CHAMPCAR/CART: The 2002 Awards Banquet on-site notebook

MIAMI (November 22, 2002) - Paul Gentilozzi's Rocketsports Racing effort in the 2003 Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered By Ford got a big boost Friday when it was announced that his long-time Trans-Am sponsor Johnson Controls...

MIAMI (November 22, 2002) - Paul Gentilozzi's Rocketsports Racing effort in the 2003 Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered By Ford got a big boost Friday when it was announced that his long-time Trans-Am sponsor Johnson Controls would sponsor his 2003 CART effort.

The Lansing, Michigan-based company has been with Gentilozzi for the last five seasons, during which time Gentilozzi has won three Trans-Am championships. The new team announced its participation in the series last weekend at California Speedway, and made the sponsorship announcement in a Friday press conference in Miami - site of Friday's 2002 CART Awards Banquet.

"The time has come to raise our level of motorsport participation to continue to grow as a team and expand the business opportunities for our valued marketing partner, Johnson Controls, "Gentilozzi said in a team release. "As a major automotive interior supplier, the CART series is the most appropriate arenas in American motorsports for a company like Johnson Controls. We look forward to continuing our productive relationship as we move together in this new direction."

The team has not yet named its driver for 2003 although it did say that the choice had been narrowed down and that the team expects to make its announcement early next week.

2002 CART champion Cristiano da Matta made his final appearance in front of the media Friday afternoon in a press conference where it was announced that he had won the 2002 National Driver of the Year Award. The Brazilian took the opportunity to talk about his fondness for CART and what he had gotten out of his four years in the series as he prepares to move to Toyota's Formula 1 team next season.

"There's no price that I can put on what I got our of my time in CART," he said. "This series has helped me realize my dreams of winning a championship and I will give all the support I can to the series. The least I can do is support CART any way I can."

Da Matta said that he would have very little time to celebrate his achievements after he receives his million-dollar prize at tonight's banquet, as he starts a rigorous testing program with Toyota at France's Paul Ricard circuit on Tuesday. He will be testing 14 of the next 20 days before getting a break to return home to Brazil.

The 2002 champ was joined on the dais by Newman/Haas team co-owner Carl Haas who recalled how hard he pursued da Matta in hopes of getting him in his team's car for the 2001 season.

"I pride myself at being pretty good at picking out racing talent and I paid close attention to him in 2000 and I really chased him very hard," Haas said. "He really came into his own this year and I think that he bears watching in the future because I believe he will make all of us very proud of him in the years to come.

The announcement of the sponsorship of the new Rocketsports team brings the total of new team, driver or sponsorship announcements for the 2003 Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford to 10 in the last 21 days. The run was started with the Fernandez Racing announcement in Fontana and has included current stars such as Paul Tracy, Bruno Junqueira and Patrick Carpentier landing rides as well as new teams and drivers from Paul Gentilozzi, Dale Coyne and Derrick Walker.

Mario Dominguez was to join the press conference as well to be honored as the winner of the 2002 Jim Trueman Rookie of the Year Award, but inclement weather prevented him from attending the afternoon ceremonies. He will receive the award at tonight's banquet.

-cart-

Johnson Controls press conference

Da Matta press conference

Motorola press conference

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Bruno Junqueira , Patrick Carpentier , Paul Gentilozzi , Mario Dominguez , Dale Coyne , Cristiano da Matta