CHAMPCAR/CART: Holiday for the drivers

DETROIT (December 17, 2001) - While some Champ Car drivers will be spending at least part of the week prior to Christmas getting acquainted with their 2002 equipment packages, some also have firmed up their plans on how they will spend the...

DETROIT (December 17, 2001) - While some Champ Car drivers will be spending at least part of the week prior to Christmas getting acquainted with their 2002 equipment packages, some also have firmed up their plans on how they will spend the holiday season.

For Team Motorola driver Michael Andretti - the winningest driver in Champ Car history with 41 career triumphs and the only three-time CART FedEx Championship Series All-Star - the holidays are a time to honor family traditions. Andretti traditions include a yearly celebration at the home of his legendary father, Mario, and a New Year's Eve celebration in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania.

"Christmas and the New Year has always been a time for celebration with my family and friends at our house," Michael Andretti said. "We kick off the holidays with a big Christmas celebration at my dad's house on Christmas Day, which marks the start of the parties for the holidays. In 1997, Leslie and I decided to add our own tradition to the holiday season by getting married on Christmas Eve. So now, our anniversary celebration is the beginning of our holiday season.

"We still gather at Dad's for a traditional Christmas Day, where all the children and grandchildren get together to open gifts and enjoy a family Christmas dinner. After we recover from the Christmas Day festivities, we move the party to our lake house in the Pocono Mountains. The entire family goes and we stay until after the New Year. We usually have quite a bit of snow that time of year, so we bring our snowmobiles and ATVs [All Terrain Vehicles] and spend most of our time outdoors racing around the woods. Our friends are in and out all week, but we really gear up for our New Year's Eve party, that is now an annual Andretti event. On New Year's Eve, close to 100 friends join us at the house and we ring in the New Year together."

For Adrian Fernandez, who just wrapped up his first season as the only current owner/driver in the FedEx Championship Series, the holidays will provide a welcome break from the incredibly busy world of Champ Car racing. However, Fernandez will continue to be active despite the fact that he is using the holidays as a vacation.

"I have been going pretty much non-stop since [the season finale at] Fontana, so I am really looking forward to the holidays," Fernandez said. "I started scuba diving [in Australia] this year, so I am headed to Belize. I will be on a boat for a week and I am looking forward to exploring the sea, enjoying the sun, relaxing and getting away from business. Everyone is on a holiday over Christmas, so it is a good time to go away. I am also going to Whistler - near Vancouver, British Columbia - to do some skiing, which is something I haven't done in awhile. It is very beautiful there. I would like to wish everyone a happy and safe holiday, and all the best for the New Year."

While Andretti and Fernandez look to spend at least some of their holiday enjoying winter activities such as skiing and snowmobiling, some of the Brazilian drivers in the FedEx Championship Series plan on enjoying the holidays in more tropical settings.

Newman/Haas Racing driver Christian Fittipaldi plans to spend Christmas at his home in Key Biscayne, Florida, before heading to the Bahamas to ring in the New Year. Fittipaldi's teammate, Cristiano da Matta, has been spending the majority of his time in his Belo Horizonte, Brazil home since he won $1 million first-place prize for capturing the Marlboro 500 Presented by Toyota at California Speedway to close out the 2001 FedEx Championship Series campaign.

After a visit to a Mexico City auto show on behalf of Toyota on Wednesday, da Matta will return to Brazil to participate in a cycling competition between friends that he has been training for over the past few months. Likewise, da Matta's "landlord" in Miami, Tony Kanaan of Mo Nunn Racing has been enjoying the off-season in his native Brazil.

"I'm here in Brazil having fun with my friends," Kanaan said. "I didn't have time to enjoy my friends during the season, and now I'll stay here 40 days and it is a great opportunity to recharge my batteries. I still don't know where I'm going for New Year's Eve. For Christmas, I'll stay with my mother and friends. Each weekend, I'm traveling with my friends to the beaches close to Sao Paulo, around 100 miles. I'm working out every day, just to keep me in shape. That is it. I like to have the opportunity to take advantage of this period without races to have fun and relax."

Perhaps Andretti best sums up the feelings of everyone in the Champ Car community as the holiday season approaches.

"It's been a difficult year for our country and the motorsports family," Andretti said. "As we begin our traditional holiday celebration, we will also be reflecting and thinking of everyone who was affected by the September 11 tragedy, and our thoughts will also be with my friend Alex Zanardi and his family in Italy. We feel very fortunate to be together with our friends and loved ones, and are very thankful for good health and our many blessings. I hope that everyone has a holiday that is as joy filled as we have at the Andrettis."

Championship Auto Racing Teams, Inc. (NYSE: MPH) owns, operates and markets the FedEx Championship Series. Former series champions Michael Andretti (1991) and Jimmy Vasser (1996) are among the stars who will battle for the 2002 FedEx Championship Series title on ovals, temporary street circuits and permanent road courses. The 2002 CART FedEx Championship Series season kicks off March 10 at Monterrey, Mexico and the 19-race schedule will be broadcast by new television partners, CBS and Fox Cable Networks Group, including Speedvision/Speed Channel. CART also owns and operates its top development series, the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship. Learn more about CART's open-wheel racing series at www.cart.com.

-CART-

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Series INDYCAR