CHAMPCAR/CART: Motegi: Newman/Haas preview

Newman/Haas Racing Bridgestone Potenza 500- Motegi, Japan Round 3 of 20 in the CART FedEx Championship DATE: Saturday, April 27 RACE BROADCAST: Speed Channel, 12:00 PM EDT (race starts at 12:30 PM) RACE LENGTH: 201 laps TRACK LENGTH: 1.548...

Newman/Haas Racing
Bridgestone Potenza 500- Motegi, Japan
Round 3 of 20 in the CART FedEx Championship

DATE:
Saturday, April 27

RACE BROADCAST:
Speed Channel, 12:00 PM EDT (race starts at 12:30 PM)

RACE LENGTH: 201 laps
TRACK LENGTH: 1.548 mile oval
DEFENDING WINNER: Kenny Brack
PREVIOUS POLE SITTER: Helio Castroneves

Newman/Haas Racing (NHR) Track Stats - Motegi, Japan

BEST FINISH: Michael Andretti won here in 2000.
BEST STARTING POSITION: Michael Andretti started 5th here in 1999.
WINS ON OVALS: The team has won 22 of their 62 victories on oval tracks.
POLES ON OVALS: The team has won 15 of their 63 pole positions on oval tracks.

DA MATTA'S BEST START/FINISH: 12th - 2001/4th - 2000.
FITTIPALDI'S BEST START/FINISH: 6th - 2000/3rd - 1999.

Driver Stats and Quotes:

CRISTIANO DA MATTA, #6 Havoline Toyota-Lola-Bridgestone:

* IN JAPAN: Will be his fourth race here. Of three races here, he only finished once. Highest finish here is fourth place in 2000 and highest start is 12th place in 2001. Was taken out of the 2001 event in Turn 1 of Lap 1 by the spinning car of Bruno Junqueira who was attempting to avoid an out-of-control car in front of him. Did not finish the 1999 event due to transmission failure.

* NEW FOR 2002: Is working with a new race engineer, Guillaume "Rocky" Rocquelin, 32, who joined the team in Dec. 2001.

* SUCCESS IN 2002: Led 52 laps in route to victory in the 2002 season-opener in Monterrey Mexico. He scored his third consecutive win as well as back-to-back wins for the team. In Long Beach, da Matta was the provisional polesitter but dropped to a 2nd place start in final qualifying, led 30 laps before being hit by another driver while exiting pit lane, charged back from 16th place to an 8th place finish. He has almost led twice as many laps (82) as any other driver in the 2002 CART Series (MA - 43).

* GOING FOR 4 WINS IN PAST 5 RACES: Da Matta won three consecutive events in the series (Australia and Fontana in 2001 and Mexico in 2002) and became the first driver to accomplish the feat since Juan Montoya (1999). After leading 30 laps and building a strong lead in Long Beach, a pit accident derailed his bid for a CART record-tying fourth consecutive win. A win in Japan would be his fourth in the past five CART events.

* DIVERSE TALENT: Of his five wins in CART, four of them have come on one of the four different type of tracks the series competes on (Chicago '00 - oval; Monterrey '01 and '02 - road course; Australia '01 - street course; Fontana '01 - Superspeedway/500-mile).

* 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 Lilly Toyota-Lola-Bridgestone:

* IN JAPAN: Will be his fifth start here. Best finishes were 3rd in 1999 and 4th in 2001. Best start was 6th in 2000 and 7th in 1999.

* NEW FOR 2002: Is working with a new race engineer, Craig Hampson, 32, a nine-year veteran of the team who was promoted from assistant engineer to da Matta.

* SUCCESS IN 2002: In Monterrey, Mexico at the season-opener, Fittipaldi ran the fastest qualifying lap but it was disallowed after he brought out a red flag due to hitting the concrete barriers. His second fastest lap resulted in a 4th place start and a subsequent 3rd place finish after running as high as 2nd. In Long Beach, Fittipaldi set the second fastest time in provisional qualifying, qualified 9th, ran as high as 3rd and retired in 13th after gearbox failure.

* OTHER 2002 RACING PLANS: When the 2002 race schedule permits, 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.

* CART VICTORIES - 2: Scored his first CART victory in the Texaco/Havoline 200 at Road America (7-11-99), 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 F1 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

CRISTIANO DA MATTA, #6 Havoline Toyota-Lola-Bridgestone:

The 2001 race stalled your momentum and dropped you from first place in the standings to third place. What were your frustrations/challenges of this event?: "I don't consider that we lost the momentum on this race there because we still have speed. It was just a race incident. Many times there are championships you fight for where you drop from first to third, from first to whatever. You're still only in the fourth race of the season, if I remember, and you still have plenty of time to recover. So I wasn't too worried, of course I wasn't happy about it. No one would be happy about it, from going from America to Japan and coming back with zero points but not only that, we only got half a lap around the track so I wasn't happy. Of course, the team was very frustrated too because we were there to race and we didn't get to.

How do you think you will do at this event this year?: "It is actually one of the big issues inside the team because we have been doing so well on road and street courses and at ovals we haven't had the performance as good as we had in the other types of race tracks. We tested at the oval in Homestead and have done a lot of simulations on the computer. That's been helping our program a lot and the team is actually pretty optimistic about what we found lately with this program. It's still a little bit of a question mark for me. I think we should do all right.

Will not having run much in race conditions in 2001 put you behind?: "We have the data from last year, but also another thing that made a big difference is that the wing package that we were running in Japan this year is different than what we ran last year. Last year we had to run the Handford device. It makes a lot more turbulence and a lot more difference in the car in traffic than what we will use this year. I think that traffic will always be a problem and turbulent air will always be a problem, but it is not going to be as big as it was last year. We ran with this wing package in Germany and England last year and it was an improvement.

What is the overall experience of racing in Japan? Travel, fan support?: "Personally I enjoy going to Japan a lot. I really like the culture and the people. I really like the way they do things. It is just so different for me, being a Brazilian. Looking at the way the Japanese people do things, the way they appreciate your sport is just so different. I enjoy it a lot. I love to spend time in Tokyo the days before I go to the racetrack. I like the racetrack. I like the hotel - especially the karaoke at the hotel. I like to sing too. It's just a very pleasant experience, for sure, a great opportunity."

CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI, #11 Lilly Toyota-Lola-Bridgestone:

After running in the top-four for most of the previous events in Japan how competitive do you think the team will be this year? "I think the team has a good baseline set-up for this track. Last year we had a good car and finished fourth despite being at a power disadvantage due to the valve issue. It should be a good, close race this year but hopefully not to close if the Lilly car is at the front of the pack. Toyota is going to do everything they can to win the race this year. For most of the weekend in Long Beach, we looked like we could bring Toyota a win in a race they sponsor but we came up short. Hopefully we can make it up to them in Japan. The team has built some good momentum up to this point in the season and we plan to carry it over in Japan. The race is also the biggest one for Bridgestone of the season so we plan to put on a good show for everyone. "Not only is Newman/Haas Racing on a roll right now, I think CART is too. Everyone is doing a better job of marketing the series. Chris (Pook) is being aggressive and it is building momentum for CART. The fans like the new changes, especially with qualifying and in the race and that can only help our momentum. The first two races were a big success for the series and Japan should be as well.

Other than racing, what do you like to do while in Japan? "I always go to Japan a few days early to get to know a new part of Tokyo. I have a Toyota function in Tokyo on Tuesday after arriving on Monday so I will have a little time to look around before heading to Motegi. The night life in Raponge is very interesting. It is unlike any other place in the world - very unique. Every year on my ride from the airport to Tokyo I look to the left of the road and see the Ski Dome and think about checking it out. I might stop by there this year."

-nhr-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Jacques Villeneuve , Hank Parker Jr. , Helio Castroneves , Michael Andretti , Bruno Junqueira , Kenny Brack