CHAMPCAR/CART: Cleveland preview

Team Rahal Looks For Triumphant Homecoming At Marconi Grand Prix Of Cleveland Presented By Firstar DETROIT (June 26, 2001) - In the midst of the most successful run in team history, Team Rahal competes in its home state for the first time in ...

Team Rahal Looks For Triumphant Homecoming At Marconi Grand Prix Of Cleveland Presented By Firstar

DETROIT (June 26, 2001) - In the midst of the most successful run in team history, Team Rahal competes in its home state for the first time in 2001 when the FedEx Championship Series travels to the shores of Lake Erie for this weekend's Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by Firstar (1 p.m. ET Sunday, live, ABC-TV).

The Columbus-based Team Rahal, co-owned by three-time FedEx Championship Series champion Bobby Rahal and entertainer David Letterman, has won three of the past four FedEx Championship Series events, an accomplishment unparalleled in the 10-year history of the organization. Kenny Brack (Shell Ford Lola) began the run with back-to-back victories at Japan and Milwaukee - the first two triumphs of his FedEx Championship Series career - before Max Papis (Miller Lite Ford Lola) extended it with his second career victory at Portland last weekend.

Now, Team Rahal and its rivals come to the 2.106-mile temporary road circuit at Burke Lakefront Airport for 20th Cleveland Grand Prix, the ninth of 21 rounds in the 2001 FedEx Championship Series. A victory at Cleveland this weekend would bring a special sense of symmetry to Team Rahal, since it was Bobby Rahal who drove to victory in the inaugural Cleveland Grand Prix in 1982.

As a result of his two victories, and a total of six points-paying finishes in seven completed events, Brack leads the FedEx Championship Series with 76 points. He returns to the site of former success this weekend, having driven to a runner-up finish, the best of his rookie season, at Cleveland last year.

Papis, for his part, comes to Cleveland on a run of four consecutive points-paying finishes, climaxed by last week's victory at Portland. The effort has moved him from 18th to 11th in the championship, with 38 points.

Reigning Indianapolis 500 champion Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske enters the weekend as Brack's closest pursuer, with 69 championship points. He's followed by Michael Andretti (Motorola Honda Reynard) of Team Motorola, one of five former Cleveland champions in this weekend's field, with 53 points.

Newman/Haas Racing teammates Cristiano da Matta (Texaco/Havoline/Kmart Toyota Lola) and Christian Fittipaldi (Kmart Toyota Lola) round out the top five drivers in the championship, with 49 and 46 points, respectively.

Two-time Cleveland Grand Prix champion Alex Zanardi (Pioneer Honda Reynard) of Mo Nunn Racing joins Andretti on the list of former Cleveland winners competing this weekend. He drove to victory at Burke Lakefront Airport in 1997 and '98, and finished second in 1996 in his only other appearance at the venue.

Other former winners in the field include Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) of Team KOOL Green, who won in 1993; Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske (1996) and defending event champion Roberto Moreno (Visteon Toyota Reynard) of Patrick Racing, who claimed the first pole position and victory of his seven-year FedEx Championship Series career at Cleveland last year.

All FedEx Championship Series entries ride on Firestone Tires, the Official Tire of CART.

The Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland is Round 9 of 21 in the 2001 FedEx Championship Series. The series visits seven countries and four continents during the season and climaxes with the season-ending Marlboro 500 Presented by Toyota on Sunday, Nov. 4 at California Speedway in Fontana, Calif. Thanks to a partnership between Marlboro, Toyota, CART and California Speedway, the winner of the season finale will collect $1 million, one of the richest paydays in all of motorsports. An additional $1 million, as well as the prestigious Vanderbilt Cup, will be awarded to the driver who wins the FedEx Championship Series championship.

Following its third event in as many weeks, the FedEx Championship Series takes a week's respite before resuming with Round 10, the Molson Indy, July 13-15 at Exhibition Place in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

WHO'S HOT

* FedEx Championship Series points leader Kenny Brack (Shell Ford Lola) of Team Rahal has scored championship points in five consecutive starts and six of seven during the 2001 season. Included in his current run are his first two FedEx Championship Series career victories, at Japan and Milwaukee, and a runner-up finish at Nazareth. Brack also finished ninth at Detroit and 11th last weekend at Portland and enters this weekend's Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by Firstar as the FedEx Championship Series championship leader, with 76 points. Brack also owns poles at Mexico, Texas and Milwaukee and has started on the front-row in four of seven events this season, including outside poles at Long Beach and Nazareth.

* Michael Andretti (Motorola Honda Reynard) of Team Motorola has claimed four top-eight finishes in his past five starts to move into third place in the FedEx Championship Series with 48 points. The run includes finishes of second at Milwaukee, sixth at Nazareth, fourth at Detroit and eighth at Portland.

* Defending Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by Firstar champion Roberto Moreno (Visteon Toyota Reynard) of Patrick Racing earned a season-best runner-up result at Portland, his second consecutive podium finish, following third at Detroit. He has scored championship points in five of his past six FedEx Championship Series events, including finishes of 10th at Japan, 11th at Long Beach and 12th at Nazareth.

* Christian Fittipaldi (Kmart Toyota Lola) of Newman/Haas Racing recorded his first podium finish of the season when he took third at Portland last weekend. That performance extended a run which has seen him post top-five finishes in four of his past five FedEx Championship Series starts, including fourth at Japan and fifth at Nazareth and Detroit. Last week's podium effort allowed Fittipaldi to improve from 11th to fifth place in the FedEx Championship Series championship, with 46 points.

* Max Papis (Miller Lite Ford Lola) of Team Rahal claimed his second career FedEx Championship Series victory last weekend at Portland, extending a streak which has seen him score championship points in his past four starts. The run began with a sixth-place finish at Japan and was followed by finishes of eighth at Milwaukee and 11th at Detroit.

* Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard) of Team KOOL Green owns top-10 finishes in six of seven FedEx Championship Series starts this season, topped by a runner-up result two weeks ago at Detroit. The run also includes finishes of sixth at Long Beach and Portland, eighth at Nazareth and ninth at Mexico and Milwaukee. He is sixth in the championship with 45 points.

* Rookie Scott Dixon (Powerware Panasonic PacWest Toyota) of the PacWest Racing Group has scored championship points in four of his past five FedEx Championship Series starts, highlighted by his first career victory at Nazareth last month, which made him, at age 20 years, nine months and 14 days, the youngest driver ever to win a major open-wheel race. Dixon, the 2000 Dayton Indy Lights champion, also owns a podium finish of third at Milwaukee and finished seventh at Portland and ninth at Japan. He stands seventh in the championship with 44 points, but is only five behind fourth-place Cristiano da Matta of Newman/Haas Racing (49).

ON THE RIGHT TRACK

* Alex Zanardi (Pioneer Honda Reynard) of Mo Nunn Racing owns two victories (1997, '98) and a runner-up finish in three career starts at Burke Lakefront Airport. He has also started among the top three drivers for all three events, including a pole position in 1997. Zanardi has led at least 30 laps in each of his three career appearances at Cleveland and 130 combined, topped by a race-high 68 in 1998.

* Michael Andretti has recorded six podium finishes in his 15 career starts at Cleveland, including a victory in 1991. He also finished second in 1986, '92 and '98, and third in 1984 and '99. He finished fourth last year, giving him a run of three consecutive top-four finishes. Andretti won the 1989 pole position at Cleveland and has started among the top three drivers six times.

* Defending FedEx Championship Series champion Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske owns four top-six finishes in six starts at Cleveland, including a victory in 1996, the second of his FedEx Championship Series career. He also finished second in 1997 and '99 and sixth in 1998. De Ferran claimed his first career pole position at Cleveland in 1995 and has led a race-high number of laps in three of his six starts at the venue, topped by 67 in 1995.

* Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) of Team KOOL Green has recorded points-paying finishes in five of nine career starts at Cleveland, highlighted by a victory in 1993, when he started on the pole. He also finished third in 1994, fourth in '99, seventh in '97 and ninth in '96.

* Patrick Carpentier (Player's/Indeck Ford Reynard) of Player's Forsythe Racing has scored championship points in all four career starts at Cleveland, topped by a fifth-place finish last year. He also finished seventh in 1999, ninth in '98 and 12th in '97.

* Christian Fittipaldi has scored championship points with four of his past five finishes in Cleveland, taking seventh in 1996, sixth in '97, 11th in '98 and 12th in '99.

* Bryan Herta (Zakspeed/Forsythe Racing Team Ford Reynard) of Zakspeed Forsythe Racing owns a pair of podium finishes in seven career starts at Cleveland, topped by second in 1995 and third in '97. He also finished sixth in 1999 and ninth last year, when he filled in for the injured Tony Kanaan at Mo Nunn Racing.

MANUFACTURING SUCCESS

* Ford has won three of the past four FedEx Championship Series events, getting victories from Kenny Brack at Japan and Milwaukee and Max Papis at Portland. Ford is also the defending champion at Burke Lakefront Airport, site of Roberto Moreno's first career FedEx Championship Series victory last year.

* Honda has won four of the past five FedEx Championship Series events contested at Burke Lakefront Airport. The run consists of victories from Gil de Ferran in 1996, Alex Zanardi in 1997 and '98 and Juan Montoya in 1999. Honda has also claimed five of the past six pole positions at Cleveland, with de Ferran (1995), Jimmy Vasser (1996, '98), Zanardi ('97) and Montoya ('99) doing the honors.

ON THE AIR

* Qualifying for the Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by Firstar will air 6:30 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN2. CART 2Day airs 11 a.m. ET Sunday on ESPN2, while ABC-TV's live race broadcast begins 1 p.m. ET. Twenty of 21 FedEx Championship Series events are being televised live on ABC-TV or ESPN, and 18 are being televised live on Eurosport, a European network that reaches 250 million viewers in 54 countries. Sunday's race will also air on the CART Radio Network and on CART's official website, at www.cart.com .

-CART-

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Max Papis , Roberto Moreno , Bobby Rahal , Patrick Carpentier , Christian Fittipaldi , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Alex Zanardi , Tony Kanaan , Bryan Herta , Kenny Brack , Cristiano da Matta , Mo Nunn
Teams Team Penske , Team Zakspeed