CHAMPCAR/CART: Series Happenings, 1999-12-16

Weeks of speculation ended Tuesday with the announcement that Patrick Racing had signed Roberto Moreno to campaign the ...

Weeks of speculation ended Tuesday with the announcement that Patrick Racing had signed Roberto Moreno to campaign the #20 Visteon-sponsored entry during the 2000 FedEx Championship Series season.

Moreno, who split driving duties between the PacWest Racing Group and Newman/Haas Racing last year, will team with Adrian Fernandez to form Patrick's two-car entry in the coming campaign. A native Brazilian who now resides in Weston, Fla., Moreno will be entering his seventh CART season next year, his third with a full-time ride.

During recent seasons, Moreno has earned the nickname "Super Sub" for his ability to produce impressive results while filling in for injured drivers. This past season, he recorded six points-paying finishes in eight starts for PacWest while substituting for the injured Mark Blundell in the Motorola PacWest Mercedes.

He then stepped into the Big Kmart Ford Swift to make an additional five starts for the injured Christian Fittipaldi, capping off the stint with a career-best runner-up finish at Laguna Seca. Overall, Moreno scored points in eight of 13 starts and finished 14th in the FedEx Championship Series with 58 points, despite competing in only 13 of 20 events.

"We are very pleased to have Roberto join our organization," said U.E "Pat" Patrick, Patrick Racing team owner. "He is a very talented and competitive driver, as well as a team player. We look forward to getting the benefit of his experience as we move forward toward our goal of a championship during the 2000 FedEx Championship Series season."

Moreno looks forward to building on the success he enjoyed in 1999.

"I think I have shown over my career that when I am with a good team, I produce good results," he said. "Joining Patrick Racing on a full-time basis is the best opportunity I have had in my racing career. The team is very experienced, competitive and a consistent winner. I am looking forward to working with Mr. Patrick, [General Manager] Jim McGee, Adrian and all the mechanics. With the package we have and the backing and support of Visteon and its technical advisors, I am confident that we can challenge for the championship in 2000."

MO NUNN JOINS RANKS OF CART OWNERS

Morris Nunn, who has engineered Target/Chip Ganassi Racing drivers Juan Montoya and Alex Zanardi to the past three FedEx Championship Series championships, announced last Wednesday the formation of his own team, Morris Nunn Racing, to compete in the FedEx Championship Series in 2000 and beyond. Nunn has been joined by PacWest Group President Bruce McCaw and Detroit-based marketing executive Rod Campbell in the new venture. The team will campaign a Mercedes-powered Reynard during its inaugural season for a driver to be announced. "We are currently interviewing potential team members and available drivers," said Nunn, who served as race engineer during Montoya's run to the 1999 FedEx Championship Series title as well as during Zanardi's back-to-back championship seasons in 1997 and '98.

"[Former Team Rahal driver] Bryan Herta is on our short list, and most of the other drivers are under contract, so ... there aren't that many available." As for speculation that Zanardi may depart Formula One and thus become a possible candidate for the driver's seat, Nunn said: "As of this moment, I believe he's still with Williams ... We'd love to have Alex, but I'm not sure that he would come back to the States. I mean, I haven't really spoken to him in any detail about that, but when he left, I know he missed Europe, and maybe he has enough money now to retire, I don't know." Nunn is enthused about the package the team will be campaigning during the upcoming FedEx Championship Series season. "I am looking forward to continuing my success with Reynard and working with Mercedes-Benz and Ilmor Engineering," said Nunn, who began working in the FedEx Championship Series in 1984. "I think we are going to surprise a lot of people with our competitiveness. I have enjoyed my last eight seasons with the [Target] Ganassi team, however, when the opportunity arose to field my own team with Bruce and Rod in the CART FedEx [Championship] Series, I couldn't resist the challenge." Mo Nunn Racing will be based in Indianapolis, with Steve Newey, formerly of Patrick Racing, serving as general manager and Brad Filbey, formerly of Team Gordon, serving as team manager.

"CART CARES" HOLIDAY FOOD DRIVE CLIMAXES FRIDAY

The second annual CART Cares Holiday Food Drive concludes Friday in downtown Indianapolis with a pair of fund-raising events to benefit the Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana. The six-week food drive will culminate at noon when PacWest Racing Group driver Mauricio Gugelmin tows Santa Claus' sleigh into Monument Circle behind his Mercedes-Benz-powered PacWest Champ Car. Members of PacWest, who coordinated the food drive, and the CART community will then present the food and cash proceeds from the drive to Gleaners, which, in turn, will distribute the donations to 300 central Indiana agencies that assist the needy during the holiday season. The presentation will be followed by the inaugural CART Cares charity luncheon, which will feature an auction of Champ Car memorabilia, proceeds of which will also benefit Gleaners. Among the items to be auctioned will be a Target/Chip Ganassi Racing fire suit autographed by reigning FedEx Championship Series champion Juan Montoya and 1996 champion Jimmy Vasser; a helmet autographed by Gugelmin and members of the Hollywood PacWest team; a Patrick Racing crew shirt autographed by Adrian Fernandez; an autographed front wing piece from PacWest driver Mark Blundell's Motorola Reynard and the engine cowling from the car driven by driver Gil de Ferran, then of Walker Racing, in the 1999 FedEx Championship Series season finale at Fontana, Calif. Non-perishable food and toiletry items or cash donations may be delivered to Monument Circle from 10:30 a.m. to noon Friday. For further information on the CART Cares Holiday Food Drive or luncheon contact the PacWest Racing Group, at (317) 297-2500.

BRACK COMPLETES INITIAL TEST

Kenny Brack, signed by Team Rahal last month to drive the Shell Ford Reynard in the 2000 FedEx Championship Series, completed his first test, albeit a brief one, in the new car at Sebring International Raceway on Wednesday. Brack completed roughly 50 miles of testing on the Sebring road course, with a quick lap time of 51.3 seconds. "We are happy with everything so far," he said. "We have been trying some very different things with the car, such as development tires, but we are happy where we are at right now. The new car has less downforce, but in return, it has more power. So, I think the total package will be about the same in regards to track times. The new [Ford] engine is a lot better in all aspects. It has more power and is a lot more driveable. Driveability, to me, is a lot more important than horsepower, but it has both, which is great."

MARLBORO TEAM PENSKE TESTS NEW PACKAGE

Marlboro Team Penske drivers Gil de Ferran and Helio Castro-Neves completed a successful two-day shakedown test of the team's 2000 Marlboro Honda Reynard last Wednesday and Thursday at Homestead-Miami Speedway. De Ferran and Castro-Neves completed a combined 296 miles on the 2.21-mile Homestead-Miami Speedway road course.

The test was the first of two scheduled for Homestead-Miami Speedway this month. A two-day test is slated next week on the speedway's 1.5-mile oval. "In my mind, the shakedown was very successful," said de Ferran, who like Castro-Neves, is entering his first year Marlboro Team Penske. "We had our first opportunity to work together as a team and we were able to put a lot of miles on the car. The car is brand new and the engine is new and so far, the package looks very reliable." Said Castro-Neves: "I'm getting to know the team much better and seeing how Marlboro Team Penske works, I'm very impressed with their dedication and attention to detail. This is a great team with a long history in motorsports. We know it's going to take a little while to get the car to where we want it, but I think we're off to a good start. I'm just looking forward to getting on the oval in a couple of weeks." Tim Cindric, president of Penske Racing, Inc., deemed the shakedown a success. "Between the two drivers, we were able to put nearly 300 miles on the car without any major problems," he said. "To come into this test with all new components - drivers, chassis, engine and tires - and to have it be as productive as it was, certainly met and exceeded our expectations." Cindric also announced that Rick Rinaman would serve as crew chief for Castro-Neves in the #3 Marlboro Honda Reynard while Matt Jonsson will crew chief the #2 Marlboro Honda Reynard for de Ferran. Homestead-Miami Speedway hosts the fifth annual FedEx Championship Series Spring Training, Feb. 8-10, before hosting the season-opening Marlboro Grand Prix of Miami Presented by Toyota, March 24-26.

TARGET/CHIP GANASSI RACING ADDS TO ENGINEERING STAFF

Target/Chip Ganassi Racing, winner of an unprecedented four consecutive FedEx Championship Series championships, announced last Thursday that it had added four engineers to its staff. Bill Pappas, who most recently served as track engineer for Gil de Ferran at Walker Racing, has joined the team as engineer for the Target Toyota Reynard to be driven by defending FedEx Championship Series champion Juan Montoya. Also joining the team are Jim Hamilton, Chuck Matthews and Patrick Webb, who will focus on research and development at the team's Indianapolis-based race shop. "We're excited about the newest additions to the Target/Chip Ganassi family," said team manager Mike Hull. "With the reduction of on-track testing, research and development at the shop becomes a major factor in staying ahead of the competition. Our new engineers come to us with great experience, and we're confident our team is strengthened by their addition."

GUGELMIN EXUDES CONFIDENCE

PacWest Racing Group driver Mauricio Gugelmin was enthused following his first test of the new Mercedes-Benz 108F engine and the new Reynard 2KI chassis at Sebring (Fla.) International Raceway last week. With Steve Miller, head of the Mercedes-Benz Champ Car program, and a large staff of engineers in attendance, Gugelmin put the new package through a two-day test and pronounced himself pleased with the results. "There is no doubt that the performance of the new Mercedes-Benz engine during the last couple of days has been enormously encouraging," Gugelmin said. "If the first test is the foundation for future development, then we are going to have the equipment to win races in the FedEx Championship [Series] in 2000. The power delivery is very good and we have certainly made some strides with the new gearbox, especially in the area of shifting. It is pleasing to be in a position where we have a complete package to work with and develop." PacWest Team Manager Russell Cameron shared those sentiments. "The integration between Mercedes-Benz and Reynard has produced what looks to be a terrific package," Cameron said. "The design and the basic overall package looks to be a major step forward. We are coming away from this test feeling very confident about the season ahead and that's a nice position to be in at this stage of the year."

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