What To Look For At Nazareth: In each of the past two seasons, Toyota has earned its best-ever finish at Nazareth. In 1998, Robby Gordon finished seventh on the short oval, while last season saw Cristiano da Matta establish a new standard with a...
What To Look For At Nazareth:
In each of the past two seasons, Toyota has earned its best-ever finish at Nazareth. In 1998, Robby Gordon finished seventh on the short oval, while last season saw Cristiano da Matta establish a new standard with a fourth (recently matched by Jimmy Vasser at Miami). In addition, the manufacturer placed three cars in the top 10 at Nazareth a year ago when Alex Barron (ninth) and Scott Pruett (tenth) joined da Matta.
Three current Toyota-powered drivers have previously won at Nazareth including the last two Bosch Spark Plug Grand Prix Presented by Toyota titles.
Juan Montoya dominated from the pole at Nazareth a year ago. He led 210 of the race's 225 laps on the way to his first oval victory. Two years ago it was Montoya's current teammate, Jimmy Vasser, who found his way to Winner's Circle after starting fifth.
Second-year driver Cristiano da Matta also has enjoyed great success at Nazareth. The Brazilian won both Indy Lights races he competed in at Nazareth, in addition to his fourth-place finish a year ago.
After Juan Montoya qualified on the front row at Homestead (missing the pole by .006 seconds), it marked the third straight race that a Toyota-powered car qualified in the top three. In the two previous Champ Car events, Scott Pruett qualified third last October at Surfers Paradise and followed that by winning the pole in the 1999 season-finale at Fontana. Most impressive is that each of the three efforts has been on a different type of circuit - street course, superspeedway and mid-size oval.
There's never a guarantee of winning on the highly competitive FedEx Championship Series circuit, but having Target Chip Ganassi Racing in your camp may be the closest thing. If the Target team maintains it's pace achieved over the past four years, Toyota may see a victory within the first three races of the 2000 campaign. Since 1996, Target Ganassi has averaged a victory every 2.4 starts (30 victories in 72 races). In addition, the team has won at least one of its first three races in each of the last four seasons.
Rookie Norberto Fontana will make his first appearance at Nazareth this weekend. The Argentine made an impressive oval debut at Homestead, finishing 15th and registering a fast lap just six-tenths off the fastest lap of the race. Fellow Toyota-powered driver Oriol Servia also will be making his Champ Car debut at Nazareth after previously racing at the .946-mile oval in Indy Lights competition.
While falling short of victory, Toyota powered cars set a number of program bests in the season-opener at Homestead, March 26.
Juan Montoya led more laps (21) than any Toyota previously had in a single race
Montoya registered the fastest lap of the race - the first time a Toyota has earned that feat
Jimmy Vasser matched the all-time best Toyota finish with a fourth Vasser's current points standing of fourth is the highest ever by a Toyota-powered driver
Both Vasser and Cristiano da Matta earned championship points in the season-opener, the first time ever for Toyota at Homestead
The Toyota Atlantic Championship returned to Homestead for the first time since 1997 with a Saturday/Sunday double-header. Two young lions established themselves as series front-runners as Arizonan Buddy Rice and rookie sensation Daniel Wheldon each earned a victory and second-place finish with Wheldon winning on Saturday and Rice on Sunday.
JIM AUST, Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A. vice president of motorsports: "I think that we established we're going to be race contenders at Homestead. At this point, we need to show that we have the ability to win races. We certainly have the speed, now it's time to develop the consistency that can make us championship contenders in 2000."
NORBERTO FONTANA, #10 VideoMatch Toyota Reynard: "With my limited oval experience, my goal for Nazareth is the same is it was for Homestead - simply finish the race. I qualified 19th and finished 15th in my first oval start. If I can build on those in Nazareth, I will be very pleased. The Della Penna Motorsports team is doing a good job preparing me for Nazareth's challenge. It's a tricky track and I'm going to have to be very focused every session to learn everything I can. Ultimately, I'm looking forward to the street course race at Long Beach. I think we'll be very strong there."