De Ferran went hell for leather at Portland, and made it pay off. (LAT archive)
The art of saving fuel has increasingly become a necessary part of the racer's art, but on rare occasions it is possible to take the opposite approach and come out ahead. Such was the case 13 years ago today in the Budweiser/G.I. Joe's 200 at Portland International Raceway, where Gil de Ferran and Derrick Walker (LEFT) threw caution to the wind, and won.
De Ferran and his Walker Racing Reynard-Honda had been behind the 8-ball for much of the 1999 Champ Car World Series season because of their Goodyear tires, which lacked the pace of the more widely used Firestones. At Portland, too, de Ferran was low-key in the early stages while Helio Castroneves (Hogan Racing) and Juan-Pablo Montoya (Target Chip Ganassi) built a gap to the rest of the field until the Brazilian retired with a mechanical failure.
This left Montoya – in the midst of a spectacular rookie season with Ganassi that would culminate in a championship title – with a big lead, but a quick spin on a restart for the Colombian enabled de Ferran to grab the lead. While Montoya and the Team Green cars of Dario Franchitti and Paul Tracy subsequently opted to cut their pace to conserve fuel in order to meet planned fuel windows, de Ferran and Walker went flat-out and built up a big enough lead to make a third pit stop for fuel and still come out in front of Montoya. The Brazilian held on to win by 4.4sec.