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Jubilant Moreno Wins CART Race


Roberto Moreno screamed, cried, sang and celebrated a victory that was 15 years in coming.

The emotional Brazilian dominated Sunday on the way to a win in the Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland, taking the checkered flag for the first time in 70 CART races.

Moreno, whose first CART race came in the New Jersey Meadowlands in June 1985, earned the nickname Supersub over the last few years, filling in for injured and released drivers. He finally got a full-time opportunity with Patrick Racing this year, and has taken full advantage.

He drove into the points lead with a second-place finish the previous Sunday in Portland, Ore., came up with his first career pole Saturday on the 2.106-mile, 10-turn Burke Lakefront Airport road course, then drove away from the field in the 100-lap race.

As he drove his black Ford-powered Reynard slowly around the course after beating runner-up Kenny Brack to the finish line by 0.826-seconds about five car-lengths Moreno started screaming.

When he reached turn one, still hollering at the top of his lungs, Moreno spun the car in a doughnut reminiscent of the on-track celebrations of two-time CART champion Alex Zanardi with black smoke boiling from the tires.

Jim McGee, the general manager of the Patrick team and the man who communicates with Moreno over the radio during the race, had trouble getting in a word of congratulations.

"Roberto did a great job setting the car up," McGee said. "He was just flawless today."

When the 41-year-old Moreno finally scrambled from his car, he raised his right thumb and pumped his right arm in a blur, then turned and leaped into the arms of a crowd of Patrick crewmen.

"It's almost as good as when my daughters were born," the tearful Moreno said. "It's a feeling I cannot describe. It's fantastic.

"That's what happens when they give you a good race car. It's the same setup we had yesterday. We did a little fine tuning. ... This has been great for me. I even got my green card in America this year."

Moreno, whose last victory of any kind came in the European Formula 3000 series in 1988, drove a virtually perfect race, stretching his fuel to make the distance on two pit stops.

The slender, balding Moreno stood on the victory podium with a Brazilian flag draped on his shoulders and even sang a bit of the country's national anthem when a recording could not be found.

He earned the emotional victory by leading 91 laps and building a lead that ranged from nine to 12 seconds before the third and final caution flag of the race waved on lap 78 after rookie Alex Tagliani stopped on course.

Brack, the 1999 Indianapolis 500 winner and a CART rookie, was right behind the leader on the restart on lap 81, but never got a serious run at Moreno.

"We had enough fuel to give him a go, but it just wasn't enough," Brack said.

Cristiano da Matta finished thid, followed by Michael Andretti, Patrick Carpentier and defending series champion Juan Montoya.

Moreno, who swept the maximum 22 points one for the pole, 20 for the win and one for leading the most race laps now leads Andretti 90-68 after nine of 20 races. Gil de Ferran, who failed to score points after dropping out with a brake problem, fell to third with 67.

Moreno is the eighth driver to win this season.

CART officials attempted to control the often contentious start of the Cleveland race on the wide-open runways and taxiways of the airport circuit by narrowing the entrance to the first turn with a series of cones. But it still looked like a cavalry charge, with some cars four-wide moments after taking the green flag.

Not surprisingly, there was a multi-car crash on the first turn, with many of the 25 starters banging off each other like pinballs. Several, including Montoya, drove through the grass to avoid the spinning, crashing melee.

Most of the drivers involved in the crash were able to continue, but Helio Castroneves, who won his first CART race last month in Detroit, was done for the day, along with Michel Jourdain Jr., rookie Oriol Servia, Tarso Marques and rookie Takuya Kurosawa. There were no injuries.

The green flag came back out for the start of lap seven, but Dario Franchitti passed Mark Blundell for 11th place on lap 12 and Blundell slid off track and slammed into a tire barrier after locking up his brakes while trying to repass Franchitti. Blundell was able to make a pit stop under yellow and continue.

A big crowd, estimated at 60,000, showed up for the race that was at one time last year canceled, to be replaced with an oval event featuring the rival Indy Racing League. But CART and promoter IMG were able to overcome financial hurdles and wound up putting the road race back on the schedule for the 19th consecutive year.

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