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Big Names Driving Off in Different Directions

Motor racing: Montoya, Vasser and Andretti are among those who will be changing paths after Marlboro 500.


FONTANA — Racing fans of CART champ cars will get their final look at many old favorites in familiar colors this weekend when the Marlboro 500 closes the season at California Speedway.

Juan Montoya, the 1999 CART champion and 2000 Indianapolis 500 winner, will bow out as Chip Ganassi's driver after the race to advance his career in Formula One. Jimmy Vasser, Montoya's teammate and 1996 series champion, will also be leaving Ganassi, destination unknown.

Michael Andretti, CART's leading active driver, is parting company with Carl Haas and Paul Newman after 10 years to move on to Team Green in 2001. There, he will be a teammate of Canadian Paul Tracy and Scotsman Dario Franchitti.

Two of CART's most prominent car owners, Bobby Rahal and Barry Green, are also moving to Formula One, although both are planning to maintain a hold on their U.S. teams. Rahal, who has also been acting as CART's interim president, is taking over as head of Jaguar's F1 team. Green will handle similar duties for the British American Racing team.

CART's $2-million weekend will get underway today when 26 drivers take their turbocharged open-wheel cars onto the two-mile D-shaped oval for the first round of practice for Sunday's Marlboro 500.

One $1-million prize will go to the winner of the 250-lap race. The other $1 million will go the season champion, which will be determined by finishing positions in Sunday's race. Gil de Ferran of Brazil, in a Roger Penske-owned Reynard-Honda, holds a five-point lead over Adrian Fernandez of Mexico, in a Pat Patrick-owned Reynard-Ford Cosworth.

Fernandez is defending champion.

Also in contention for the championship are Tracy, rookie Kenny Brack of Sweden and Roberto Moreno of Brazil.

After two practice sessions today, CART cars will qualify Saturday at 10:45 a.m. One point in the championship standings will go to the pole winner.

One record sure not to be broken is the one-lap speed of 240.150 mph set in the inaugural 1997 race by Brazilian Mauricio Gugelmin. Rule changes have greatly reduced speeds.

Entries include more Brazilians than Americans. There are five U.S. drivers--former Marlboro 500 winner Vasser, Andretti, Memo Gidley, Alex Barron and rookie Casey Mears of Bakersfield, making his first champ car start.

Mears will also drive in the Indy Lights race, which will also determine the champion. Scott Dixon of New Zealand, Townsend Bell of Costa Mesa and Mears are all in contention. The Lights race will be run Sunday morning, before the 500.

The Brazilian entry of nine includes de Ferran and Moreno, Helio Castroneves, Luiz Garcia Jr., Tarso Marques, Tony Kanaan, Cristiano da Matta and Fittipaldi and Gugelmin.

Qualifying for the weekend's third race, for NASCAR Craftsman Trucks, is set for today. The trucks race Saturday at 1 p.m.

Greg Biffle of Vancouver, Wash., a member of Jack Roush's stable of NASCAR drivers, has already clinched the truck championship.


Weekend Race Facts


* 12:45 p.m. NASCAR Craftsman Truck qualifying.

* 2 p.m. CART practice.


* 10:45 a.m. CART qualifying.

* 1 p.m. NASCAR Craftsman Truck race.

* 4 p.m. Indy Lights qualifying.


* 9:30 a.m. Indy Lights race.

* 11:30 a.m. Marlboro 500.

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