CHAMPCAR/CART: Texas: Fittipaldi and da Matta look forward to Texas

FORT WORTH-DALLAS, Texas (April 27, 2001) --- Newman/Haas Racing will embark on a new challenge this weekend as the CART FedEx Championship Series heads to Texas Motor Speedway for the inaugural event on the 1.5-mile high banked track. After ...

FORT WORTH-DALLAS, Texas (April 27, 2001) --- Newman/Haas Racing will embark on a new challenge this weekend as the CART FedEx Championship Series heads to Texas Motor Speedway for the inaugural event on the 1.5-mile high banked track. After scoring two wins in the past three CART events, as well as a second place finish in the third, Newman/Haas Racing is looking to extend their title of reigning oval track winner as well as points leader.

Team leader Christian Fittipaldi, who drives the Kmart Toyota, won the previous CART oval event at the superspeedway in Fontana, Calif. and picked up the $1 million prize for winning the 2000 season-ending Marlboro 500. Texaco/Havoline/Kmart driver Cristiano da Matta continued Newman/Haas Racing's success with a win in the 2001 CART season-opener in Monterrey, Mexico, another inaugural event for CART in 2001. Da Matta narrowly missed scoring the third victory in a row for the team with his second place finish in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

"Being the reigning CART winner on an oval means that I know Newman/Haas has a good setup on this type of track," said Kmart driver Fittipaldi. "There are so many things that need to go right to win a race but starting the event knowing that we have a good baseline setup is good. We were able to run all 500 miles in Fontana and come out in front and I hope we can have just as good of a race in Fort Worth. Either a Newman/Haas driver or a car powered by a Toyota engine won the past five oval races in CART and we switched to Toyota this year so hopefully that will increase our odds."

Cristiano da Matta moved to the Newman/Haas Racing team at the start of the 2001 CART campaign and filled the seat vacated by longtime Newman/Haas driver Michael Andretti. Da Matta wasted no time keeping the team in winner's circle as he promptly put the Texaco/Havoline/Kmart Toyota Lola into victory lane at the CART season-opener in Mexico and again in Long Beach in only his third season in the CART series. Da Matta is undaunted however by the fact that he and the rest of the series face a new challenge conquering the 24-degree banking at Texas Motor Speedway.

"The track is absolutely unbelievable," said 27-year old da Matta. "Just driving up to the track impresses you. I haven't driven on it yet in anything faster than a van during a press day in January but the banking is pretty impressive. I'm sure it will be even more impressive in my Texaco/Havoline/Kmart Champ Car. I have never raced on a track with banking this steep. We didn't test at the track because the team has a good setup for ovals so they decided to concentrate on more road course testing which definitely paid off (with a win) in Mexico and (second place in) Long Beach. The season has gone well so far and we plan to continue the momentum in Texas. The team has been a big factor in the performance. Their dedication is unmatchable. I think the race will be won on the last lap," predicted da Matta. "It's going to be a shootout in Texas and I hope I am part of it."

"The race here is going to be something completely different from any other race we will have this season because the track is one-of-a kind," added Fittipaldi. "In my opinion, it's going to be a wide-open race and will be a lot like the races we have on superspeedways which have been some of our closest over the past few years. Racing close makes for a good overall race for the fans but it's more dangerous for the drivers of course. But, it's one thing when you are running alone and a completely different one when you are running in a tight pack of cars at speeds over 220 mph. The slightest problem or bobble can take out a lot of cars. It can get pretty exciting at times which is probably better for those in the grandstand and on couches in living rooms watching on TV instead of us guys in the cars but it definitely makes for a good show. It will be an exciting race for everyone at Texas Motor Speedway."

Round 3 of 21 in the CART FedEx Championship series takes place on Sunday, April 29 during the Firestone Firehawk 600 at Texas Motor Speedway. The race will be televised on ESPN at 3 PM ET. Log onto Newman-Haas.com, fittipaldionline.com or damatta.com for updates throughout race weekend.

-NHR-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Michael Andretti , Christian Fittipaldi , Cristiano da Matta