CHAMPCAR/CART: FedEx Championship Series Happenings, 7/28/99

FedEx CHAMPIONSHP SERIES HAPPENINGS Notes and Quotes from Championship Auto Racing Teams, July 28, 1999 The recent success of native Brazilians in the FedEx Championship Series has put the United States' dominance of the Nation's Cup...

FedEx CHAMPIONSHP SERIES HAPPENINGS Notes and Quotes from Championship Auto Racing Teams, July 28, 1999

The recent success of native Brazilians in the FedEx Championship Series has put the United States' dominance of the Nation's Cup championship in definite peril.

Behind victories in three of the past five events, the Brazilians have taken a 187-153 points lead over both Canada and the United States in the Nation's Cup, which has been won by the U.S. in each of its four years of existence.

Points in the Nation's Cup competition are scored according to the same scale used to determine the PPG Cup winner (20-16-14-12-10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1), but only the highest-finishing driver representing a given nation scores at any event. Single points are also awarded to the nation whose driver wins the pole position or leads the most laps.

Thanks to victories by Gil de Ferran (Valvoline/Cummins Special Honda Reynard) at Portland; Christian Fittipaldi (Big Kmart Ford Swift) at Road America and Tony Kanaan (McDonald's Championship Racing Team Honda Reynard) at Michigan, Brazil has put itself in a position to win its first Nation's Cup. Brazil's best finish in the competition to date is second in 1996 and '97.

Brazil has recorded a podium finish in each of the past eight FedEx Championship Series events, dating to the May 15 GP Telemar Rio 200, where Fittipaldi finished third. In addition to the victories mentioned above, the streak also includes finishes of second by Helio Castro-Neves (Hogan Motor Leasing, Inc. Mercedes Lola) at Gateway, third by de Ferran at Milwaukee, second by de Ferran at Cleveland and third by Fittipaldi at Toronto.

De Ferran also scored for Brazil with a runner-up effort at Japan, and the country has received pole position points from de Ferran at Japan and Toronto, Kanaan at Long Beach, Fittipaldi at Brazil and Castro-Neves at Milwaukee. Kanaan received the laps led point at Long Beach and de Ferran earned it at Portland.

This year's contingent of Brazilian drivers also includes Mauricio Gugelmin (Hollywood PacWest Mercedes), Roberto Moreno (Motorola PacWest Mercedes), Cristiano da Matta (MCI WorldCom Toyota Reynard), Gualter Salles (AAR Denso/Castrol Toyota Eagle), Tarso Marques (Marlboro Mercedes Penske) and Luiz Garcia Jr. (The Tang Car Ford Reynard). In all, 10 native Brazilians have started multiple events during the FedEx Championship Series season.

* MARLBORO TEAM PENSKE TESTS RODRIGUEZ

Formula 3000 driver Gonzalo Rodriguez participated in a Goodyear tire test for Marlboro Team Penske at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course Tuesday. Rodriguez tested the Marlboro Mercedes Lola in preparation for an anticipated start in the Aug. 8 Tenneco Automotive Grand Prix of Detroit at The Raceway on Belle Isle, where he would team with Al Unser Jr. (Marlboro Mercedes Lola) in a two-car Penske entry. "As I outlined at Spring Training [in early February], our plan for this year was to test a series of young drivers as we continue our development program and prepare for the 2000 season," said team owner Roger S. Penske.

"Gonzalo tested for us at Sebring in March and he did a good job for us," Penske added. "Unfortunately, due to his racing schedule, we haven't had the opportunity to run him since then. Now that there is a break in his series, he's going to test for us again and we plan to run him in Detroit." Rodriguez, a Uruguayan, currently stands second in the Formula 3000 championship. His season has been highlighted by a victory at Monaco and runner-up effort at Barcelona. He recorded two victories and four podium finishes en route to a runner-up finish in last year's Formula 3000 championship. He is also a veteran of British Formula 3, British Formula Renault and Formula Ford competition.

* PAPIS' CREW LEADS CRAFTSMAN CHALLENGE

Through 12 rounds of the 1999 FedEx Championship Series, the crew of the Miller Lite Ford Reynard driven by Max Papis holds the lead in the inaugural Craftsman Pit Crew Challenge, which will award $50,000 to the top pit crew in the series at season's end. Papis' Team Rahal crew has accumulated 121 points and holds a 20-point lead over the crew for Greg Moore (Player's Forsythe Racing Team Mercedes Reynard), which totals 101 points. Points are awarded according to the same scale used to determine the FedEx Championship Series champion, based on total time spent in the pits at each event. The crew for rookie Juan Montoya (Target Honda Reynard), the FedEx Championship Series leader, is currently third with 94 points, followed by the crew for Michael Andretti (Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Swift) with 85 points. Points will be accumulated through the first 19 events of the season, and the top four teams will compete in a specially staged pit stop competition at the season-ending Marlboro 500 Presented by Toyota at California Speedway to determine the winner of the $50,000 grand prize.

* KANAAN ADDS TO LIGHTS' LAURELS

Tony Kanaan's win in Sunday's U.S. 500 Presented by Toyota added to an already impressive resume for graduates of the PPG-Dayton Indy Lights Championship. The 1997 series champion, Kanaan (McDonald's Championship Racing Team Honda Reynard) is the sixth Indy Lights graduate to win a CART Champ car race. His victory marked the 28th for a series grad in the FedEx Championship Series. Other Indy Lights graduates who have been victorious in FedEx Championship Series events are Paul Tracy (1990 Indy Lights champion), Adrian Fernandez (1992 Indy Lights Rookie of the Year), Bryan Herta (1993 Indy Lights champion), Greg Moore (1995 Indy Lights champion) and the retired Andre Ribeiro (1994 Indy Lights Rookie of the Year).

* HONDA INDY WINS TOURISM AWARD

The Honda Indy, CART's annual visit to Australia, recently won the "Major Festivals and Special Events" category at the annual Queensland Tourism Awards for the third time. The 1998 event was the most successful ever, drawing a crowd of 246,000 and injecting $53.7 million into the Queensland economy, according to Honda Indy General Manager Geoff Jones. "To win this award for the third time really is a great credit to our entire team," Jones said. "Every year we face new challenges, and it certainly was no different last year with a change of dates [from April to October] and a decline in the Australian dollar against the U.S. currency. Our management team, our staff and our 1,400 volunteers all gave 120 percent to create the best event ever. We are proud to have led the way for the Gold Coast and been such a major contributor to the Queensland economy." The Honda Indy previously won the Queensland Tourism Award in 1991, its inaugural year, and 1994. This year's Honda Indy 300, Round 19 of the FedEx Championship Series, is scheduled for Oct. 15-17.

* ANDREW CRAIG TO WAVE GREEN FLAG

CART Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Andrew Craig will serve as the honorary starter for Sunday's BladeAmerica fundraiser benefiting the March of Dimes on Detroit's Raceway at Belle Isle. BladeAmerica invites in-line skaters of all skill levels to enjoy their favorite pastime on the same layout where the Champ Cars will compete a week later in the Tenneco Automotive Grand Prix of Detroit. Pepsi and The Sports Authority will serve as sponsors of the event, which runs from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Proceeds will help support local community projects designed to reach young women who might not have access to health care, including Detroit-based Alternatives for Girls.

* SERIES LEADERS

FedEx Championship Series points and earnings leaders heading into the Aug. 8 Tenneco Automotive Grand Prix of Detroit on The Raceway at Belle Isle:

FedEx Championship Series Points for the PPG Cup

1.  Juan Montoya, Target/Chip Ganassi Racing    129
2.  Dario Franchitti, Team KOOL Green           116
3.  Michael Andretti, Newman/Haas Racing        107
4.  Christian Fittipaldi, Newman/Haas Racing    101
5.  Adrian Fernandez, Patrick Racing             95

FedEx Championship Series Earnings

1.  Juan Montoya, Target/Chip Ganassi Racing    $594,750
2.  Dario Franchitti, Team KOOL Green           $453,750
3.  Michael Andretti, Newman/Haas Racing        $411,000
4.  Christian Fittipaldi, Newman/Haas Racing    $409,250
5.  Paul Tracy, Team KOOL Green                 $378,500

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Al Unser Jr. , Gil de Ferran , Michael Andretti , Max Papis , Adrian Fernandez , Tarso Marques , Roberto Moreno , Christian Fittipaldi , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Tony Kanaan , Chip Ganassi , Andre Ribeiro , Greg Moore , Cristiano da Matta , Luiz Garcia , Gonzalo Rodriguez
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing