Montoya beats Andretti in sensational duel

One of the greatest duels in the history of open-wheel racing ended with Juan Montoya snatching the Michigan 500 from Michael Andretti by less than a car-length today at Michigan Speedway in Brooklyn.

One of the greatest duels in the history of open-wheel racing ended with Juan Montoya snatching the Michigan 500 from Michael Andretti by less than a car-length today at Michigan Speedway in Brooklyn.

Using a timely tow from the lapped car of Tarso Marques off the final turn of the 250-lap race, Montoya held off Andretti by 0.040 seconds after 17 laps of breathtaking wheel-to-wheel racing at speeds up to 225 mph (362 kph).

The determined drivers swapped the lead at least once on each of those laps and nearly touched wheels between turns two and three on the final trip around the 2-mile (3-kilometer), high-banked oval. But neither would give ground. During that period, the lead was never bigger than 0.6790 seconds.

On the final lap, Andretti allowed Montoya to drive into the lead in the first turn, setting him up for a pass in turn three. It worked to perfection, with Andretti diving low on the banked and nosing ahead as the leaders charged off the final turn.

"It's a shame because we had a perfect race and we did everything that we wanted to do," Andretti said.

Montoya, who earlier this year won the rival Indy Racing League's showcase Indianapolis 500 in completely different equipment, gave Toyota its first 500-mile (804-kilometer) race win and only its second victory ever in the CART FedEx Series.

"When I would pass Michael, he would just pass me back and pass me back and pass me back," Montoya said. "Everything was about timing and who would cross the line first.

"I thought we were going to go into the last corner side by side and then there was this guy in front us," the 24-year-old defending CART champion added. "I thought, 'I'm not going to lift. If I'm going to have to hit the guy I'm going to hit him."'

Andretti, a two-time Michigan winner, took the series points lead with his second-place run and was smiling when he said, "(Marques) could have helped me win or help Juan, and he helped Juan. I started to catch his draft coming off the corner. He started to go low and then he went high and allowed Juan to suction up behind him. That's the difference.

"We laid back and saved fuel and the whole bit. We had what we needed to fight at the end and we lost it."

It appeared late in the grueling race that it would be determined not by hard racing but by a fuel economy run, with Helio Castroves leading the way and 1998 winner Adrian Fernandez running second and getting the best mileage.

But Christian Fittipaldi, Andretti's teammate and one of the leaders throughout the race, suddenly veered off the track at high speed on lap 221 and had a frightening ride through the grass on the backstretch.

Although Fittipaldi didn't hit anything in bringing out the fifth and final caution of the race, he got out of the car limping badly and was put on a stretcher and taken to the infield medical center complaining of severe pain in his right leg. CART officials later said his injuries were nothing more than bruises.

The caution period allowed several of the leaders, including Montoya, to pit for fuel and left the rest of the front-runners enough to finish the race without worry. "It was a bit of a joke out there for a while," Andretti said. "We were all conserving fuel and it felt like we shooting a movie out there. But it was OK because it was just setting up what happened at the end."

The spectacular race featured 52 official lead changes - second only to the 62 here two years ago - and unofficially 162 overall. Official lead changes are scored only at the finish line.

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