WHO'S HOT * Brazilian Cristiano da Matta ( ...
* Brazilian Cristiano da Matta (#6 Caltex/Havoline Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone) drove to his seventh victory of the season in Round 16 of the 2002 CART FedEx Championship Series and with that, secured the Vanderbilt Cup with 212 points, delivering Newman/Haas Racing its fourth CART championship in downtown Miami at the Grand Prix Americas. Da Matta started sixth before his adopted hometown crowd and used quick pit work and stellar strategy to score 21 points on race day (win and most laps led) - 11 more than childhood friend Bruno Junqueira (#4 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone) of Target Chip Ganassi Racing with 143 points, who finished fifth and now shifts his focus to fending off a hungry pack of no less than 10 pilots competing for runner-up honors in the championship as the series makes its way Down Under. The award for clinching the title in Miami was sweetened by a cool $1 million dollar purse for da Matta, who moved into exclusive company in the annals of CART history becoming the 16th champion in the sanctioning body's 24th season of competition. But by no means has da Matta switched it into cruise control - he has his sights firmly set on the record for wins in a season with three events remaining. Only four other drivers have ever won as many as seven races in a season with Al Unser Jr. (1994) and Michael Andretti ('91) winning eight, while Juan Montoya ('99) and Alex Zanardi ('98) each won seven in a year.
* Da Matta's teammate Christian Fittipaldi (#11 Lilly Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone) completed a Newman/Haas Racing one-two finish in Miami, turning the trick for the second time this season (Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca). Fittipaldi also turned the fastest lap of the race and stands fifth in the points with 114 heading to the streets of Surfers Paradise.
* American Jimmy Vasser (#8 Shell Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) of Team Rahal travels to Australia's picturesque Gold Coast on the heels of a podium showing of third in Miami after starting 12th. Vasser's best showing since placing second at Long Beach was a direct result of a spirited drive that saw him out-brake would-be contenders early and often around Miami's street circuit configuration. Vasser enters the Round 17 Honda Indy 300 tied for eighth in points (90) with Michael Andretti (#39 Motorola Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) of Team Motorola.
ON THE RIGHT TRACK
* Dario Franchitti (#27 KOOL Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) of Team KOOL Green holds the rights to the track qualifying mark on the 2.795-mile street course at Surfers Paradise with a time of 1:31.703 (109.724 mph), which propelled him to victory in 1999. In addition, Franchitti scored a pole in the 1998 event.
* Current CART drivers who have tasted victory champagne Down Under include Michael Andretti in 1994, Paul Tracy (#26 KOOL Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) in '95, Jimmy Vasser from pole in '96, Adrian Fernandez (#51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) in '00 and Cristiano da Matta in last year's event.
* Michael Andretti joins Dario Franchitti (1998-99) and Nigel Mansell ('93-'94) for the most pole positions in Australia with two. Andretti topped qualifying for the 1991 and 1995 events.
* Toyota powered Cristiano da Matta to a victory and the championship in the Round 16 race staged in Miami. Overall, Toyota-powered drivers have won nine of 16 CART FedEx Championship Series events contested this season with Cristiano da Matta (7) and Bruno Junqueira (2). Honda has five wins between Dario Franchitti (3), teammate Paul Tracy and technical partner Michael Andretti followed by Ford-Cosworth thanks to Patrick Carpentier's (#32 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) two Ohio triumphs. The hunt for the Manufacturer's Championship has Toyota (287) leading over Honda (241) and Ford-Cosworth (206).
* In the CART FedEx Championship Series' 11-year history in Australia, the Toyota/Lola combination comes in as the defending race champion, supplying the setup that earned Cristiano da Matta the victory in last year's event. Overall, Ford (5) leads Honda (3) and Toyota (1) in total wins at Surfers Paradise, with Reynard (6) leading Lola (5) in the chassis battle.
* Lola has won 13 of 16 CART FedEx Championship Series events this season, including wins by Cristiano da Matta (7), Dario Franchitti (3), Bruno Junqueira (2) and Paul Tracy. Reynard took trips to victory circle in the remaining three races this season in the hands of Patrick Carpentier (2) and Michael Andretti. Lola clinched the Constructor's Championship in the Round 14 Shell Grand Prix of Denver in September.
* Unpredictability Down Under...Repeat performances have not been a common sight in the 11 years that the CART FedEx Championship Series has traveled to Australia, as no driver has ever won more than once on the Queensland street course. Six of the drivers that will start the Honda Indy 300 have won the event previously, a high-water mark for the 2002 campaign.
* Add Another One...Just three weeks ago, organizers of the Oct. 24-27 Honda Indy 300 announced the building of a new grandstand to accommodate the increased ticket demand for the upcoming CART FedEx Championship Series event, and may have thought that the construction would alleviate the seating crunch. But the demands keep coming from the Australian people and in order to meet the still-increasing ticket sales, the event staff announced this week that they were going to erect yet another Andretti grandstand for the event..."It's a bit like dejà vu. We keep coming out announcing new grandstands for this year," said Honda Indy 300 Chief Executive Officer Geoff Jones. "We are delighted with ticket sales which are pointing toward a record four-day crowd in excess of 300,000. Grandstand ticket sales have been going through the roof, and we encourage people to get in quickly to secure a seat in the new Andretti stand."...The new seating section, which is the fourth new grandstand to be built for this year's race, will be located on the corner of Serisier Avenue and Corner Hill Parade at the northern end of the circuit. Four-day tickets for the Andretti grandstand, which is covered with closed-circuit televisions, are on sale via the Honda Indy 300 website www.indy.com.au.
* Rewriting the Record Book...The new generation of CART drivers is putting its stamp on the CART record book, with a number of drivers etching their names into the annals of the series. Jimmy Vasser will be making his 163rd consecutive start in the series, moving to within one of Emerson Fittipaldi for second on the all-time list. Al Unser Jr holds the series record with 192 consecutive starts. Cristiano da Matta became the 11th driver in Champ Car history to make 10 podium appearances in a season with his win at Miami. His win at Miami also moved him into sole possession of 10th on the all-time CART win list with 11. A podium finish in Australia would also mark only the 10th time in CART history that a driver has put together six consecutive podiums.
* Gold Coast Fans Queued Up...Two weeks worth of events surround the Honda Indy 300 every year from Family Days to educational outings for local children. The buildup of excitement for the CART Champ Cars drive demand for race-week tickets to lofty heights every year and this season's event is expected to see attendance numbers in excess of 300,000. The CART FedEx Championship Series will break the two-million mark in attendance for the year at the Honda Indy 300 with two races left to run.
Honda Indy 300
Surfers Paradise, Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia
CART SCHEDULE (All times local): FRIDAY, OCTOBER 25 - Champ Car practice, 10:00 - 11:20 a.m.; Champ Car qualifying, 2:15 - 3:15 p.m. SATURDAY, OCTOBER 26 - Champ Car practice, 9:45 - 11:00 a.m.; Champ Car qualifying, 1:50 - 2:50 p.m. SUNDAY, OCTOBER 27 - Champ Car warmup, 10:00 - 10:30 a.m.; Honda Indy 300 2:00 p.m.
U.S. TELEVISION SCHEDULE: FRIDAY, OCTOBER 25 - SPEED Channel, CART qualifying, 12:00 a.m. ET (Live); SPEED Channel, CART Friday Night, 11:00 p.m. ET; SPEED Channel, CART final qualifying, 11:30 p.m. (Live). SUNDAY, OCTOBER 27 - SPEED Channel, Honda Indy 300, 12:00 a.m. (Live).