CHAMPCAR/CART: Mont?rr?y: Newman/Haas preview

Newman/Haas Racing Tecate/Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix - Monterrey, Mexico Round 1 of 20 in the CART FedEx Championship DATE: March 9-11 RACE BROADCAST: Speed Channel, 4 PM ET RACE LENGTH: 78 laps TRACK LENGTH: ...

Newman/Haas Racing
Tecate/Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix - Monterrey, Mexico
Round 1 of 20 in the CART FedEx Championship

DATE: March 9-11
RACE BROADCAST: Speed Channel, 4 PM ET
RACE LENGTH: 78 laps
TRACK LENGTH: 2.1-mile, 12-turn road course
DEFENDING WINNER: Havoline Toyota-Lola driver Cristiano da Matta
DEFENDING POLE SITTER: Kenny Brack

Newman/Haas Racing (NHR) - Monterrey, Mexico Track Stats
BEST FINISH: Da Matta won the inaugural event in 2001.
BEST START POSITION: 2nd place by da Matta in the inaugural race in 2001.
WINS ON ROAD/ STREET COURSES: The team has won 39 of their 61 victories on road/street courses.
POLES ON ROAD/ STREET COURSES: The team has won 48 of their 63 pole positions on road/street courses. DA MATTA'S BEST
START/FINISH: 2nd/1st - both in 2001.
FITTIPALDI'S BEST
START/FINISH: 16th/20th - both in 2001. Made contact while 13th after driving on a part of the track that was breaking up, lost traction as well as control of the car and hit a concrete barrier.

Driver Stats and Quotes:

CRISTIANO DA MATTA, #6 Havoline Toyota-Lola: --DEFENDING WINNER: Won the inaugural event in Monterrey, Mexico in 2001 after leading 32 laps.

--NEW FOR 2002: He will work with a new race engineer, Guillaume "Rocky" Rocquelin, 32, who begins his first season at NHR since joining the team in December of 2001.

--DIVERSE TALENT: Of his four wins in CART, each has come on one of the four different type of tracks the series competes on (Chicago '00 - oval; Monterrey '01 - road course; Australia '01 - street course; Fontana '01 - Superspeedway/500-mile).

--FIFTH IN 2001 CHAMPIONSHIP: Drove the Texaco/Havoline/Kmart Toyota Lola to three victories (Mexico, Australia, Fontana) and a total of five podium finishes (2nd in Long Beach, 3rd in England), to take fifth place in the CART season-ending point standingsLed the Championship for the first time in his Champ car career through the first four eventsLed the series standings in 2001 earnings of $1,784,000 which was aided by his $1 million prize from winning the season-ending Marlboro 500With his win in Mexico, da Matta brought the team its eighth victory in a season-opener in its 19 seasons as well as became one of only two drivers to win in his debut with the team. Reigning Formula One Champion Nigel Mansell was the other.

--CART FedEx ALL-STAR TEAM: Was nominated to the five-driver 2001 CART FedEx Championship All-Star Team. The elite group is voted on by drivers, a select group of motorsports media and fans.

CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI, #11 (TBA) Toyota-Lola: --NEW FOR 2002: He will work with a new race engineer, Craig Hampson, 32, a nine-year veteran of the team who was promoted from assistant engineer to da Matta.

--2001 CHAMPIONSHIP: Took over as team veteran after Michael Andretti ended his 10 year association with the team at the conclusion of 2001Fittipaldi's season highlight was a third place finish in the Portland event while driving in limited visibility due to rain after driving off course to avoid a sliding car and dropping back to 19thTop starting spot was 5th place for the Marlboro 500 at California Speedway while attempting to defend his 2000 winFinished 15th in the point standings with 70 pointsAlthough he ran in the top-five in 10 of the 20 races, he only finished 11 of the 20 events due to a variety of mechanical problems in four events and retired after contact while lapping cars or fighting for position in five.

--OTHER 2002 RACING PLANS: When the race schedule permits in 2002, Fittipaldi plans to compete in six NASCAR-sanctioned Busch Grand National (BGN) events after enjoying his first experience in the BGN 2001 season finale near his home in Fla. He qualified his Mike's Hard Lemonade Chevrolet 33rd out of a field of 43 for the GNC Live Well 300 and retired in 39th place due to contact with Hank Parker Jr. after completing 106 of 200 laps on November 10, 2001. He ran as high as 10th place.

--HANS DEVICE: Fittipaldi was the lead driver in the development of the HANS (Head and Neck System) Device for open-wheel racing. Beginning in 2002 CART has mandated use of the HANS at all FedEx Series events. In 2001, the HANS was mandatory on all oval events only.

--CART VICTORIES - 2: Scored his first CART victory in the Texaco/Havoline 200 at Road America (7-11-99/71st CART start), He bettered his previous best 500-mile finish of 2nd place in the 1995 Indy 500 by winning the 2000 season-finale Marlboro 500. For his 2nd place finish to (eventual 1997 Formula One World Champion) Jacques Villeneuve, he was also named 1995 Indy 500 "Rookie of the Year."

--CART POLES - 1: Fittipaldi set a track record en route to his first CART pole in his homeland of Brazil on May 14, 1999.

WHAT THEY'RE SAYING ABOUT
CRISTIANO DA MATTA, #6 Havoline Toyota-Lola:

On the feeling of winning in your debut with NHR last season:

"It was good. Of course it was a very special feeling because it was the first race with the team. I don't think anyone expected it to happen so fast. I knew I could win and the team knew they could win but the questions was 'Could we win together?' Winning a race is always a great feeling, difficult to explain, but a great feeling.

Do you feel pressure to defend your championship title in this event?:

"I don't feel any pressure at all because I am not thinking of one race in particular. I am thinking more about winning the Championship, and I know that whether I win in Mexico or not, it is not going to make a big difference in my result at the end of the season at this point. It is just a start of the Championship so I don't feel a lot of pressure. Having said that, I really want to win there because of all the fans and how big the event is. Because, of course, the bigger the event you win, the more enjoyable it is for you. I would also like to win because I enjoy the track. I want to keep my sweet memories from there.

What type of race do you think it will be?:

"I think it will be a great race again. When I went to Mexico to meet with the media, I was able to go to the track for the first time since my win. I could see the changes that were made. There were a lot of improvements such as rumble strips placed on turns to prevent drivers cutting across the grass. This circuit is one of the best ones, with a very smooth pavement, very nice and in a beautiful place. It is only the second year for the track and it is already at a level close to Formula One.

What is your impression of the fans in Monterrey?:

"Monterrey fans, I am sure, are among the best ones anywhere. They know what is happening on track, what do you do as driver, and understand about competition and I am feeling very honored to arrive to a place where people talk about me and enjoy what am I doing. I like it very much.

What are your thoughts on the new qualifying procedure?:

"I think more important than scoring points on Friday, is the fact that all of us will be in one group to qualify. Friday qualifying is going to make the show more exciting for the fans, because in the past we focused on setup and testing changes for the race. But I think that qualifying in one group, not in two groups as the last year is more fair and exciting for the fans, and increases competitiveness -which is very high in CART- although I hope not so much because I want to win many races."

CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI, #11 (TBA) Toyota-Lola:

"Consistency. That's what we're going to concentrate on this year. In this series, you don't have a chance without it. If we can just put an entire season together we should have a great chance at the Championship by the end of the season. If we could put a season together with the consistency of 1996, the momentum of good results like we had in the first part of 1999 before my testing accident and the qualifying from 2000 where we were in the top-six or eight everywhere then we would be looking good. When we left Portland last year, I was in fifth place ahead of Gil in the point standings and from that point on we went downhill. This season, our aim is consistency and scoring points at every race. We definitely have the speed, but we've lacked the consistency. On a number of occasions we've been close, but we've never been able to put it together. Sometimes I screwed up, sometimes it was a part of the car just different situations that didn't work out but hopefully, everything will come together this year.

What is new for 2002?:

"We had a change in the engineering setup at the team and I think change is good sometimes. So far in testing Craig and I have communicated pretty well and that's encouraging. I think it will only make the entire team stronger now that Peter (Gibbons) is overseeing both programs. I think that the legalization of traction control will help everyone. Now everyone is on the same page. The new qualifying system will be interesting for everyone. Especially the first two races where everyone will go through a learning curve to see how to get the most out of the session. After Long Beach, everyone will be better prepared for the other races in terms of getting over the learning curve.

On the Toyota-Lola package:

"I think Toyota has a strong package. They concentrate on finishing races and that's how you score points and win Championships. The new Lola also looks improved. To me, the championship looks up for grabs, and I intend to be one of the guys trying to get my hands on it.

On your other racing schedule for 2002:

"I am going to race in six Busch events this season but my priority is the full season fighting for the CART Championship. We picked races that were far apart from CART events like one in May when I don't have any open-wheel events and most of them are toward the end of the CART season or after it so there won't be any distractions."

-nhr-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Jacques Villeneuve , Hank Parker Jr. , Michael Andretti , Kenny Brack , Cristiano da Matta