CHAMPCAR/CART: Miami Team Players determined to continue success

Homestead, Florida, March 23, 2000 Team Player's has been synonymous with success at the Grand Prix of Miami in recent years, and drivers Patrick Carpentier and Alex Tagliani are determined to keep it that way when the 2000 FedEx CART...

Homestead, Florida, March 23, 2000 Team Player's has been synonymous with success at the Grand Prix of Miami in recent years, and drivers Patrick Carpentier and Alex Tagliani are determined to keep it that way when the 2000 FedEx CART Championship season opens in Homestead on Sunday.

When the two Canadian drivers line up on the starting grid of the 1.502-mile oval, they will be seeking Team Player's third victory in six years at the event, which launches the 20-race season. Jacques Villeneuve took the checkered flag in 1995, the first of four wins on the way to the IndyCar drivers' title. Greg Moore, who earned the pole at Homestead in both 1998 and 1999, won the race last year, after reaching the podium with a second-place finish in 1998.

In the last five Miami races, Team Player's has finished in the points every year. Carpentier has raced at Homestead as a member of Team Player's the last two years, recording an 11th- and 7th-place finish respectively. At last year's event, Carpentier led a lap and was poised to take over the lead later in the race but a pit infraction set him back.

Carpentier, who produced the best season of his CART career in 1999 with nine top-10 finishes, is eager to improve on that performance.

"After an off-season of testing and working hard to get ready for the new season, I'm really looking forward to performing under competitive circumstances," he remarked. "Having the season-opener at Homestead is especially motivating because Team Player's has had outstanding success there. Last year, I was one of the fastest on that track and I think, with the new package we have, I can do even better this time."

Team Player's new package features the Reynard chassis and the Ford Cosworth engine, a combination that produced outstanding results in off-season testing. Champ cars with a Ford Cosworth-powered engine have been on the podium in Miami in each of the last five years and have won the race in three of those years.

While the seasoned Carpentier is confident he can be among the leaders all season long, Tagliani, the CART newcomer, is equally upbeat about his chances in what looms as a hotly contested battle for top rookie honours in the series. Tagliani's main competition is expected to come from Sweden's Kenny Brack.

"My CART debut is certainly one of the high points of my racing career thus far," said the assertive Tagliani, who had six wins and 16 podium finishes in 49 career starts in the Atlantic series, where he competed for four years, including the last three driving for Player's. "I hope I can perform as well as Jacques Villeneuve and Greg Moore did in their rookie CART season with Team Player's."

Villeneuve won top-rookie honours in 1994, a year in which he won the Road America race and finished sixth in the drivers' standings. Moore was the runner-up to Alex Zanardi as the outstanding rookie of 1996. That season, Moore had three podium finishes and was ninth in the drivers' standings.

Racing fans can watch the 150-lap Grand Prix of Miami live on The Sports Network starting at 2 p.m. (ET) on Sunday.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Jacques Villeneuve , Alex Tagliani , Alex Zanardi , Kenny Brack , Greg Moore