MONTOYA READY TO DEFEND BOSCH SPARK PLUG GRAND PRIX TITLE Team Target pleased with progress of 2000 package Nazareth, Pa. -- In addition to defending his 1999 CART FedEx Championship Series title, Target/Chip Ganassi Racing driver Juan...
MONTOYA READY TO DEFEND BOSCH SPARK PLUG GRAND PRIX TITLE
Team Target pleased with progress of 2000 package
Nazareth, Pa. -- In addition to defending his 1999 CART FedEx Championship Series title, Target/Chip Ganassi Racing driver Juan Montoya will also play the role of defending race winner seven times in 2000. Montoya's first title defense comes Sunday at the Bosch Spark Plug Grand Prix, site of his second career CART victory. "Actually, I haven't really thought about being the last race winner at Nazareth," said Montoya, who also earned the first of his seven pole positions here in 1999. "Besides having a little more confidence, being the defending winner doesn't change how I'll race. Last year is last year. I had a great experience in Nazareth. It was only like the third oval race in my career, so it was pretty unbelievable to win it. But now I have to concentrate on a new year with a new car and new engineer. I'm looking forward to the race, but being defending race winner is not something I think about." Montoya will have several opportunities to think about being a defending race winner since he also earned victories at Long Beach, Rio, Cleveland, Mid-Ohio, Chicago and Vancouver in 1999. Although each of those victories was special during his run to the CART FedEx Championship, he says the Nazareth win stands out. "No one expected me to perform well here last year," Montoya said. "It was my first win on an oval and it came right after Long Beach, where many people thought I might have just had beginner's luck. After winning Nazareth I said, 'Wow, maybe I really have a chance to be good this year.'" Montoya isn't the only Target/Chip Ganassi Racing driver to take the checkered flag at Nazareth. Jimmy Vasser won here two seasons ago en route to finishing second to former teammate Alex Zanardi in the 1998 final point standings. "Nazareth is an important race," Vasser said. "It's early in the season, but performing well at a tough track like Nazareth Speedway gives the team confidence that it can win anywhere. I've had pretty good luck here over the years, and I'm confident that with the Toyota-Lola package, our success at Nazareth will continue." Vasser heads into his sixth Bosch Spark Plug Grand Prix ranked fourth place in the 2000 point standings, having finished fourth in this year's season opener in Miami. "It was nice to earn some valuable points in Miami because in the first race of the year, anything can happen," Vasser said. "Everyone is getting used to the new wing package we use in Nazareth, so I'm expecting a great race. Juan is defending race winner, so he and the whole team will be pumped up." Team owner Chip Ganassi thinks the return to Nazareth might be exactly what his team needs to jump-start the season. "Juan had some bad luck in Miami after it looked like he was going to dominate the race," Ganassi said. "He hasn't let it get him down, and the team is confident the car will be back at the front of the pack in Nazareth. Coming back to a place where you've had success is a good feeling and helps your confidence. Jimmy and Juan have both won in Nazareth, so I think we have a great chance to defend our title here and get Toyota its first race win." After four straight CART championships, Ganassi is a man who knows a thing or two about defending titles.