This weekend, the Verizon IndyCar Series returns to Gateway Motorsports Park. The 1.25-mile oval plays host to its second IndyCar race after a 13-year hiatus ended last year. This week on IndyCar Flashback, we take a look at one of the track’s early races: The 2000 Motorola 300.
Montoya Continues Year of Oval Dominance
After finishing second a week earlier at Laguna Seca, Team Penske’s Gil de Ferran maintained a narrow championship lead with four races remaining in the season. De Ferran qualified 13th for the race at Gateway.
Newman-Haas Racing’s Michael Andretti, who started the race six points behind de Ferran, started 15th. The lower starting spot for Andretti was of minimal consequence, considering his team believed they had a dialed-in setup for the race. The previous year, Andretti started 11th and led 91 laps en route to the victory.
Target Chip Ganassi Racing swept the front row for the 236-lap race. Sophomore driver Juan Montoya qualified on pole with a 180.334 MPH, with Jimmy Vasser joining him on the front row. It marked the team’s first front row sweep since Mid-Ohio in 1996. It was also the first time the team had both cars on the front row since Michigan in July of 1996.
Montoya and Vasser swapped the lead five teams in the first 66 laps. By Lap 67, Andretti had made his way to the front and took command of the race. He would lead 121 of the following 130 laps and looked primed to repeat his 1999 Gateway triumph.
On Lap 197, the chance at a repeat slipped away. Andretti’s engine erupted in a cloud of smoke and flames on the front straightaway. The runner-up at the first Gateway event in 1997 pitted three laps later.
Montoya took the lead on Lap 200 and survived the lone caution of the day. On Lap 210, Team Kool Green’s Paul Tracy brushed the wall, bringing out a caution for five laps. Shortly after the restart, Carpentier got back on the lead lap but was unable to catch Montoya.
The defending series champion pulled away by 11.804 seconds over Carpentier. It marked the third time Montoya won in the CART FedEx Championship Series in 2000.
Including his triumph in the Indianapolis 500 (in the Indy Racing League), Montoya had four open-wheel wins that year. All of them came on oval tracks. Carpentier equaled his career-best finish from three years ago, with Patrick Racing’s Roberto Moreno taking third. Moreno also took advantage of Andretti’s earlier misfortunes and ascended to second in points.
The race’s average speed would be 155.519 MPH. To date, it is the fastest IndyCar race in the history of the track.
Despite starting the race with a vulnerable lead, de Ferran exited Gateway eight points ahead of Moreno.
2000 was perhaps one of the most thrilling seasons in the CART FedEx Championship Series. The race at Gateway proved to be a turning point in the season and the careers for some of the top finishers in the Motorola 300.
Juan Pablo Montoya
Montoya’s 10th ChampCar victory proved to be his last. In 2001, the Colombian racer joined the Williams Formula 1 team. After 6 years and 7 victories, he moved on to NASCAR in a reunion with Chip Ganassi. From 2006 to 2013, he won two races in the Cup Series.
In 2014, he joined Team Penske in a return to IndyCar. He added four wins, including the 2015 Indianapolis 500, to his career total since. Montoya now drives for Penske’s sports car team.
Carpentier’s turn at the top step of the podium would come soon after. Ten months later, the Forsythe Racing driver earned his first career win at Michigan International Speedway. It would be the final Michigan 500 to date.
After that, he added four more wins to his name in CART/ChampCar. From 2006 to 2012, Carpentier spent time in several different racing series.
After the 2012 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in his native Quebec, Carpentier stepped away from racing. In 2014 and 2015, he briefly unretired to compete in the World Rally Championship.
Gateway International Raceway
Following the 2000 race, the track would play host to the Indy Racing League for three years.
In 2017, the track, since renamed Gateway Motorsports Park, rejoined the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule for the first time in 14 years. Last year’s race proved to be a success among the series, fans and sponsors.
Header Image by Getty Images