Formula One
 Monday, October 2
Vasser ends drought on streets of Houston
 Associated Press

HOUSTON -- Jimmy Vasser proved he can still win, outdistancing the field in the Houston Grand Prix.

But Gil de Ferran gained a measure of control in the still- tight CART championship battle with a third-place finish Sunday.

Jimmy Vasser
Jimmy Vasser led the final 25 laps on Sunday, finishing ahead of teammate Juan Montoya on the streets of Houston.

Vasser, the 1996 series champion, pulled away from teammate Juan Montoya at the end and picked up the ninth victory of his career and first since a season-ending win in 1998 in Fontana, Calif.

"Finally," said Vasser, who is looking for a ride for 2001 after being told earlier this season he will not be back with Chip Ganassi's team. "It's been a long time. I feel great.

"We've been in position to win some races since that last one, but it's pretty tough when you've got Montoya as your teammate."

Vasser became the 10th different winner in 18 races this season.

The hot day, with air temperatures in the low 90s and the track temperature near 110, began with 13 drivers mathematically in the running for the championship and the top six drivers just 19 points apart.

De Ferran, who led more than half the 100 laps on the tight 1.527-mile temporary downtown street circuit, lost the lead when he made a late pit stop for a splash of fuel. But the 31-year-old Brazilian still came away a winner after most of the contenders ran into problems.

He now has a 19-point margin over new runner-up Paul Tracy with races remaining in Australia on Oct. 15 and Fontana on Oct. 29.

"That's good," de Ferran said. "But still we've got to keep our heads down and do a good job in Australia.

De Ferran, who sat on the pit wall for several minutes while overcome by the heat, said he was tired.

"We had to push really hard during the race," he said. "I was running a qualifying pace throughout the race and, there at the end, I was really concentrating. It was very tense being the meat in sandwich there between Juan and Paul."

Tracy, who began the day fourth in the points, moved up with a fourth-place finish, just ahead of de Ferran's Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves, Christian Fittipaldi, Adrian Fernandez, Shinji Nakano, Oriol Servia and Tony Kanaan, the last driver on the lead lap.

The big losers were Roberto Moreno and Michael Andretti, who came into the race second and third in the standings, just nine and 11 points, respectively, behind de Ferran.

Moreno got only two points Sunday for an 11th-place finish after having to make an extra pit stop when his seat belts came loose on lap 64.

Andretti had a disastrous afternoon, killing his engine during a pit stop and then losing two laps after being spun out by rookie Alex Tagliani.

"There goes the championship," said Andretti, who fell into a tie for fifth with Fernandez, 26 points behind the leader and four behind Moreno with a maximum of 44 points remaining. Andretti finished one position out of the points in 13th.

Sunday's race got off to a halting start with two full-course cautions in the first seven laps.

Dario Franchitti's distant title hopes ended on the first lap. Starting next to de Ferran on the front row, Franchitti tagged one of the concrete barriers midway through the lap, damaging the right side of his car. Franchitti continued, but the broken suspension sent him skidding into a tire barrier on the first turn of the second lap.

The green flag came back out for the start of lap seven, but Max Papis appeared to have a transmission problem, slowing suddenly in the middle of the track. Memo Gidley, driving close behind, banged into the rear of Papis' car and slid up onto the rear, where the two cars locked together.

Safety workers took several minutes to get the cars untangled and Gidley was able to continue.

The early cautions changed a lot of the fuel strategies, and three more caution flags kept changing the scenario.

De Ferran kept Vasser at bay throughout the early going and gave up the lead only during pit stops.

Following their second stops, de Ferran tried to build a big enough lead to make a quick fuel stop without giving up the top spot.

The strategy appeared to be working as de Ferran moved ahead of runner-up Vasser by nearly 17 seconds before Tarso Marques stopped on course with a broken transmission on lap 74, bringing out another full-course caution.

De Ferran quickly drove into the pits for his fuel stop, giving up the top two spots to the Toyota-Lolas of Vasser and Montoya and barely staying ahead of Tracy for third. That's the way it stayed to the end, with Vasser beating Montoya to the finish line by 1.914 seconds -- about a quarter of a mile.

Houston Grand Prix results

Notebook: Unlucky Andretti falls further behind in title chase

 Jimmy Vasser takes the checkered flag in the Houston Grand Prix.
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 Michael Andretti's spin out causes a six car pile up.
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 A victorious Jimmy Vasser speaks with ESPN's Marlo Klain after the race.
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 Gil de Ferran spoke with ESPN's Marlo Klain about his growing lead in the CART championship.
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 Jimmy Vasser talks about his first victory since the 1998 season.
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 Jimmy Vasser recounts being challenged by his teammate Juan Montoya for the victory.
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 Juan Montoya comments on his second place finish in Sunday's Houston Grand Prix.
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 Gil de Ferran tried his best at attacking Juan Montoya for a second place finish.
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 With an eye on the championship, Michael Andretti had very little to say about his disastrous spin out.
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 The high temperatures made it physically difficult for Paul Tracy.
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