Star-Bulletin Sports

Monday, September 13, 1999

Hawaiian Super Prix

Associated Press
Bryan Herta leads Tony Kanaan as the drivers make
their way through the famous "corkscrew" turn at
Laguna Seca Raceway yesterday.

Herta takes over
No. 12 spot in
Points for Paradise

Star-Bulletin staff


Bryan Herta picked up 22 points by winning yesterday's Shell 300 at Monterey, Calif., and jumped to the 12th spot in the "Points to Paradise" chase for starting spots in the Hawaiian Super Prix

The top 12 drivers in the FedEx Championship Series season standings at season's end will receive automatic slots in the Nov. 13 race at Kalaeloa Airport.

The top 16:

1. Juan Montoya 199
2. Dario Franchitti 171
3. Paul Tracy 134
4. Michael Andretti 127
5. Adrian Fernandez 105
6. Max Papis 105
7. Gil de Ferran 104
8. Christian Fittipaldi 101
9. Greg Moore 97
10. Jimmy Vasser 94
11. Tony Kanaan 68
12. Bryan Herta 62
13. Patrick Carpentier 61
14. Roberto Moreno 58
15. Helio Castro-Neves 48
16. PJ Jones 37

Hawaiian Super Prix

Herta notches
CART win

Though he led wire to wire, his
mind was on Gonzalo Rodriguez,
the driver killed in a crash
during Saturday's practice

Associated Press


MONTEREY, Calif. -- Bryan Herta called it a bittersweet day.

The 29-year-old driver outclassed the rest of the CART field in yesterday's Shell 300, leading all 83 laps on the way to his second victory in as many years at Laguna Seca Raceway.

But Gonzalo Rodriguez, the 27-year-old Uruguayan driver killed Saturday in a crash during practice, was never far from the thoughts of Herta and the rest of the Champ Car drivers.

Yesterday, his fellow drivers stood together during a prerace moment of silence for Rodriguez and then went out to battle each other on the 2.238-mile, 11-turn road course.

"We are race drivers and we have to have a blocking system in our minds to do our job," Roberto Moreno said after a career-best finish of second. "We just go out and drive every corner until the checkered flag.

"But you don't forget what happened. It's my best result but when I think about it, it's always going to be in my mind a sad day."

Herta, fighting to keep his ride with Bobby Rahal's team, started from the pole and led all the way, beating Moreno to the finish line by 1.826-seconds -- about 10 car-lengths.

"I'm really happy for today, but our hearts and thoughts and prayers are still with Gonzalo and his family," Herta said. "This is a bittersweet day for CART."

Max Papis, Herta's Team Rahal teammate and the third-place finisher, said he frequently thought about Rodriguez.

"There are many things that go through your mind besides racing," he said. "But my passion and our passion for racing is the best tribute to Gonzalo's will to succeed."

But the lingering sadness over the death of Rodriguez could not take all of the joy out of Herta's second career victory, particularly coming near the end of what has been a miserable season and with rumors swirling that he will lose his ride at the end of the year.

"That's up to other people," Herta said of his situation. "I am the same guy that was here three weeks ago."

His record on Laguna's 2.238-mile, 11-turn road circuit has been phenomenal. In the last four years, Herta has started every race from the front row and finished second, sixth, first and first while leading 226 of 332 laps.

"I'm not telling," he said when asked for his secret. "If there is a reason, I don't know what it is and I don't care. I'm just happy to enjoy the kind of success I've had here, and hope it continues."

Yesterday, Herta was totally in charge except for a brief moment during a restart on lap 62.

"That's when I nearly threw it all away," he said.

The leader, knowing the aggressive Michael Andretti in second was getting ready to launch an attack on the restart, went too deep into the final turn under the yellow, locked up his brakes and nearly started a chain-reaction crash.

But, while the drivers behind him scrambled, Herta regained control of his Reynard-Ford and pulled away.

"From then on, I said, `No mistakes, no mistakes. Just keep your focus,' " Herta explained.

Papis wound up third, followed by Paul Tracy, Adrian Fernandez, Gil de Ferran, Scott Pruett and Juan Montoya.

Andretti, who hit the brakes to keep from running into Herta, fell back to fourth and wound up moments later colliding with fifth-place Jimmy Vasser -- knocking both from the race.

Dario Franchitti, who began the day 23 points behind Montoya, was battling Greg Moore for seventh when the two came together in turn 2 on lap 32. That ended the race for both.

"I went in there real hard and he didn't give me any room," Franchitti said. "Of course it hurts, but there was nothing we could have done."

Montoya, a 23-year-old rookie, who leads the series with seven victories and had three straight coming in, showed surprising restraint. He drove a conservative race, used attrition to move through the field and wound up eighth.

Herta, led all but two laps last year, when he held off two-time series champion Alex Zanardi for his first CART victory. He had a little more time to appreciate this one before stepping out of the car.

"Last year, I didn't get a chance to enjoy that last lap because Alex as all over me," Herta said. "This time, I got to savor the last lap. That's what makes it sweeter."

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