National championship drivers to get inside look at PWR Championship
Barber Dodge Pro Series drivers stay active during long layoff.
DETROIT (May 1, 2002) - By invitation of top CART FedEx Championship Series competitors PWR Championship Racing, the entire Formula Dodge National Championship field will tour the Champ Car team's shop complex on the Northwest side of Indianapolis Thursday, May 9. The tour coordinates with Rounds 5 & 6 of the FDNC at Putnam Park Motorsports Complex, about 25 miles west of Indianapolis.
PWR Team Manager Paul "Ziggy" Harcus will lead the tour around the team's 33,000 square foot purpose-built, state-of-the-art facility. Harcus will then field questions from the drivers during a Q&A session. Harcus is a good candidate to speak about coming up the CART Ladder since he used to run PWR's Dayton Indy Lights efforts in the late '90s. He also served as Crew Chief for Al Unser Jr.'s 1990 CART FedEx Championship Series winning season.
PWR Championship Racing (formerly PacWest Racing) is owned by Bruce McCaw and is running its 10th season in the CART FedEx Championship Series. In that time, PWR has scored five victories with three different drivers. Dominic Dobson, Scott Sharp, Danny Sullivan, Mauricio Gugelmin and Mark Blundell have all driven for PWR. Currently, Ladder System graduates and former Dayton Indy Lights Champions Scott Dixon and Oriol Servia drive for the team. Dixon won PWR's most recent race at Nazareth in 2001, becoming the youngest driver in the history of the FedEx Championship to gain a victory at age 20 years, 9 months and 14 days.
In addition to their PWR tour on Thursday, the FDNC drivers will be guests of Racing for Kids on Friday, May 10th at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Racing for Kids, which organizes driver visits to Children's Hospitals, is the official charity of the Skip Barber, LLC and the Barber Dodge Pro Series. The drivers will attend "Happy Hour" and watch CART FedEx Championship Series drivers Michael Andretti, Kenny Brack, Bruno Junqueira, Dario Franchitti, Paul Tracy, Tony Kanaan, Max Papis and Jimmy Vasser during the final practice period before Pole Day on Saturday. Just like some of their Champ Car counterparts, it will be the first trip to the Brickyard for many of the FDNC drivers.
In most lines of work, a two-month break would be most welcome. For race car drivers though, long layoffs can hurt their search for the competitive edge. Drivers in the Barber Dodge Pro Series face this situation with the Sebring (March 17th) and Lime Rock (May 27th) race dates being over two months apart. Before they arrive in Lime Rock for the Memorial Day Classic, however, drivers will have participated in a bevy of racing and non-racing activities.
For Sebring race winner AJ Allmendinger, the time-off certainly has been productive. In addition to working out four times a week, he launched his personal website, tested at Sebring and ran two Stars of Tomorrow races for Paul Tracy Karting. Already looking ahead to 2003, Allmendinger also attended the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach and had discussions with several key Atlantic team owners.
"If nothing else, I can say I was the points leader for two months," joked the 20-year old BDPS rookie from Hollister, California. "Seriously, I am really confident heading into Lime Rock and ready to get back into the seat and try to win two in a row and set the tone for the summer months."
2002 Barber CART Scholarship driver Leo Maia has been similarly busy during this down time in the schedule. Maia has done the usual testing, karting and working out activities like most drivers, but he also found time to learn two new activities - mountain biking and yoga.
"I've had a lot of fun with the mountain biking." commented the 21-year old from Oakland, Calif. now living in Miami. "It really helps build your endurance but it can be a little dangerous. The yoga is good for the mental side of driving a race car. I am confident these extra preparations will help me in Lime Rock and throughout the grueling summer schedule."
Mexican driver Memo Rojas - who finished a disappointing 14th in Sebring due to engine problems - joined Allmendinger and Maia in Pro Series testing in addition to his activities for sponsor Telmex in Mexico. Work aside, Rojas was also busy finishing up final exams for his college degree.
"It certainly has been a long break since Sebring," commented the 22-year old Rojas. "I tried to keep sharp by testing the Pro Series car and running some shifter karts. However, nothing beats the real action of a race, so I am ready to get back at it in Lime Rock."
Championship Auto Racing Teams, Inc. (NYSE: MPH) owns, operates and markets the CART FedEx Championship Series. Former series champions Michael Andretti and Jimmy Vasser are among the stars who will battle for the 2002 FedEx Championship Series title on ovals, temporary street circuits and permanent road courses. CART also owns and operates its top development series, the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship. CART also sanctions the Barber Dodge Pro Series as part of a marketing partnership with Skip Barber, LLC. For more information about the CART Ladder System, log onto www.cart.com and click on the links to the Toyota Atlantic Championship, Barber Dodge Pro Series, Formula Dodge National Championship and Stars of Tomorrow.