CHAMPCAR/CART: Series Happenings, 3/9/00

The PacWest Racing Group and driver Mark Blundell (Motorola PacWest Mercedes) have been chosen to participate in a nationwide television campaign promoting this year's Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon, the annual fundraiser which benefits the Muscular ...

The PacWest Racing Group and driver Mark Blundell (Motorola PacWest Mercedes) have been chosen to participate in a nationwide television campaign promoting this year's Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon, the annual fundraiser which benefits the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

The 21½-hour telethon is scheduled for Labor Day weekend, Sept. 3-4, and is expected to reach an audience of some 75 million viewers on 200 affiliate stations across the United States and Canada.

Blundell recently completed the taping of several MDA public service announcements at Firebird International Raceway outside Phoenix. He was joined in the taping by 9-year-old twin brothers Chris and Marc Schwab of Prescott, Ariz., both of whom are afflicted with Duchesne Muscular Dystrophy.

The announcements will feature footage of Blundell's Champ Car as well as that of the Nextel PacWest Mercedes driven by PacWest teammate Mauricio Gugelmin.

In addition to the public service announcements, Blundell also taped a 30-second spot that will appear continually throughout the telethon to inform viewers of credit card and secured online contribution options. He also recorded individual sound bites for the 200 affiliates that will air the telethon.

"There is no doubt that MDA is a worthwhile and active organization with which all our team members are pleased to be associated," said PacWest Racing Group owner Bruce McCaw. "MDA is racing to find a cure for muscle-wasting diseases and we are doing whatever we can to help 'Jerry's Kids.' "

Championship Auto Racing Teams Chairman and CEO Andrew Craig praised PacWest for its involvement in the MDA project. "It comes as no surprise that the PacWest Racing Group is playing such a significant role in the 2000 MDA program," he said. "The CART community is proud to generously support many causes and we commend Bruce McCaw, Mark Blundell and Mauricio Gugelmin for their involvement with the MDA initiative, one that gives so much back to so many deserving individuals."

Robert Ross, Senior Vice President and Executive Director of MDA, commented, "We're delighted to count PacWest Racing Group among our sponsors. By racing for our families and featuring our logo on its cars, PacWest has created an extra reason for racing fans to cheer."

* HOMESTEAD HOSTS NUMEROUS TESTS

Homestead-Miami Speedway played host to a bevy of FedEx Championship Series teams last week, most of whom were continuing with preparations for the season-opening Marlboro Grand Prix of Miami Presented by Toyota, March 24-26 on the 1.502-mile Homestead-Miami Speedway oval. A total of 12 teams and 17 drivers participated in test sessions during the week, including defending FedEx Championship Series champion Juan Montoya (Target Toyota Lola) of Target/Chip Ganassi Racing.

Others participating in the tests included Jimmy Vasser (Target Toyota Lola), Montoya's Target/Chip Ganassi Racing teammate; Patrick Racing teammates Adrian Fernandez (Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing Ford Reynard) and Roberto Moreno (Visteon/Patrick Racing Ford Reynard); Marlboro Team Penske's driving tandem of Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) and Helio Castro-Neves (Marlboro Honda Reynard); Player's Forsythe Racing teammates Patrick Carpentier (Player's Forsythe Racing Team Ford Reynard) and Alex Tagliani (Player's Forsythe Racing Team Ford Reynard); Mo Nunn Racing driver Tony Kanaan (Panasonic Mercedes Reynard); Della Penna Motorsports driver Richie Hearn (Ziff Davis Toyota Reynard) and Walker Racing rookie driver Shinji Nakano (Avex Honda Reynard).

"I think we are in very good shape as far as starting the season," said Fernandez, whose session Saturday at Homestead was part of a 1,300-mile week of testing for Patrick Racing at Homestead and Phoenix International Raceway. "During the off-season testing program, the Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing Ford-Cosworth has run without any major problems. We won't really know what we have until we start racing, but I am confident we will have a good season. We have a good baseline for the Miami race, but most important, we have a good team structure and good personnel. We are better organized and prepared as a team, plus, Roberto and I work very well together. I am very confident going into the start of the season." De Ferran and Castro-Neves combined to put more than 700 miles on their Champ Cars during two days of testing.

"We had a very positive test, and I feel we're well prepared for the Marlboro Grand Prix of Miami [Presented by Toyota]," de Ferran said. "We left Spring Training [Feb. 8-10] with a few ideas of how we could tweak the Marlboro car and the car responded to the changes. During the race simulation, the car was fast, consistent and reliable, so we're all looking forward to the race and getting the season off to a good start."

Testing also took place on the 2.18-mile road course at Homestead, with Michael Andretti (Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Lola) and Carpentier among those participating.

"We were just working on basic setups and didn't really work toward adapting the car to the track for a fast lap," said Andretti, who is concluding a three-day test on the Homestead oval today. "We were working on different concepts and making big changes that take between one and two hours. You can't do those kinds of things during a race weekend. Overall, I was pretty happy with the car at the end of the test."

Carpentier said the Player's Forsythe Team made substantial gains during a day-long session at the road course last Thursday. "We were able to make a lot of progress on the Homestead road configuration, especially on the fast corners. It shares similarities with the track at Portland, and the work we did here should help us with our setup for that race. I thoroughly enjoyed working with my new engineer [Canadian Michael Cannon]. I think the chemistry on our team is outstanding."

* MEANWHILE, AT FIREBIRD ...

PacWest Racing Group driver Mauricio Gugelmin (Nextel PacWest Mercedes) logged 81 laps and over 100 miles on the 1.25-mile road course at Firebird East outside Phoenix last Thursday. "We had a pretty decent day," Gugelmin said following his first road course test of the off-season. "It's always very slippery at Firebird, but we were able to try a lot of different mechanical things to gain grip. We deliberately left the car in the configuration that we will run on street circuits, and everything went well."

Also testing at Firebird was Bettenhausen Motorsports driver Michel Jourdain Jr. (Herdez Mercedes Lola) who completed three days of workouts last Friday. "I am very happy with all the improvements," he said afterward. "We tested many things and we've got very valuable information, mainly for circuits such as Long Beach. Now we know the car better; the chassis has several different things in comparison with last year's Lola. I am very happy and looking forward to going back to Homestead for more testing."

* FONTANA IMPRESSIVE IN DELLA PENNA TEST

In his first-ever appearance behind the wheel of a Champ Car, Argentine Norberto Fontana completed two days of testing on the road course at Homestead-Miami Speedway last Thursday, recording the unofficial fastest time of the day at 1 minute, 48 seconds on the 2.21-mile circuit. Fontana, a former competitor in the international Formula 3000 and Japanese Formula Nippon series and a winner of the 1995 German Formula 3 championship, completed a total of 137 laps during the two days and impressed team owner John Della Penna in the process.

"I am pleasantly surprised with how quickly Norberto adapted to the car," Della Penna said. "We worked on the setup of the car yesterday and today [Wednesday and Thursday] with Norberto consistently going faster. When the car was to his liking at the end of the day, he was able to go out on new tires and produce this fast time. He didn't just run one quick lap; he ran three or four laps at around one minute, 48 seconds flat."

-CART-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Gil de Ferran , Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Adrian Fernandez , Roberto Moreno , Patrick Carpentier , Alex Tagliani , Tony Kanaan , Mauricio Gugelmin , Shinji Nakano , Mark Blundell , Richie Hearn , Chip Ganassi , Bruce McCaw , Norberto Fontana , Mo Nunn
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing