Brack, Castroneves in Dogfight for Championship as FedEx Championship Series Heads to Road America for Motorola 220
DETROIT (August 15, 2001) - The dog days of summer have produced a dogfight for the FedEx Championship Series championship as the series heads to Wisconsin's Kettle Moraine this weekend for Round 14, the Motorola 220 at Road America (1 p.m. ET Sunday, live, ESPN).
Series leader Kenny Brack of Team Rahal and his closest pursuer, Helio Castroneves of Marlboro Team Penske are separated by a scant single point as the series prepares to make its annual stop at its longest venue, the 4.048-mile permanent road course at Road America. Brack (Shell Ford Lola) holds a 104-103 edge in the championship, but of late, the momentum has swung in Castroneves' direction, as he has scored in four of his past five starts while Brack has gone scoreless in three of the past four.
Brack and Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard) are tied for the series lead with three victories each, although they have gathered them in extremely different fashion. Brack's three wins have come on the ovals at Japan, Milwaukee and Chicago, while Castroneves' have come on street circuits at Long Beach and Detroit and on the permanent road course at Mid-Ohio.
The latter victory, part of a one-two Marlboro Team Penske finish at Mid-Ohio, enabled Castroneves to close considerable ground on Brack in the chase for the FedEx Championship Series championship. Brack had entered that event with a substantial 104-82 lead over Castroneves in the title race, but Castroneves' 21-point day (20 for the race win, one for leading a race-high 44 laps), had him nipping at Brack's heels after Brack finished 18th and out of the points.
Defending FedEx Championship Series champion Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske also got a lift from Brack's misfortune in his bid to become the fourth driver to claim back-to-back series crowns. De Ferran's runner-up finish to teammate Castroneves at Mid-Ohio, his second consecutive podium performance, moved him to third in the championship with 89 points
The two drivers who round out the top five in the championship hunt are both previous winners at Road America. Michael Andretti (Motorola Honda Reynard) of Team Motorola is a three-time winner in Elkhart Lake (1990, '91 and '96), while Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard) of Team KOOL Green claimed his first career FedEx Championship Series victory at Road America in 1998.
Franchitti stands fourth in the championship with 81 points while Andretti is fifth with 73.
This weekend's entry list includes three other drivers with Road America wins on their resumes. The defending event champion is Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) of Team KOOL Green, who also won at Road America in 1993, when he led every lap from the pole.
Two-time FedEx Championship Series champion Alex Zanardi (Pioneer Honda Reynard) of Mo Nunn Racing drove to victory at Road America in 1997 and owns podium finishes in all three of his career appearances at the venue. Like Franchitti, Christian Fittipaldi (Kmart Toyota Lola) of Newman/Haas Racing earned his first career FedEx Championship Series victory at Road America in 1999.
All FedEx Championship Series entries ride on Firestone Tires, the Official Tire of CART.
The Motorola 220 is Round 13 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. Fittipaldi is the defending event champion. 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 Motorola 220, the FedEx Championship Series makes its second Canadian visit of the season for the Molson Indy Vancouver, August 31-September 2 at Concord Pacific Place.
* Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske tied Kenny Brack of Team Rahal for the 2001 FedEx Championship Series victory lead with his third of the season at Mid-Ohio last weekend. Castroneves also led a race-high 44 laps to collect 21 championship points and pull within one (104-103) of Brack's FedEx Championship Series lead. Castroneves has earned a series-high 71 of his 103 championship points on road or street circuits, highlighted by victories at Long Beach, Detroit and Mid-Ohio. He also owns poles at Long Beach and Detroit, outside poles at Toronto and Mid-Ohio, and has led a series-high 213 laps on road or street courses. Castroneves has scored championship points in four of his past five starts overall, dating to a 12th-place finish at Cleveland and including finishes of eighth at Michigan and seventh at Chicago.
* Patrick Carpentier (Player's/Indeck Ford Reynard) of the Player's Forsythe Racing Team has posted podium finishes in his past three FedEx Championship Series starts, beginning with his first career victory at Michigan International Speedway last month. He also finished second at Chicago and third at Mid-Ohio, earning 50 of his 65 championship points over that span. As a result of his recent success, Carpentier has moved from 21st to eighth in the FedEx Championship Series championship. Including a fifth-place result at Portland, Carpentier has finished fifth or better in four of his past six FedEx Championship Series starts.
* Defending FedEx Championship Series champion Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske has finished on the podium in each of his past two FedEx Championship Series starts, with finishes of third at Chicago and second at Mid-Ohio. Those performances have moved him into third place in the FedEx Championship Series championship with 89 points, 15 behind championship leader Kenny Brack (Shell Ford Lola) of Team Rahal. He has also earned two pole positions in his past four events, at Toronto and Mid-Ohio. De Ferran reached three different milestones at Mid-Ohio last weekend as he tied Team KOOL Green driver Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) for ninth place in CART history with his 13th pole position; then moved into sole possession of 17th place on the CART career starts list by making his 121st. Later, he led 28 laps to pass Johnny Rutherford (1,025) and take over 14th place on the CART career laps led list, with 1,032.
* Alex Tagliani (Player's/Indeck Ford Reynard) of Player's Forsythe Racing owns the longest active streak of points-paying finishes in the FedEx Championship Series, with six, dating to a 12th-place result at Portland. The run also includes a career-best runner-up finish at Toronto, as well as finishes of ninth at Cleveland, sixth at Michigan and Chicago and seventh at Mid-Ohio. The run has moved Tagliani from 25th to 15th place in the FedEx Championship Series, with 44 points.
* Roberto Moreno (Visteon Ford Reynard) of Patrick Racing has scored championship points in six of his past seven FedEx Championship Series starts, beginning with a third-place finish at Detroit. Also included is a season-best runner-up result at Portland, as well as finishes of eighth at Cleveland, 11th at Toronto, 12th at Michigan and sixth at Mid-Ohio. He stands 12th in the FedEx Championship Series with 52 points.
* Rookie Scott Dixon (Powerware Panasonic PacWest Toyota) of the PacWest Racing Group has scored championship points in seven of his past nine FedEx Championship Series starts, dating to his first career victory at Nazareth, which made him, at age 20 years, nine months and 14 days, the youngest driver ever to win a major open-wheel event. Also included in Dixon's run is a podium finish of third at Milwaukee and top-five results of fourth at Chicago and fifth at Toronto. Dixon, who holds a commanding 70-27 lead over Bruno Junqueira (Target Toyota Lola) of Target Chip Ganassi Racing in the battle for the $50,000 Jim Trueman Rookie of the Year Award, stands seventh in the FedEx Championship Series championship, with 70 points. Dixon also leads the series in laps completed, with 1,666 of a possible 1,712, and miles completed, with 2,592.287 of a possible 2,695.514.
* Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) of Team KOOL Green has scored championship points in his past four FedEx Championship Series starts, topped by a fourth place finish at Mid-Ohio last Sunday. Also included are finishes of sixth at Toronto, seventh at Michigan and 12th at Chicago. Tracy stands ninth in the FedEx Championship Series championship with 65 points.
ON THE RIGHT TRACK
* Michael Andretti (Motorola Honda Reynard) of Team Motorola has collected three FedEx Championship Series victories at Road America (1990, '91 and '96) and has scored championship points in 10 of his 16 career appearances at the venue, with three runner-up finishes (1985, '86 and '99). His victory in 1996 - when he took the lead from Al Unser, Jr., who suffered an engine failure on the final lap - made him one of only four drivers in CART history to win while leading the final lap of a race. Andretti has also earned two of the past three pole positions at Road America (1998, '99) and has led at least one lap in seven different events, a total of 120 in all.
* Paul Tracy owns a pair victories (1993, 2000), as well as a runner-up finish (1995) in nine career starts at Road America. He also claimed consecutive poles in 1992, '93 and '94, and led all 50 laps from the pole en route to his 1993 victory. In all, Tracy has led 103 career laps at Road America.
* Alex Zanardi (Pioneer Honda Reynard) of Mo Nunn Racing owns podium finishes in all three of his career appearances at Road America, topped by a 1997 victory, in which he led 15 laps. Zanardi also recorded a runner-up effort in 1998 and a third-place performance from the pole in 1996.
* Adrian Fernandez (Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Honda Reynard) of Fernandez Racing has finished among the top six drivers in five of his nine career starts at Road America, topped by a runner-up effort to Paul Tracy last year. He also finished third in 1999, fifth in 1994 and '98 and sixth in '95.
* Christian Fittipaldi (Kmart Toyota Lola) of Newman/Haas Racing earned his first career FedEx Championship Series victory at Road America in 1999 and has finished fourth or better in three of his past four starts, including finishes of third in 1998 and fourth in 1997.
* Jimmy Vasser (Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard) of Patrick Racing has scored championship points in five of his seven career appearances at Road America, topped by a podium result of third in 1995. He also finished sixth in 1996, eighth in '97, ninth in '99 and fifth last year.
* Max Papis (Miller Lite Ford Lola) of Team Rahal has scored championship points in four of his previous five starts at Road America, topped by a best finish of fifth in 1999. He also finished seventh last year, ninth in '96 and 11th in '98.
* Honda has won three of the past four FedEx Championship Series events contested at Road America, getting victories from Alex Zanardi (1997), Dario Franchitti (1998) and Paul Tracy last year. Honda has also won a series-high five events during the 2001 FedEx Championship Series season, with victories from Helio Castroneves at Long Beach, Detroit and Mid-Ohio; Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard) at Cleveland and Michael Andretti (Motorola Honda Reynard) at Toronto. Thanks largely to those victories, Honda has assumed a 212-185 lead over Ford in the battle for the CART Manufacturer's Championship.
* Helio Castroneves' victory at Mid-Ohio was Reynard's fourth in the past five FedEx Championship Series events. The others came from Dario Franchitti at Cleveland, Michael Andretti at Toronto and Patrick Carpentier at Michigan.
* A revised wing package will be utilized at both FedEx Championship Series European events in September - the German 500 at EuroSpeedway and Rockingham 500 at Rockingham Motor Speedway - to enhance overtaking as well as minimize turbulence in traffic. The new package will consist of the Elkhart Lake-registered road-course rear-wing main plane, without the flap, superspeedway front wing and Handford MkI endplates. The package will replace the previously-mandated Handford MkI package for EuroSpeedway and the Handford MkII for Rockingham Motor Speedway. The new package was tested recently by former Formula One standout Johnny Herbert in a Dale Coyne Racing Ford Lola at the 1.5-mile oval in Corby, England on July 31 and by former CART driver Alex Barron at the 2-mile oval in Lausitz, Germany on Aug. 6.
"The use of the road course wing main plane allows the teams the opportunity to use existing components and run at established downforce levels with less turbulence," CART Vice President of Competition Kirk Russell said. "The drivers should be able to pass more efficiently with the new package." The German 500 at Eurospeedway is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 15 (ESPN, 7:30 a.m. l ive) and will be followed by the Rockingham 500 at Rockingham Motor Speedway on Saturday, Sept. 22 (ESPN, 7:30 a.m. live).
* Townsend Bell, who leads the 2001 Dayton Indy Lights championship, ran approximately 200 miles at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course Monday during a successful test with the Patrick Racing Champ Car team. Bell, who claimed his fourth victory of the Indy Lights season on Sunday, turned an unofficial fast lap of 1 minute, 6.6 seconds during his first-ever Champ Car test. By comparison, defending FedEx Championship Series champion Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Team Penske) of Marlboro Team Penske won the pole for last weekend's FedEx Championship Series event at Mid-Ohio with a lap of 1 minute, 5.442 seconds. "We were pleased with what we saw today," said Patrick Racing General Manager Jim McGee. "Townsend ran very well. The seat didn't fit correctly and it was his first time in a Champ Car, so we had to adjust to the additional power and brakes. It was a complex day for him, but he handled things very well and was very consistent." Bell, who competes for Dorricott Racing in the Indy Lights Series, said: "This thing is a blast to drive. My main goal today was to get some laps, keep improving, and learn all I could. These cars are incredible. The power of the Toyota engine is awesome, and it is a real gas driving a Champ Car. The whole experience was just incredible." Team owner Pat Patrick plans on giving Bell another test in the near future. "I was very impressed with Townsend's performance today," Patrick said. "We plan on testing him again at Chicago after the Road America race [this weekend] and hopefully, we can work out something to get him into a CART race before the end of the season."
ON THE AIR
* Qualifying for the Motorola 220 will air 1 a.m. ET Sunday on ESPN2. CART 2Day airs 11 a.m. Sunday on ESPN, while ESPN's live race broadcast begins 1 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 .