CHAMPCAR/CART: Long Beach; Juan Montoya eager to return to site of 1st CART victory

Long Beach, Calif. -- Since 1996, the team claiming the checkered flag at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach has gone on to win the CART FedEx Championship Series title. In each case, that team has been Target/Chip Ganassi Racing. ...

Long Beach, Calif. -- Since 1996, the team claiming the checkered flag at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach has gone on to win the CART FedEx Championship Series title. In each case, that team has been Target/Chip Ganassi Racing. The team's first taste of success on the streets of Long Beach came in 1996 when Jimmy Vasser took the checkered flag en route to the CART championship. Former Team Target driver Alex Zanardi followed suit in 1997 and 1998. In 1999, a 23-year-old rookie named Juan Montoya, thrilled to be driving on his first CART street course, took the Long Beach checkered flag. The momentum from that win propelled him to six additional race victories and the team's fourth consecutive CART title. With its off-season package and personnel changes and one race under its belt, Team Target is relishing a return to lucky Long Beach. "When I won here last year, Jimmy Vasser came up to me and said, 'Congrats, welcome to the club,'" said Montoya, who has finished fourth or better in 10 of his 21 CART races. "That's when I realized just how special Team Target is and how good they've been over the years. That was a pretty amazing feeling to win and keep our team's streak going at Long Beach. I'm really looking forward to racing here again and going for No. 5." Vasser, the man responsible for starting the Long Beach and CART championship streaks, is confident his team can earn another win on the Pacific Shore. "It seems like such a long time ago that I won the Grand Prix of Long Beach," said Vasser, whose best finish at Long Beach since then was eighth in 1998. "I can't believe Team Target has already won three times here since my victory. I'm thinking of this race like it's my Long Beach five-year class reunion, and I plan to be the life of the party. It would be great to get a win here and give Team Target five straight. The Toyota-Lola has been running extremely well and the team is really clicking, so there's no reason we can't have a great race." Knowing the historical significance of winning at Long Beach, team owner Chip Ganassi believes Sunday's race is important, but not do-or-die. "Long Beach has been a springboard for our team the past four years," Ganassi said. "This race is always early in the season and has given us confidence that we have a competitive package and the ability to win. Obviously, if we don't win here, it's not the end of the world. It's a long season, but it would be pretty nice to get our fifth straight. It would also be great to give Toyota its first series win at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. We're running very well, so only time will tell." It's no guarantee that the winner at Long Beach will go on to claim the series title, but Montoya doesn't want to take any chances. "Can someone win the series without winning in Long Beach? Probably, but I don't really want to find out the answer to that this year," Montoya said. "It was such a great feeling to cross that finish line last year in first place...I sometimes dream about that at night. I'm hoping my dream can come true again on Sunday."

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Jimmy Vasser , Alex Zanardi , Chip Ganassi
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing