CHAMPCAR/CART: FedEx Championship Series Happenings, 1999-12-22

As the New Year approaches, Spring Training for the drivers and teams of the FedEx Championship Series can't be that far behind. CART's fifth annual Spring Training, highlighted by announcement of the inaugural CART All-Star Team, is ...

As the New Year approaches, Spring Training for the drivers and teams of the FedEx Championship Series can't be that far behind. CART's fifth annual Spring Training, highlighted by announcement of the inaugural CART All-Star Team, is scheduled for February 8-10 at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Fla. Spring Training will begin with the third annual media day on Tuesday, Feb. 8. Previous Media Days have provided the print, electronic and broadcast media who cover the FedEx Championship Series the opportunity to gather preseason interviews, photographs and video with minimal interruption. Media Day will culminate with the announcement of the inaugural CART All-Star Team, selected in balloting by FedEx Championship Series drivers, a select panel of motorsports media and a celebrity panel consisting of actors Anthony Edwards, Tim Allen and baseball Hall of Famer Robin Yount. The top five vote-getters from the 1999 season will be announced during ceremonies Tuesday evening at a site to be determined, and the leading vote-getter will be presented with the Mario Andretti Trophy. Wednesday and Thursday, Feb. 9 and 10, the cars and drivers of the FedEx Championship Series will take to the 1.517-mile Homestead-Miami Speedway oval for two days of testing. The sessions will give competitors an opportunity to measure themselves against their rivals as they prepare for the 2000 FedEx Championship Series season, which begins with the Marlboro Grand Prix of Miami Presented by Toyota, March 26 at Homestead. Defending FedEx Championship Series champion Juan Montoya (Target Toyota Reynard), runner-up Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard) and previous champions Michael Andretti (Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Lola) and Jimmy Vasser (Target Toyota Reynard) are expected to headline a field which that also include Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard), Max Papis (Miller Lite Ford Reynard), Christian Fittipaldi (Big Kmart Ford Lola) and Adrian Fernandez (Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing Ford Reynard) during the two-day Open Test. A detailed schedule will be announced at a later date.

* FOUR-TIME DEFENDING CHAMPIONS BEGIN TESTING

The four-time defending FedEx Championship Series champion Target/Chip Ganassi Racing Team began its off-season testing program last week with three days of workouts on the 1.65-mile road course at Sebring International Raceway. Defending champion Juan Montoya (Target Toyota Reynard) put in 154 miles during the test while teammate Jimmy Vasser (Target Toyota Reynard) totaled 106 and logged the test's top lap time, 51.57 seconds. The tests were the first for the team since switching from Honda to Toyota power for the 2000 FedEx Championship Series season.

"It felt great to be back in the car again," Montoya said. "I couldn't feel any major changes in the car and that's a good sign. I look forward to our next chance to test. I'm very excited about the Toyota engine." Said Vasser: "I was impressed with how well the car and, in particular, the Toyota engine performed. We really have come good momentum heading into 2000 and the new season." Team owner Chip Ganassi said team members and Toyota representatives reached a comfort level quickly. "The Toyota engine was flawless this week - both Jimmy and Juan were very happy," said Ganassi. "I was also pleased with the interaction between our team and the Toyota people, which, at this point, is really just as important as the engine's performance. It's clear that we have the same goal, and we're willing to learn how to work with each other. We went fast, so I have no complaints." The team continues its off-season testing program Jan. 11 at Firebird International Raceway outside Phoenix.

TARGET TEAM FEATURED IN "MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL" OPEN

FedEx Championship Series champion Juan Montoya, as well as Target/Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Jimmy Vasser, team owner Chip Ganassi and partner Joe Montana will be featured in the video introduction to the final NFL Monday Night Football Game of the season, Jan. 3 on ABC-TV. The foursome will be featured in the piece that will air prior to the kickoff between the San Francisco 49ers and the Atlanta Falcons. Previous participants in Monday Night Football's opening teaser have included actors Tom Hanks, Harrison Ford, Bruce Willis and singer Whitney Houston.

PATRICK RACING TESTS AT SEBRING

Tuesday marked the conclusion of Patrick Racing's first test of the off-season as the team's Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing Ford Reynard made its on-track debut at Sebring International Raceway with driver Adrian Fernandez in the cockpit. Fernandez' new teammate, Roberto Moreno, also attended the test to observe and provide input, but did not drive. General Manager Jim McGee says that all the ingredients are in place for a successful season. "The combination of Reynard chassis, Ford-Cosworth engine and Firestone tires should be the most competitive on the track next season," said McGee, owner of the Champ Car record for most wins by a General-Team Manager/Chief Mechanic (86). "Roberto has proved himself to be a good test driver and sorter of information and so has Adrian. We feel with the package, plus the drivers we have on this team, there is no reason we should not finish in the top five next season."

PLAYER'S TEAMMATES CONDUCT FIRST TEST TOGETHER

Player's Forsythe Racing teammates Patrick Carpentier and Alexandre Tagliani completed their first test together Tuesday as they wrapped up a two-day workout on the 1.65-mile road course at Sebring. While Tagliani, a rookie moving up from the Toyota Atlantic ranks, concentrated on adding to his seat time, Carpentier focused on shaking down the team's new Ford Reynard package. Player's Forsythe Racing announced last month that it was switching from Mercedes to Ford power for the 2000 FedEx Championship Series season. "There were a fair number of mechanical problems, such as fuel pickup, which limited our track time, but they were problems you would expect breaking in a new car," Carpentier said afterward. "I can definitely say that the new Ford Cosworth engine produced results that surpassed my expectations. The driveability is a lot different from what I have experienced so far. Even with less downforce, I was able to put in faster times on the straights than I did last year. That's a good sign for next season." Tagliani, meanwhile, is enjoying his first extended stint in a Champ Car. "I think the Player's team is satisfied with my progress so far," he said. "[Monday,] We clocked the second-fastest time of the day [51.8 seconds], and we consistently improved on that [Tuesday]. This [Tuesday] morning, we shattered the 51.3 second mark. We really took full advantage of these tests by putting in more than 200 miles on the track and by using all six sets of tires that we were allotted." Player's Forsythe Racing continues its testing program Jan. 7-8 on the oval at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

GUGELMIN PASSES 600-MILE MARK IN PRE-SEASON TESTING

Two days of testing Monday and Tuesday at Sebring International Raceway moved PacWest Racing Group driver Mauricio Gugelmin over the 600-mile mark in pre-season drills. Gugelmin completed more than 200 miles during his most recent stint in his PacWest Reynard Mercedes. "We accomplished a great deal in just two days, and we learned some good things about the new package," Gugelmin said. "We had a decent run today, pretty much trouble-free, and we were able to put a lot of miles on the engine. All in all, it was a productive two days, and we're ending the year on a positive note." Explained PacWest Vice President of Racing Operations John Anderson: "The object of the test was to put miles on the new chassis and engine, and we accomplished that. We shook down our second Reynard 2KI and the performance of the new Mercedes-Benz [engine] continues to be encouraging. While it's difficult to compare times because teams are using different tire compounds, Mo [Gugelmin] has been consistently as quick or quicker than any of the guys testing with us. Overall, although we still have a lot of testing to do, we're pleased with our progress up to this point."

TEAM RAHAL ANNOUNCES PROMOTIONS

Team Rahal owner Bobby Rahal and general manager Scott Roembke announced last week that five team members had been promoted to new roles for the 2000 FedEx Championship Series season. Larry Ellert, chief mechanic for the Shell Ford Reynard from 1996-99, has become Race Team Manager while Jim Prescott, chief mechanic of the Miller Lite Ford Reynard since the mid-'90s, becomes the shop manager. Ellert's and Prescott's former positions will be filled by Ricardo Nault and Sean Hanrahan, respectively. Both have been with Team Rahal since 1994. Additionally, Ray Leto will give up his duties as a race engineer to become the team's Technical Coordinator, coordinating the team's wind tunnel and aerodynamics program and its 10-person engineering staff. "These promotions show the depth of Team Rahal," said Rahal. "When opportunities present themselves, we are usually able to find the best people for the position within our own organization. Giving these opportunities to individuals already within our team helps us build an impetus that will lead to additional success in years to come."

TICKETS FOR SEASON OPENER ON SALE

Tickets for the season-opening Marlboro Grand Prix of Miami Presented by Toyota. March 24-26 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, went on sale last week. Prices are $10 for Friday practice, $25 for Saturday qualifying and $55-$85 for reserved race-day seating Sunday. Paddock passes are $35. For further information, call (305) 230-RACE or visit www.homesteadmiamispeedway.com .

-CART-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Max Papis , Adrian Fernandez , Roberto Moreno , Bobby Rahal , Patrick Carpentier , Christian Fittipaldi , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Mauricio Gugelmin , Mario Andretti , Chip Ganassi , Joe Montana
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing , Chip Ganassi Racing