FedEx CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES HAPPENINGS
Notes and Quotes from Championship Auto Racing Teams, December 6, 2001
Four young drivers will receive one of the biggest opportunities of their budding careers next Monday, December 10, when they test Team Rahal's Lola Ford Champ Car at Firebird International Raceway outside Phoenix. Scott Speed, Matt Jaskol, Colin Fleming and Chris Carmody received the rare opportunity through the CART "Stars of Tomorrow" karting program.
Each of the four drivers qualified for the Champ Car test by finishing first or second in either the 125cc SuperPro Kart or Rotax Max class during the 2001 "Stars of Tomorrow" series. The "Stars of Tomorrow" program, now in its second year, is the first rung on the CART Ladder System of driver development, which provides a clear and defined path to the FedEx Championship Series.
In 2001, the "Stars of Tomorrow" series consisted of four races, with karters collecting points at each event to qualify toward the Champ Car test. In preparation for Monday's activities, all four drivers participated in a three-day Skip Barber Racing School to help get them ready for the experience of driving a turbocharged, 900-horsepower Champ Car.
As overall winner of the 125cc "Stars of Tomorrow" SuperPro class, Speed earned a full season ride, worth $45,000, in the Skip Barber Formula Dodge National Championship, in addition to his Champ Car test. The "Stars of Tomorrow" program will expand to regional and national competitions in 2002, building toward a national championship finale in Las Vegas next November.
* TWO-TIME SERIES CHAMP DE FERRAN SELECTED DRIVER OF THE QUARTER
Two-time FedEx Championship Series Gil de Ferran of Marlboro Team Penske was named the top driver of the fourth quarter of 2001 in recent balloting by a nationwide panel of motorsports journalists. De Ferran collected eight of a possible 16 first-place votes and totaled 99 points to claim the top spot in the quarterly balloting. He finished 31 points ahead of National Hot Rod Association Top Fuel driver Kenny Bernstein, who was second with 68 points. De Ferran's strong fourth-quarter performance concluded his run to a second consecutive FedEx Championship Series championship, making him one of only four drivers ever to achieve that distinction. He earned back-to-back victories at England and Houston, a runner-up result at Vancouver and a third-place effort at Laguna Seca and scored championship points in all seven of the events contested during the span. "I made a step and I've got one to go," de Ferran said when learning of his selection. "I came from not being on the list at all to having won a quarterly vote, which is, to me, a great honor. Hopefully, I'll get the bigger prize [the Driver of the Year Award] next year."
De Ferran joins Rick Mears (1981, '82), Bobby Rahal (1986, '87) and Alex Zanardi (1997, '98) as back-to-back CART champions. He led the series with eight podium finishes and scored championship points in the final 10 events of the season, the longest streak of the FedEx Championship Series campaign. Four-time Winston Cup champion Jeff Gordon was selected to receive the Driver of the Year Award, becoming the first to claim the honor four times.
* PLAYER'S TEAM CONDUCTS FIRST OFF-SEASON TEST
Player's Forsythe Racing launched its off-season testing program at Sebring International Raceway Wednesday, as Alex Tagliani took to the track in a 2001 version of the team's Ford-powered Reynard. The test continues today, while the team prepares to accept delivery of its first 2002 Reynard chassis at its Indianapolis race shop next Monday. Tagliani returns to the track with considerable momentum following back-to-back podium finishes of third in the final two events of the 2001 FedEx Championship Series season, at Australia and California Speedway. "Looking back, I feel the most positive thing about our season was that we were competitive on every type of circuit, and it's very rare in the CART series that a team can be that consistent," said Tagliani, noting that either he or teammate Patrick Carpentier recorded a podium result in seven of the final 12 events of the 2001 campaign. "Because of this consistency, we'll be able to concentrate on the little things in off-season testing, rather than having to work on simply finding the proper set-ups." Carpentier will conduct the team's first test of its 2002 car on Dec. 18-19 at Sebring.
* CAMPOS CLAIMS FORMULA DODGE CROWN
Native Brazilian Julio Campos claimed the 2001 Formula Dodge National Championship at Daytona International Speedway last weekend, and in the process, claimed the Barber CART Big Scholarship Award, entitling him to a fully funded season in the 2002 Barber Dodge Pro Series, worth $185,000. Campos, who edged American A.J. Allmendinger by two points to win the award, becomes the first ever CART National Amateur Champion. Another fully funded ride in the 2002 Barber Dodge Pro Series will be awarded to the driver who emerges from a runoff between the second through eighth-place finishers in the Formula Dodge championship. The runoff begins today and continues through Friday on the modified road course at Sebring International Raceway. In addition to series runner-up Allmendinger, participants include fellow Americans Landon Yee, Scott Presti, Dan Kraus, Leo Maia, Canadian Dan Di Leo and Peruvian Juan Manual Polar. Drivers are being judged on speed, set-up ability, adaptability and communication skills by a panel of judges which includes FedEx Championship Series driver Bryan Herta and CART Chief Steward Chris Kneifel.
* FERNANDEZ RACING HIRES NEW TEAM MANAGER
Fernandez Racing announced Tuesday that it had hired motorsports veteran Bob Adie to become team manager as the team prepares for its second season of competition in the FedEx Championship Series. Adie will work alongside Managing Director and co-owner Tom Anderson in the day-to-day operation of the 40-member team, which campaigns veteran Adrian Fernandez and third-year driver Shinji Nakano in the FedEx Championship Series. The 48-year-old Adie, a native of Cleveland, owns more than 25 years of motorsports experience in the Champ Cars, Formula 5000, Formula Atlantic and IMSA ranks. He managed the sub-assembly shop at Target Chip Ganassi Racing, where Anderson served as Managing Director, from 1993 through 1999. "Looking back on the first year of operations, you have to look at the deficiencies and assess the areas that you are lease successful in order to become a stronger, healthier team for the second year," Anderson explained. "One area that we were distracted in was the team manager position. I think [that] adding a person with over 25 years of experience in motor racing brings a lot of credibility to the job, and Bob Adie will certainly bring that with his knowledge of the industry." Said Adie: "It's great to be back with Tom again. Having worked with him for seven years, we already have a rapport established which makes this transition easier. I am looking forward to the challenges of this position and to helping the team achieve its goals next season."