CHAMPCAR/CART: Milwaukee preview

Indy 500 Champion Castroneves Paces FedEx Championship Series Drivers To Milwaukee Mile For Miller Lite 225 DETROIT (May 30, 2001) - Fresh off an impressive top-five sweep at the Indianapolis 500 spearheaded by newly crowned champion Helio ...

Indy 500 Champion Castroneves Paces FedEx Championship Series Drivers To Milwaukee Mile For Miller Lite 225

DETROIT (May 30, 2001) - Fresh off an impressive top-five sweep at the Indianapolis 500 spearheaded by newly crowned champion Helio Castroneves, CART's version of the "Fab Five" - which also includes runner-up Gil de Ferran, Michael Andretti, Jimmy Vasser and rookie Bruno Junqueira - returns to the FedEx Championship Series for Round 6, the Miller Lite 225 (4 p.m. ET Sunday, live, ABC-TV) at The Milwaukee Mile, with an eye on positioning themselves in the season-long title race.

Powered by Marlboro Team Penske's one-two finish, CART-based competitors dominated Sunday's Indy 500 in a manner befitting the most competitive open-wheel racing series in the world. Castroneves brought team owner Roger Penske his record-11th Indy 500 triumph, and was followed to the checkered flag by Marlboro Team Penske teammate de Ferran, Andretti, Vasser and Junqueira, respectively.

Now Castroneves and company have their sights set on The Milwaukee Mile at the Wisconsin State Fairgrounds, where the sixth of 21 rounds in the 2001 championship will be contested this weekend. Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard), who followed 1999 CART champion Juan Montoya as the second consecutive Indy 500 rookie to win the prestigious event, comes in looking to improve his second-place standing in the championship. He trails the FedEx Championship Series leader Kenny Brack of Team Rahal by two points, 49-47.

Vasser (Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard), defending FedEx Championship Series champion de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) and Andretti (Motorola Honda Reynard) are all ranked among the top 10 championship contenders.

Brack (Shell Ford Lola), the 1999 Indy 500 champion, captured the series lead on the strength of his first career FedEx Championship Series victory at Motegi, Japan on May 19. That victory gave Brack back-to-back podium finishes - he finished runner-up to rookie Scott Dixon (Powerware Panasonic Toyota Reynard) at Nazareth - and moved him into the championship lead.

Though Brack will be looking for his first scoring performance at Milwaukee - he finished 14th during his rookie season last year - he owns an impressive FedEx Championship Series performance record on one-mile ovals. Brack finished third at Nazareth and fourth at Chicago last year, and second at Nazareth this year. He has scored championship points in eight of 11 FedEx Championship Series career starts on ovals, including the last five.

With 47 championship points, Castroneves trails Brack by two. He has scored in 11 of his past 12 starts, dating to a victory at Mid-Ohio last season.

Cristiano da Matta (Texaco/Havoline/Kmart Toyota Lola) of Newman/Haas Racing, Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) of Team KOOL Green and Vasser are tied behind Brack and Castroneves at 40 points each. All three own mile-oval victories, da Matta at Chicago last year; Tracy at Nazareth in 1994 and '97 and Milwaukee in '95 and '99; and Vasser and Nazareth and Milwaukee in '98.

De Ferran stands sixth in the championship with 30 points and owns a mile-oval triumph at Nazareth last year, the 100th in the storied history of Penske Racing. Andretti, meanwhile, is 10th in the championship with 20 points, but brings a stellar career record to Milwaukee, with 11 top-five finishes in 16 career starts at the venue, including victories in 1986, '87, '91, '92 and '96.

Toyota-powered drivers have captured the past three FedEx Championship Series events contested on one-mile ovals, dating to Montoya's victory at Milwaukee last year. All of this weekend's competitors will ride on Firestone tires, the Official Tire of CART.

The Miller Lite 225 is Round 6 of 21 in the 2001 FedEx Championship Series. The series visits seven countries and four continents during the season and climaxes with the season-ending Marlboro 500 Presented by Toyota on Sunday, Nov. 4 at California Speedway in Fontana, Calif. Thanks to a partnership between Marlboro, Toyota, CART and California Speedway, the winner of the season finale will collect $1 million. An additional $1 million, as well as the prestigious Vanderbilt Cup, will be awarded to the driver who wins the FedEx Championship Series championship.

Following the Miller Lite 225, the FedEx Championship Series takes a weekend off before beginning a streak of six races in seven weeks with Round 7, the Tenneco Automotive Grand Prix of Detroit, June 15-17 at The Raceway on Belle Isle.

WHO'S HOT

* FedEx Championship Series points leader Kenny Brack (Shell Ford Lola) of Team Rahal owns podium finishes in each of his past two FedEx Championship Series starts, including his first career victory on May 19 at Japan. He also finished second at Nazareth and has scored championship points in eight of his 11 career starts on ovals. With 49 points, Brack holds a two-point advantage over Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske in the FedEx Championship Series championship. Brack also owns four front-row qualifying performances in five outings this season, with pole positions at Mexico and Texas and outside poles at Long Beach and Nazareth. He has led a series-high 228 laps this season.

* Helio Castroneves of Marlboro Team Penske has had an outstanding month of May, highlighted by his victory in Sunday's 85th running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Castroneves also finished second from the pole and led a race-high 84 laps on May 19 at Japan. He has scored championship points in nine consecutive events and 11 of his past 12, dating to a victory last year at Mid-Ohio, and has moved into second place in the championship with 47 points, two behind Team Rahal's Kenny Brack (49).

* Jimmy Vasser (Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard) of Patrick Racing has scored championship points in 10 of his past 11 FedEx Championship Series starts, dating to a fifth-place finish at Road America last year. The run also includes a victory at Houston last year. Vasser, the 1996 FedEx Championship Series champion in his first year with Patrick Racing, owns finishes of sixth at Mexico, fifth at Long Beach and Japan, and fourth at Nazareth thus far this season.

* Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) owns top-four finishes in three of the first four events of the FedEx Championship Series season and stands fourth in the championship, with 40 points. Tracy's run includes finishes of third at Mexico and Nazareth and fourth at Long Beach.

* Tony Kanaan (Hollywood Honda Reynard) of Mo Nunn Racing scored the fourth podium finish of his four-year FedEx Championship Series career with a third-place performance at Japan, and has led a combined 104 laps in each of his past two starts, consisting of 64 at Nazareth and 40 at Japan. He also owns finishes of seventh at Mexico and Long Beach this season and has moved into seventh place in the championship with 26 points.

ON THE RIGHT TRACK

* Michael Andretti (Motorola Honda Reynard), CART's all-time victory leader, has claimed five of his 40 career triumphs at The Milwaukee Mile, in 1986, '87, '91, '92 and '96. His record at Milwaukee also includes seconds in 1989, '97 and 2000, third in '95, fourth in '84 and '94 and fifth in '90. He has finished seventh or better in 13 of 16 starts and has started outside the top 10 only three times in 16 appearances, with pole positions in 1986 and '88. He has led 641 laps, exactly 10 percent of his CART career-leading total of 6,409, at The Milwaukee Mile.

* Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) of Team KOOL Green owns six top-seven finishes in eight career starts at Milwaukee, including victories in 1995 and '99. He also finished third in 1994 and '96, sixth in 1997 and seventh in '98. Tracy won back-to-back pole positions at The Milwaukee Mile in 1996 and '97.

* Jimmy Vasser has scored championship points in seven of his eight career starts at Milwaukee, highlighted by a victory in 1998. He also finished on the podium with a third-place effort in 1997 and finished fourth in 1999, when he led 55 laps. His other scoring performances include eighth in 1993, 11th in '94, ninth in '95 and 10th in '96.

* Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske has scored championship points in five of six career starts at The Milwaukee Mile, with four top-10 finishes. The run includes finishes of third in 1999, seventh in '97, eighth in '95, ninth in '96 and 12th last year.

* Christian Fittipaldi (Kmart Toyota Lola) of Newman/Haas Racing has scored championship points in all four of his career appearances at Milwaukee, with finishes of sixth (1996, '99), seventh (1995) and ninth (2000). He has scored championship points in 18 of his past 19 FedEx Championship Series starts on ovals, dating to a seventh-place finish in the 1998 season finale at California Speedway. Included are finishes of fifth at Nazareth and fourth at Japan this season, as well as last year's victory, which paid $1 million, in the season finale at California Speedway.

* Helio Castroneves owns a runner-up finish at Milwaukee during his rookie season of 1998 and earned his first career FedEx Championship Series pole position at the venue in 1999 at an average speed of 169.704 miles per hour (21.931 seconds).

* Patrick Carpentier (Player's/Indeck Ford Reynard) of the Player's Forsythe Racing team owns points-paying finishes in three of his four career starts at Milwaukee, including a podium result of third last year. He also finished eighth in 1997 and ninth in '99, and won the pole in 1998, when he finished 25th due to contact.

* Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard) of Team KOOL Green has finished seventh or better in three of his four career appearances at The Milwaukee Mile, topped by fourth in 1998. He also finished seventh in 1999 and sixth last year, when he started on the outside pole.

MANUFACTURING SUCCESS

* Toyota collected the first victory in its five-year FedEx Championship Series history at The Milwaukee Mile last year when Juan Montoya of Target/Chip Ganassi Racing won the Miller Lite 225 from the pole in a dominant performance, leading 179 of 225 laps. Montoya's triumph keyed a run that has seen Toyota win the past three FedEx Championship Series events contested on one-mile ovals. The other victories were recorded by Cristiano da Matta at Chicago last year and rookie Scott Dixon (Powerware Panasonic Toyota Reynard) at Nazareth this season.

* Honda has won two of the past three FedEx Championship Series events contested at The Milwaukee Mile, with wins from Jimmy Vasser in 1998 and Paul Tracy in '99.

MILESTONES

* Lola will be seeking its 100th CART victory when the green flag falls for Sunday's Miller Lite 225 at The Milwaukee Mile. Lola's first triumph came from Mario Andretti at Road America in 1983, and the constructor has won at least one event in all but three seasons since, including 12 of 16 in 1990 and 14 of 17 in 1991. Kenny Brack of Team Rahal collected Lola's 99th CART victory at Japan on May 19. Lola has also received a victory from Cristiano da Matta in the season opener at Mexico.

ON THE AIR

* Qualifying for the Miller Lite 225 will air 4:30 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN2. CART 2Day airs 11 a.m. ET Sunday on ESPN2, while ABC-TV's live race broadcast begins 4 p.m. ET. Twenty of 21 FedEx Championship Series events are being televised live on ABC-TV or ESPN, and 18 are being televised live on Eurosport, a European network that reaches 250 million viewers in 54 countries. Sunday's race will also air on the CART Radio Network and on CART's official website, at www.cart.com .

-CART-

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Series IndyCar
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing , Team Penske