounded the offense by apparently trying to block Schumacher as he came into the pits for his stop-and-go penalty. By that time Schumacher had already swept around Coulthard on the main straight to take the lead, and the two touched entering the first turn, so Ferrari’s number one driver was no fan of McLaren’s number two by the time the race ended.
Mika Hakkinen, Coulthard’s teammate was the beneficiary of Coulthard’s blocking maneuvers, but his day didn’t last nearly as long as he would’ve liked. He was running second to Schumacher when his Mercedes engine gave up the ghost after just 26 laps of the 73-lap event. It was a costly engine failure, because it left Hakkinen out of the points on a day when his rival for the Driving Championship finished first to charge back into the season-standings lead. He now trails Schumacher by eight points with only two events remaining.
The Heinz Harald Frentzen finished third in a Jordan, while BAR-Honda’s Jacques Villeneuve, the only driver in the field with previous experience at Indy, was fourth. Villeneuve won the Indianapolis 500 in 1995. Americans seemed to take to the spectacle after F1’s absence in the U.S. for nearly a decade. Some 200,000 race fans were on hand, the biggest throng in the history of Formula One racing.
Stewart Takes MBNA 400
Tony Stewart and his Pontiac seem to like Dover Downs. On Sunday he took his second win this season on the track they call the Monster Mile, winning the MBNA 400. Stewart appeared to come out of nowhere to take the checkered flag. He started the race 27th on the grid, but he made his way through the field quickly and eventually led 163 of the 400 laps, including the last 54.
Stewart became the first to sweep the pair at Dover since Jeff Gordon won twice in 1996. The win was Stewart’s fourth this year, and it called a halt to Mark Martin’s victory string that had extended to three. Martin ran with the leaders for much of the day, but a transmission problem banished him to sixth place when it was over.
In a week when bad passenger-car tires were in the news, several teams had trouble with their race tires. Jeff Burton and Jerry Nadeau were among the leaders but then had their hopes explode along with their tires. At least five cars exited the race with tire problems.
Stewart’s teammate, Bobby Labonte, finished in fourth place, good enough to pad his series-leading total to 249 points. Seven-time champion Dale Earnhardt moved into second place for the season with a 17th. Dale Jarrett, who finished 32nd, remains third, but Sunday’s race was a huge setback to his hopes of a championship.
Rounding out the day’s leaders, Johnny Benson finished second in another Pontiac; Ricky Rudd was third in a Ford, and Steve Park took fourth in his Chevrolet.
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