CHAMPCAR/CART: Notes series happenings 2000-12=18

Team Rahal driver Kenny Brack , the 2000 FedEx Championship Series Rookie of the Year, is scheduled to become the first driver to put a Champ Car on the Texas Motor Speedway oval today, as CART conducts a single-car test on the 1.5-mile circuit...

Team Rahal driver Kenny Brack , the 2000 FedEx Championship Series Rookie of the Year, is scheduled to become the first driver to put a Champ Car on the Texas Motor Speedway oval today, as CART conducts a single-car test on the 1.5-mile circuit located in Fort Worth.

The purpose of the test is to synthesize simulation data with actual on-track performance figures, allowing CART to determine the acceptable performance level of Champ Cars for competition at Texas Motor Speedway. The inaugural FedEx Championship Series event at the facility, the Texas 600, is scheduled for April 27-29.

Lap speeds in the 225 mile-per-hour range and lateral loads of fewer than 5 'g's are the targeted performance levels for the test.

"Because of the uniqueness of this specific venue, CART is conducting an evaluation to verify the correctness of our technical packages, as we have in the past," said Hal Whiteford, CART President of Racing Operations. 'This test will also allow us to try different ride heights and evaluate different wing packages."

Brack (Shell Ford Reynard) has competed at Texas Motor Speedway before while a member of the Indy Racing League. He completed his first FedEx Championship Seires season in 2000, finishing fourth in the championship with 135 points and winning the Jim Trueman Rookie of the Year Award. He earned four podium finishes during the season, highlighted by runner-up efforts at Cleveland and Australia.

CART and its support series, the Dayton Indy Lights Championship and the Toyota Atlantic Championship were well represented on the Millennium All-America Auto Racing Team announced last week by the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association. FedEx Championship Series champion Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske was accorded First Team honors following a season which included two victories, five pole positions, seven podium finishes, the 100th race victory in the history of Penske Racing (at Nazareth) and the FedEx Championship Series championship. It marked de Ferran's second appearance on the AARWBA team, after being accorded Honorable Mention in 1995. Juan Montoya of Target Chip Ganassi Racing earned Second Team mention following a sophomore season that saw him post three victories and a series-high seven pole positions. It is Montoya's second AARWBA appearance after a First Team performance during his 1999 FedEx Championship Series championship-winning season. The career-season recorded by Patrick Racing's Roberto Moreno (Visteon Ford Reynard) brought him an Honorable Mention spot on the AARWBA team. Moreno earned his first career FedEx Championship Series victory and pole position at Cleveland and finished a career-best third in the championship.

In addition to CART's honorees, Dayton Indy Lights Championship driver Scott Dixon and Toyota Atlantic Championship driver Buddy Rice earned at-large slots on the AARWBA First Team after championship winning seasons in their respective series. The 12 First Team members, including selections from the Stock Car, Road Racing, Drag Racing and Short Track ranks, will be honored at the annual AARWBA banquet, January 13 at the Sheraton Suites Fairplex in Pomona, Calif., where the driver receiving the most votes will receive the Jerry Titus Award.

Target Chip Ganassi Racing's rookie driver pairing of Bruno Junqueira and Nicolas Minassian combined to complete more than 400 miles Wednesday and Thursday during a pre-season test at Sebring International Raceway. According to team manager Mike Hull, the performance of the team's Toyota Lola was "flawless." "We really focused on figuring out this new car," said Hull. "Both Bruno and Nicolas are quick studies. They learned this track's nuances right away. They're right about where we expected and hoped they would be. Their attitudes and work ethics have been just as impressive as their skills in the car, and those are attributes [which] Team Target values." Junqueira (Target Toyota Lola) is pleased with his progress on a steep learning curve. "I'm having fun getting to know my car and my teammates and I'm learning a lot," he said. "The more I drive, the more comfortable I will be with the engineers and the car. I'm excited to be a part of Team Target. I've been impressed with everyone's racing knowledge." For his part, Minassian (Target Toyota Lola) is impressed with the power of the Champ Car package. "I've driven many cars in my lifetime, but I believe this is the most powerful one I've raced in," he said. "I still have much to learn, but the team is very helpful. I like to get out and learn as much as I can about the car." Team Target continues its pre-season testing program Tuesday and Wednesday on the Phoenix International Raceway oval.

Several Champ Car teams participated in pre-season testing at Sebring December 5-7, including Marlboro Team Penske (Helio Castroneves), Team Rahal (Max Papis), Team Green (Michael Andretti and Dario Franchitti), Patrick Racing (Jimmy Vasser), PacWest Racing (Mauricio Gugelmin and Scott Dixon) and the new Sigma Racing team (Max Wilson). Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard), a three-time winner during the 2000 season, handled driving duties for Marlboro Team Penske during the test, completing a combined 300-plus miles on Dec. 5th and 7th while the team worked on fixing a slight mechanical problem on the 6th. "It feels great to get back into the race car after having a few weeks off," Castroneves said. "Having already had one year with Marlboro Team Penske, I am much more comfortable with the team and the equipment than I was at this time last year. The car felt strong and I'm really looking forward to continuing our testing and getting ready for the new season." According to Team Manager Tom Wurtz, the test went "as smooth as a mid-season test. Any problem areas that we had anticipated turned out to be easily fixed. The new Honda engine ran well without missing a beat, which gave the Honda engineers plenty of track time to focus on their development program." Meanwhile, Vasser, the 1996 FedEx Championship Series champion, ran a quick lap of 51.2 seconds on the Sebring road course during his first test as a member of Patrick Racing, with whom he signed a multi-year contract last month. The team also conducted its first test of the new Toyota engine, after competing with Ford power since 1995. "I am very confident and comfortable with the engine, and I have a lot of information inside me to contribute to the team. Toyota has improved the performance of the engine every year and I know that the hard work that the Toyota people have put in will pay off." Said Patrick Racing General Manager Jim McGee, "Jimmy did a great job with the Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard as far as sorting through the information and changes we made. His feedback and directness enabled us to get right to the heart of problems and make appropriate changes." Patrick Racing is scheduled to continue its pre-season testing program on Tuesday and Wednesday at Phoenix International Raceway.

Fernandez Racing , a new FedEx Championship Series entrant formed by 2000 runner-up Adrian Fernandez and Tom Anderson , former managing director for four-time series champion Target Chip Ganassi Racing, opened the doors to its new race shop in Indianapolis last week and began preparations in earnest for the 2001 season. The team will campaign two Honda-powered Reynards for Fernandez, the only owner/driver currently competing in the FedEx Championship Series, and second-year Japanese driver Shinji Nakano. To date, the team has a roster of 28 employees, including race engineers John Ward - former chief engineer at Patrick Racing, where Fernandez spent the past three seasons - and Martin Pare, who comes from Forsythe Championship Racing. On board as chief mechanics are Dan Miller, formerly of Walker Racing, and Steve Ragan, previously with Forsythe Championship Racing and the Tasman Motorsports Group. "I think we have really established a very experienced, young group of people," said Anderson. "I am really excited about that, and looking forward to getting our hands on our first car and going to our first test." Fernandez Racing took delivery of its first Reynard chassis last week and will begin testing next month.

-CART-

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Series INDYCAR
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Nicolas Minassian , Max Papis , Adrian Fernandez , Roberto Moreno , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Mauricio Gugelmin , Max Wilson , Shinji Nakano , Kenny Brack , Dan Miller , Buddy Rice , Tom Anderson , Chip Ganassi , Mike Hull
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing , Team Penske