CHAMPCAR/CART: Rockingham preview

DETROIT (September 18, 2001) - Having played to an impressive throng in its first-ever appearance in Europe last Saturday, the FedEx Championship Series continues its overseas tour this weekend with the inaugural Rockingham 500 at Rockingham Motor...

DETROIT (September 18, 2001) - Having played to an impressive throng in its first-ever appearance in Europe last Saturday, the FedEx Championship Series continues its overseas tour this weekend with the inaugural Rockingham 500 at Rockingham Motor Speedway in Corby, England (7:30 a.m. ET Saturday, live, ESPN).

A crowd of 87,689 watched Kenny Brack of Team Rahal regain the FedEx Championship Series championship lead last Saturday when he drove to victory in The American Memorial at the new EuroSpeedway in Lausitz, Germany. Now, the teams and drivers prepare to invade Rockingham, a 1.5-mile oval located just north of Corby in the East Midlands region of England.

The Rockingham 500 will mark the seventh oval stop of the 2001 FedEx Championship Series campaign, and the final one before the season-ending The 500 Presented by Toyota on Nov. 4 at California Speedway. This weekend's event figures to give Brack another opportunity to add substantially to his points total, since he has completely dominated his FedEx Championship Series rivals on the ovals this season.

In six oval starts to date, Brack (Shell Ford Lola) owns four victories - at Japan, Milwaukee, Chicago and Germany -- and a runner-up result at Nazareth. Of his 131 championship points, 100 have come on ovals, nearly double the total of rookie Scott Dixon (Nextel Powerware Panasonic PacWest Toyota), who stands second in the series with 57 championship points scored on ovals.

Brack has led at least 54 laps in each of his oval-track starts this season, and has collected 525 of his series-leading 565 laps led on ovals. He also owns oval pole positions at Texas, Milwaukee and Michigan.

Brack arrives in England with a 131-120 championship lead over defending FedEx Championship Series champion Gil de Ferran (Honda Reynard) of Team Penske. De Ferran has put together his most consistent streak of the season over the past five events, with five top-eight finishes and four top-five results. De Ferran's current run includes finishes of third at Chicago, second at Mid-Ohio, fifth at Road America, second at Vancouver and eighth at Germany.

Also consistent of late has been Michael Andretti (Motorola Honda Reynard) of Team Motorola who has used a trio of consecutive top-four finishes to move into third place in the championship with 115 points. Andretti's streak includes finishes of second at Road America, third at Vancouver and fourth at Germany.

Reigning Indianapolis 500 champion Helio Castroneves (Honda Reynard) of Team Penske has slipped from first to fourth in the championship over the past two events, but still comes to England on a run of five points-paying finishes in his past six events, including a victory at Mid-Ohio.

Rounding out the top five in the championship is Dixon, the rookie who has scored championship points in all six of his starts on ovals this season, topped by a victory at Nazareth. With 86 points, Dixon is the frontrunner in the race for the $50,000 Jim Trueman Rookie of the Year Award.

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

Though this weekend will mark the first FedEx Championship Series event contested in England, it will not be the first appearance for Champ Cars in the country. In October of 1978, one year before the formation of CART, the United States Auto Club contested back-to-back road course events at Silverstone and Brands Hatch, which were won by A.J. Foyt and Rick Mears, respectively.

The Rockingham 500 is Round 17 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 The 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. Christian Fittipaldi (Kmart Toyota Lola) of Newman/Haas Racing 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 Rockingham 500, the FedEx Championship Series returns home for Round 18, the Texaco/Havoline Grand Prix of Houston, Oct. 5-7 on the streets of downtown Houston, Tex.

WHO'S HOT

* FedEx Championship leader Kenny Brack (Shell Ford Lola) of Team Rahal became the season's first four-time race winner with his victory in The American Memorial last Saturday at EuroSpeedway in Lausitz, Germany. The triumph allowed Brack, who also recorded victories at Japan, Milwaukee and Chicago to regain the FedEx Championship Series championship lead he had relinquished following the August 12th Miller Lite 200 at Mid Ohio. Brack has scored championship points in 10 of 15 starts this season, with six top-five finishes. He leads Gil de Ferran (Honda Reynard) of Team Penske by 11 points (131-120) in the race for the FedEx Championship Series championship.

* Defending FedEx Championship Series champion Gil de Ferran has scored championship points in each of his past five FedEx Championship Series starts, with four top-five finishes. The streak consists of podium finishes of third at Chicago, second at Mid-Ohio and second at Vancouver, in addition to a fifth-place finish at Road America and an eighth-place result in Germany. Thanks to the run, de Ferran has moved from fifth to second in the FedEx Championship Series championship with 120 points, 11 behind championship leader Kenny Brack of Team Rahal (131).

* Michael Andretti (Motorola Honda Reynard) of Team Motorola owns top-four finishes in each of his past three FedEx Championship Series starts, including podium results of second at Road America and third at Vancouver. He also finished fourth in Germany, which allowed him to move into third place in the FedEx Championship Series championship, with 115 points. Andretti has finished sixth or better in eight of 15 starts this season.

* Patrick Carpentier (Player's/Indeck Ford Reynard) of Player's Forsythe Racing has recorded podium finishes in four of his past six FedEx Championship Series starts, dating to his first career victory at Michigan Speedway. Also included are finishes of second at Chicago and third at Mid-Ohio and Germany. Carpentier, who has scored in seven of his past 10 starts and five of his past six, has moved into seventh place in the FedEx Championship Series championship, with 83 points. Carpentier's four podium finishes this season have exceeded his career total of three in the four years prior to 2001.

* Helio Castroneves (Honda Reynard) of Team Penske has scored championship points in five of his past six starts dating to an eighth-place finish at Michigan and including a victory at Mid-Ohio. Also included are finishes of seventh at Chicago and Road America and 12th at Germany. Castroneves, the reigning Indianapolis 500 champion, stands fourth in the FedEx Championship Series championship with 111 points.

* Rookie Scott Dixon (Nextel Powerware Panasonic PacWest Toyota) of the PacWest Racing Group has earned championship points in six of his past seven FedEx Championship Series starts, including three top-five results. The run began with a fifth-place finish at Toronto and includes finishes of 10th at Michigan, fourth at Chicago, 12th at Mid-Ohio, fourth at Road America and ninth at Germany. Dixon, the 2000 Dayton Indy Lights champion, holds an 86-50 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. He also leads the FedEx Championship Series in laps completed, with 1,963 of a possible 2,009; and miles completed, with 3,260.527 of a possible 3,363.754. He stands fifth in the FedEx Championship Series championship, with 86 points.

* Tony Kanaan (Mo Nunn Racing Honda Reynard) of Mo Nunn Racing collected his sixth points-paying result in his past seven starts with a seventh-place finish at Germany. The run dates to a 10th-place finish at Toronto and includes finishes of eighth at Chicago, fifth at Mid-Ohio, 12th at Road America and fourth at Vancouver. Kanaan stands 10th in the FedEx Championship Series championship, with 72 points.

* Oriol Servia (Sigma Autosport Ford Lola) of Sigma Autosport has scored championship points in five of his last six FedEx Championship Series starts, and has recorded back-to-back season-best finishes of fifth in the past two events at Vancouver and Germany. His current run also includes finishes of 11th at Michigan, ninth at Mid-Ohio and 10th at Road America. Servia stands 18th in the FedEx Championship Series championship, with 37 points.

ON THE RIGHT TRACK

* FedEx Championship Series championship leader Kenny Brack has collected all of his series-high four victories on ovals this season, at Japan, Milwaukee, Chicago and Germany. He also owns a podium finish of second on the oval at Nazareth Speedway and has scored a series-leading 100 of his 131 championship points in oval competition. Brack has recorded 525 of his series leading 565 laps on ovals, and has led at least 54 laps in each of his six oval-track starts this season.

* Scott Dixon has scored championship points in all six of his FedEx Championship Series starts on ovals this season, beginning with 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 FedEx Championship Series event. Dixon also owns a podium finish of third at Milwaukee, as well as finishes of fourth at Chicago, ninth at Japan and Germany and 10th at Michigan.

* Patrick Carpentier his finished on the podium in each of his past three FedEx Championship Series starts on ovals, highlighted by his first career victory at Michigan Speedway in July. He also finished second at Chicago and third at Germany and stands third in the series in points earned on ovals, with 50.

* Tony Kanaan has finished eighth or better in four of his past five oval starts, topped by a podium result of third at Japan. He also finished sixth at Milwaukee, eighth at Chicago and seventh at Germany. Kanaan also stands second in the series in laps led on ovals, with 175.

MANUFACTURING SUCCESS

* Kenny Brack's triumph at Germany gave Ford-powered drivers victories in five of the six completed FedEx Championship Series events contested on ovals this season. Brack has claimed four of those, at Japan, Milwaukee and Chicago in addition to last week's win, while Patrick Carpentier collected the other one at Michigan. Ford has earned 121 Manufacturer's Championship points on ovals, tops in the FedEx Championship Series.

ON THE AIR

* The Rockingham 500 will air live in the United States on ESPN, beginning at 7:30 a.m. Saturday. 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. Saturday's race will also air on the CART Radio Network and on CART's official website, which will also carry Friday's qualifying, at www.cart.com.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Michael Andretti , Bruno Junqueira , Patrick Carpentier , Christian Fittipaldi , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Oriol Servia , Kenny Brack , Rick Mears , A.J. Foyt , Mo Nunn
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing