CHAMPCAR/CART: Portland preview

De Ferran Returns To Site Of Former Glories For Freightliner/G.I. Joe's 200 Presented By Texaco DETROIT (June 20, 2000) - To date, Gil de Ferran of Marlboro Team Penske has put together a solid season in defense of his 2000 FedEx Championship ...

De Ferran Returns To Site Of Former Glories For Freightliner/G.I. Joe's 200 Presented By Texaco

DETROIT (June 20, 2000) - To date, Gil de Ferran of Marlboro Team Penske has put together a solid season in defense of his 2000 FedEx Championship Series championship. Heading into this weekend's Freightliner/G.I. Joe's 200 Presented by Texaco at Portland International Raceway (4 p.m. ET Sunday, live, ABC-TV), de Ferran stands a respectable fifth in the championship with 44 points.

But as the series heads to Portland for Round 8, there is reason to believe that de Ferran's season may turn from workmanlike to spectacular, and in a hurry. For starters, he's the two-time defending champion at Portland, having driven to victory with Walker Racing in 1999 before driving to the 102nd win in the history of Penske Racing last year.

Beyond that, de Ferran's record in permanent road course events since joining Marlboro Team Penske at the start of the 2000 campaign, has been, to say the least, impressive. In five road-course starts during that span, he has finished second or better four times, including last year's victory at Portland.

That should help make de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) the favorite for his first victory of the season, and the sixth of his career, when the green flag falls Sunday. In addition to his two career victories at Portland, he also owns back-to-back runner-up efforts in 1996 and '97, when he lost to Mark Blundell by .0027 seconds in the closest finish in Champ Car history.

De Ferran's teammate, Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard) comes to Portland as the series' most recent winner, having driven to his second consecutive Tenneco Automotive Detroit Grand Prix victory on The Raceway at Belle Isle last Sunday. The victory from the pole, during which he led every race lap, enabled Castroneves, the reigning Indianapolis 500 champion, to collect the maximum 22 championship points and move within five of the series lead held by Kenny Brack (Shell Ford Lola) of Team Rahal.

Brack, who owns victories this season at Japan and Milwaukee, arrives in Portland with 74 points, followed by Castroneves with 69. A strong fourth-place performance at Detroit moved Michael Andretti (Motorola Honda Reynard) of Team Motorola into third place with 48 points, followed by Cristiano da Matta (Texaco/Havoline/Kmart Toyota Lola) of Newman/Haas Racing, with 46, and de Ferran.

This weekend's entry list includes three former winners at Portland, all of whom own multiple victories in the event. In addition to de Ferran, Andretti owns a trio of triumphs at the venue, in 1990, '91 and '92. Meanwhile, two-time FedEx Championship Series champion Alex Zanardi (Pioneer Honda Reynard) of Mo Nunn Racing joins de Ferran with a pair of victories at Portland, in 1996 and '98.

All FedEx Championship Series entries ride on Firestone Tires, the Official Tire of CART.

The Freightliner/G.I. Joe's 200 Presented by Texaco is Round 8 of 21 in the 2001 FedEx Championship Series. The series visits seven countries and four continents during the season and climaxes with the season-ending Marlboro 500 Presented by Toyota on Sunday, Nov. 4 at California Speedway in Fontana, Calif. Thanks to a partnership between Marlboro, Toyota, CART and California Speedway, the winner of the season finale will collect $1 million, one of the richest paydays in all of motorsports. An additional $1 million, as well as the prestigious Vanderbilt Cup, will be awarded to the driver who wins the FedEx Championship Series championship.

Following the Freightliner/G.I. Joe's 200 Presented by Texaco, the FedEx Championship Series continues with its third event in as many weeks, the Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by Firstar, June 29-July 1 at Burke Lakefront Airport.

WHO'S HOT

* Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske comes to Portland off his second consecutive victory in the Tenneco Automotive Grand Prix of Detroit. For the second time this season, Castroneves collected the maximum 22 championship points available for winning from the pole and leading the most race laps, allowing him to trim a 23-point (70-47) deficit to FedEx Championship Series leader Kenny Brack of Team Rahal entering the event to just five (74-69), heading to Portland. Castroneves has scored championship points in 10 of his past 11 FedEx Championship Series starts, dating to last year's victory at Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca (Calif.). He has also scored in eight of his past nine starts on road or street courses, dating to last year's victory at Mid-Ohio.

* FedEx Championship Series points leader Kenny Brack (Shell Ford Lola) of Team Rahal owns podium finishes in three of his past four FedEx Championship Series starts, including back-to-back victories at Japan and Milwaukee, the first of his FedEx Championship Series career. He began the run with a runner-up finish at Nazareth last month. His recent success has propelled Brack into the championship lead with 74 points, five ahead of second-place Helio Castroneves. Brack, who finished ninth at Detroit last weekend, has scored championship points in 10 of his past 12 FedEx Championship Series starts on road or street courses, dating to a sixth-place result at Portland last year and including podium finishes of second at Cleveland and Australia and third at Road America, all last year.

* Michael Andretti (Motorola Honda Reynard) of Team Motorola has put together three top-six finishes in his past four starts to move into third place in the FedEx Championship Series with 48 points. The run includes finishes of second at Milwaukee, sixth at Nazareth and fourth at Detroit.

* Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard) of Team KOOL Green recorded his first podium finish of the season last weekend with a runner-up effort at Detroit. The result gave him championship points in five of six starts this season, including finishes of sixth at Long Beach, eighth at Nazareth and ninth at Mexico and Milwaukee. Franchitti stands ninth in the FedEx Championship Series championship with 37 points.

* Christian Fittipaldi (Kmart Toyota Lola) of Newman/Haas Racing owns three top-five finishes in three of his past four FedEx Championship Series starts, topped by a fourth-place performance at Japan last month. He also finished fifth at Nazareth and Detroit. Fittipaldi stands 11th in the FedEx Championship Series championship with 32 points.

* Roberto Moreno (Visteon Toyota Reynard) of Patrick Racing recorded his first podium result of the season last weekend with a third-place finish at Detroit. He has scored championship points in four of his past five FedEx Championship series events, including finishes of 10th at Japan, 11th at Long Beach and 12th at Nazareth.

* Rookie Scott Dixon (Powerware Panasonic PacWest Toyota) of the PacWest Racing Group has scored championship points in three of his past four FedEx Championship Series starts, highlighted by his first career victory at Nazareth last month, which made him, at age 20 years, nine months and 14 days, the youngest driver ever to win a major open-wheel race. Dixon also owns a podium finish of third at Milwaukee and finished ninth at Japan. Dixon has led at least one lap in four of his six starts to date. He stands eighth in the championship and holds a 38-23 lead over Bruno Junqueira (Target Toyota Lola) of Target Chip Ganassi Racing in the race for the Jim Trueman Rookie of the Year Award.

ON THE RIGHT TRACK

* Defending FedEx Championship Series champion Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske has won the past two Champ Car events contested at Portland International Raceway, in 1999 and last year, and owns four podium finishes in six career starts at the venue. He also finished second in 1996 and '97. De Ferran also has qualified among the top-10 drivers for all six of his appearances at Portland, topped by starts on the outside pole in 1997 and 2000.

* Michael Andretti is a three-time winner (1990, '91, '92) and two-time runner-up (1986, '87) at Portland, and has scored championship points in 13 of 16 career appearances at the venue, with 10 top-10 finishes. He started on the outside pole in 1986, '90 and '92 and has led 404 laps at Portland in his career, including 101 in 1990, 102 in '91 and 100 in '92.

* Alex Zanardi (Pioneer Honda Reynard) of Mo Nunn Racing owns two victories in three career starts at Portland, in 1996 and '98. His 1996 triumph, when he led a race-high 95 laps from the pole, was the first of his FedEx Championship Series career. He also led a race-high 47 laps en route to victory in 1998. Zanardi's only other appearance at Portland also resulted in a points-paying result of 11th in 1997.

* Christian Fittipaldi has scored championship points in four of six career starts at Portland, highlighted by last year's third-place finish. He also finished fourth in 1997 in his first competitive appearance after missing seven events due to a broken leg sustained in Australia. His remaining scoring performances are finishes of 12th in 1995 and '96.

* Adrian Fernandez (Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Honda Reynard) of Fernandez Racing has scored championship points in six of seven career starts at Portland, topped by a fourth-place finish in 1999. The run also includes finishes of ninth in 1995, 10th in 1994 and '97 and 12th in 1996 and last year.

MANUFACTURING SUCCESS

* Honda-powered drivers have won the past three FedEx Championship Series events contested at Portland International Raceway and four of the past five, getting victories from Alex Zanardi in 1996 and '98 and Gil de Ferran in 1999 and last year. Honda has also won four of the past five FedEx Championship Series events contested on permanent road courses, getting victories last year from Helio Castroneves at Mid-Ohio and Laguna Seca, de Ferran at Portland and Paul Tracy at Road America.

* Toyota will be seeking its second victory of the 2001 season on a permanent road course in this weekend's Freightliner/G.I. Joe's 200 Presented by Texaco at Portland International Raceway. Cristiano da Matta (Texaco/Havoline/Kmart Toyota Lola) of Newman/Haas Racing scored the manufacturer's first-ever triumph on a permanent road course in the 2001 season opener at Monterrey, Mexico.

ON THE AIR

* Qualifying for the Freightliner/G.I. Joe's 200 Presented by Texaco will air 7 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN2. CART 2Day airs 11 a.m. ET Sunday on ESPN2, while ESPN's live race broadcast begins 4 p.m. ET. Twenty of 21 FedEx Championship Series events are being televised live on ABC-TV or ESPN, and 18 are being televised live on Eurosport, a European network that reaches 250 million viewers in 54 countries. Sunday's race will also air on the CART Radio Network and on CART's official website, at www.cart.com .

-CART-

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Series IndyCar
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing , Team Penske