CHAMPCAR/CART: FedEx Championship Series Notes 1999-08-25

As another indication of its commitment to a "ladder system" for driver development, CART is serving as an official sponsor of the 1999 MOMO Grand Prix, scheduled for this weekend at the Irvine Spectrum Center in Irvine, Calif. The...

As another indication of its commitment to a "ladder system" for driver development, CART is serving as an official sponsor of the 1999 MOMO Grand Prix, scheduled for this weekend at the Irvine Spectrum Center in Irvine, Calif. The MOMO Grand Prix will feature some of the top kart racers in North America competing at top speeds of more than 115 miles per hour for thousands of dollars in prize money, racing products and trophies. The list of current FedEx Championship Series who began their racing careers in karting is extensive. It includes names like Juan Montoya (Target Honda Reynard), Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard), Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard), Greg Moore (Player's Forsythe Racing Team Ltd. Mercedes Reynard), Gil de Ferran (Valvoline/Cummins Special Honda Reynard), Max Papis (Miller Lite Ford Reynard), Bryan Herta (Shell Ford Reynard), Richie Hearn (Budweiser Toyota Reynard) and Helio Castro-Neves (Hogan Motor Leasing, Inc. Mercedes Reynard). "Karting is where you will find many of the open-wheel champions of tomorrow," CART President and Chief Executive Officer Andrew Craig said. "We hope we will see competitors in this year's MOMO Grand Prix competing in Atlantics, Indy Lights and Champ Cars in the future." When it became a public company last year, CART purchased the PPG-Dayton Indy Lights series and the KOOL/Toyota Atlantic series with the idea of implementing a "ladder system" for the development of FedEx Championship Series drivers. History has shown karting to be a viable first rung on that ladder. One of the highlights of the MOMO Grand Prix will be a celebrity race, featuring FedEx Championship Series drivers Robby Gordon of Team Gordon and Alex Barron of Marlboro Team Penske and Hearn, as well as actors Alfonso Ribeiro, Grant Show, Sean Patrick Flanery and former Olympic decathlon champion Bruce Jenner. The race is scheduled for Saturday at 1 p.m. PT. The MOMO Grand Prix will be broadcast on ESPN or ESPN2 at a later date.

* THE MONEY PIT Heading into the final quarter of the FedEx Championship Series season, pit crews are scrambling to position themselves for a chance at the top prize of $50,000 in the inaugural Craftsman Pit Crew Challenge. Through 15 of 20 rounds in the championship, the crew for the Miller Lite Ford Reynard driven by Max Papis has accumulated 141 points and holds a 15-point lead over the crew for rookie Juan Montoya (Target Honda Reynard), which stands second with 126 points. Points are awarded according to the same scale used to determine the FedEx Championship Series champion, but based on total time spent in the pits at each event. 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 presented by Craftsman. The crew for Greg Moore (Player's Forsythe Racing Ltd. Mercedes Reynard) currently stands third with 123 points, followed by the crew for Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard), which is fourth with 113 points. Still well positioned for a run at the top four positions are the crews for Michael Andretti (Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Swift), with 107 points; Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard), with 102 points; Christian Fittipaldi/Roberto Moreno (Big Kmart Ford Swift), with 97 points and Jimmy Vasser (Target Honda Reynard) with 93 points.

* AAR TABS BOESEL, MONTERMINI All American Racers announced Tuesday that Andrea Montermini will pilot the team's AAR Denso/Castrol Toyota Eagle in the Sept. 5 Molson Indy Vancouver and Raul Boesel will drive the car in the FedEx Championship Series season finale, the Oct. 31 Marlboro 500 Presented by Toyota at California Speedway. Boesel made his debut with the team last weekend in Chicago and scored a PPG Cup point with a 12th-place finish. He is in his 13th year of FedEx Championship Series competition and ranks seventh on the CART career list with 171 career starts. Montermini made a combined 11 starts during the 1993 and '94 FedEx Championship Series seasons, with a top finish of fourth at Detroit in 1993. In his most recent series start, he finished ninth in the 1994 season finale at Laguna Seca. All American Racers has made no announcement regarding drivers for the season's remaining events at Laguna Seca, Houston and Australia.

* ON-LINE AUCTION THRIVING

Three-time defending FedEx Championship Series champion Target/Chip Ganassi Racing is e-merging as a leader again ... this time as the leading donor to CART Charities Internet auction on CART's website. Among the big-ticket items the team has donated were lap sponsorship (replete with all the hospitality frills) at the inaugural Target Grand Prix Presented by Shell and a limited-edition team jacket signed by team owner Chip Ganassi, Juan Montoya (Target Honda Reynard) and Jimmy Vasser (Target Honda Reynard). The month-old Internet auction is the first fund-raising effort for CART Charities. CART Charities, kicked off in Miami during the opening weekend of the FedEx Championship Series season, will benefit two charities close to the CART Community's heart: The Buoniconti Fund and the Championship Auto Racing Auxiliary (CARA). Nudging Target/Chip Ganassi Racing for the top step on the CART Charities podium is Newman/Haas Racing - which, among other items, donated a fire suit signed by team co-owners Carl Haas and Paul Newman, as well as drivers Michael Andretti (Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Swift) and Christian Fittipaldi (Big Kmart Ford Swift) before Mario Andretti upped the ante by offering a pace car ride at Laguna Seca to a lucky bidder. Also stepping up is MCI, which donated a weekend's worth of credentials, seats and hospitality to the inaugural Target Grand Prix Presented by Shell and even tossed in two tickets to an invitation-only ESPN Zone Celebrity Party. Look for Cristano de Matta's (MCI WorldCom Toyota Reynard) firesuit to come on the block soon. Bidders may place their bids and check the progress of the auction by visiting www.cart.com and clicking on the shopping link. This Internet race for charity isn't even close to checkering for its first round ... Keep an eye out for another CART team to drive thru and attempt to sweep the High Donor laurels.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Robby Gordon , Gil de Ferran , Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Raul Boesel , Max Papis , Roberto Moreno , Christian Fittipaldi , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Bryan Herta , Richie Hearn , Alex Barron , Mario Andretti , Paul Newman , Andrea Montermini , Carl Haas , Chip Ganassi , Bruce Jenner , Greg Moore
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing