CHAMPCAR/CART: Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach fast facts

What To Look For At Long Beach: While drivers from around the world will converge in Long Beach, Calif. looking for a CART victory, the Toyota RV8E engines that propel the Toyota-powered Champ Cars will travel only about half hour to get...

What To Look For At Long Beach:

While drivers from around the world will converge in Long Beach, Calif. looking for a CART victory, the Toyota RV8E engines that propel the Toyota-powered Champ Cars will travel only about half hour to get to the paddock. Toyota Racing Development, U.S.A., builds the only U.S.-designed-and-built Champ Car engine approximately 20 miles south in Costa Mesa, Calif.

Target Chip Ganassi Racing arrives in Southern California looking for its fifth-consecutive Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach victory. Jimmy Vasser began the stretch in 1996, followed by Alex Zanardi in 1997 and 1998 and Juan Montoya a year ago.

With Juan Montoya's pole this past weekend at Nazareth, a Toyota-powered car has qualified on the front row in each of the past three races. During that time, the manufacturer has earned two pole positions (Montoya-Nazareth, Scott Pruett-Fontana) and one outside front row spot (Montoya-Homestead).

Heading into the first street race of the 2000 season, Toyota enjoyed its best-ever street course success at the end of last season. Cristiano da Matta finished a Toyota street-course best fifth at Vancouver. Scott Pruett followed that with a third in qualifying at Surfers Paradise and ran in the top two until pit-stop problems dropped him to 10th.

The recent success of Target Ganassi Racing at "the Beach" has also resulted in the Long Beach winner going on to earn the CART championship in each of the past four seasons. Vasser (1996), Zanardi (1997, 1998) and Montoya used a victory at the Toyota Grand Prix to propel themselves to Champ Car titles.

After traveling to consecutive oval events, rookies Norberto Fontana and Oriol Servia will make their first Champ Car starts on a road course this weekend. For Fontana, the event will mark a return to normalcy as the Argentine had never driven on an oval track prior to a few weeks ago.

Dating back to the first Formula 5000 event, Toyota has been a sponsor at Long Beach since the race's inception in 1975. The manufacturer became the title sponsor in 1980. This weekend, Toyota not only is the title sponsor but also is a competitor in the featured Champ Car race, provides the engines and sponsorship for the Toyota Atlantic Championship, organizes and presents the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race and serves as the Official Truck of CART. More than 2,000 Toyota associates and guests will be on hand Sunday.

After splitting a pair of races at Homestead, Buddy Rice and Daniel Wheldon resume their battle for the Toyota Atlantic Championship lead. The young duo each picked up a second to go along with their victory, but Rice currently holds the series lead due to bonus points. Wheldon runs for Santa Margarita-based PPI Motorsports. Orange County native Rocky Moran Jr. also could make a push for his first victory after earning a third and a fourth in Miami.

Major stars from film, television, and sports are set to face off on Saturday, April 15 in the world's longest-running, most successful celebrity auto-racing event. This year's Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race field includes stars such as George Lucas, Ashley Judd, John Elway, Alyson Hannigan, Melissa Joan Hart, Joshua Morrow,Josh Brolin and Robin Yount.

JIM AUST, Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A. vice president of motorsports: "After winning the pole at Nazareth last weekend, we all had high hopes that we might earn our first victory on Sunday, but the snow made that impossible. Unfortunately, we can't carry the Nazareth pole over to this weekend, and in a series as competitive as the FedEx Championship Series, what you did last week doesn't count for much when you show on the grid for the next round. Long Beach is the first street-course race of the season after two ovals, so at this point, there are a lot of questions to be answered throughout the grid."

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Jimmy Vasser , Alex Zanardi , Oriol Servia , Scott Pruett , Buddy Rice , Chip Ganassi , Melissa Joan Hart , John Elway , Norberto Fontana
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing , Chip Ganassi Racing , Toyota Racing