CHAMPCAR/CART: Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Preview

DETROIT (April 11, 2000) - A recent FedEx Championship Series trend continued last year when Juan Montoya of Target/Chip Ganassi Racing drove to victory in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach and then went on to capture the FedEx Championship ...

DETROIT (April 11, 2000) - A recent FedEx Championship Series trend continued last year when Juan Montoya of Target/Chip Ganassi Racing drove to victory in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach and then went on to capture the FedEx Championship Series championship.

Montoya's victory, the first of his FedEx Championship Series career, made him the fifth driver in the past six years to win at Long Beach en route to the championship. He joined Al Unser Jr. (1994), Jimmy Vasser (1996) and Alex Zanardi (1997 and '98) in accomplishing the Long Beach/series championship double.

Montoya (Target Toyota Lola) also scored Target/Chip Ganassi Racing's fourth consecutive victory at Long Beach. Now, after scoring his first point of the season by winning the pole at Nazareth last week before snow postponed race day, Montoya prepares to defend his crown in Sunday's second round of the championship (5 p.m. ET, one-hour tape delay, ESPN).

The postponement of the Bosch Spark Plug Grand Prix Presented by Toyota at Nazareth Speedway (rescheduled for Saturday, May 27) has shifted the Long Beach stop to the second round of this year's championship chase, its earliest appearance since 1991. Team Rahal driver Max Papis (Miller Lite Ford Reynard) arrives with the championship lead, courtesy of his first career FedEx Championship Series victory in the March 26 season opener at Homestead.

Papis comes to Long Beach looking to improve on his career-best finish of ninth at the venue, established last year. He holds a four-point advantage, 20-16, over Patrick Racing's Roberto Moreno (Visteon Ford Reynard), whose runner-up performance at Homestead matched his career-best finish established at Laguna Seca last year.

Team KOOL Green driver Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard), third in the championship, made his first career FedEx Championship Series start at Long Beach in 1991. He is one of four former Long Beach winners in the field (1993), joining Montoya, Vasser and Newman/Haas Racing's Michael Andretti (Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Lola), who won in 1986.

Tracy's 14 championship points lead Vasser (Target Toyota Lola) by two while Patrick Carpentier (Player's Forsythe Racing Team Ford Reynard) and Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) are two further back with 10 each. Carpentier seeks his first scoring performance in his fourth career start at Long Beach while De Ferran has captured two poles (1996, '97), owns race-high laps-led totals of 100 in '96 and 51 in '98, and has a pair of top-six finishes (5th in '96, 6th in '99).

Following the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, the FedEx Championship Series makes its first of three trips outside of North America for the Rio 200, on Sunday, April 30 from the Emerson Fittipaldi Speedway at Nelson Piquet International Raceway in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

* By claiming the pole position for the postponed Bosch Spark Plug Grand Prix Presented by Toyota at Nazareth last week, defending FedEx Championship Series and Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach champion Juan Montoya (Target Toyota Lola) has now earned a victory, a pole position, or both in 12 of his 22 career FedEx Championship Series events.

* Team Rahal driver Max Papis (Miller Lite Ford Reynard), who leads the FedEx Championship Series points race for the first time in his five-year career, brings a string of five top-four finishes into Sunday's Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. The streak began last year with his first career podium result (third) at Laguna Seca and was followed by a fourth at Houston and runner-up efforts at Australia and California Speedway. Papis then continued the run with his first career victory at the season-opening Marlboro Grand Prix of Miami Presented by Toyota. Papis has finished fifth or better in nine of his past 12 starts, dating to last year's fifth at Road America.

* Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard) of Team KOOL Green brings a run of 11 consecutive points-paying finishes to Long Beach, the longest active streak in the FedEx Championship Series. It began with a victory at Toronto last year and includes subsequent wins at Detroit and Australia. Franchitti, runner-up in the 1999 FedEx Championship Series, recently recovered from a fractured pelvis and brain contusions sustained in a single-car accident during CART Spring Training at Homestead in February. He finished 11th in the season-opening Marlboro Grand Prix of Miami Presented by Toyota.

* Christian Fittipaldi (Big Kmart/Route 66 Ford Lola) of Newman/Haas Racing has scored points in eight of his past nine FedEx Championship Series starts, dating to last year's 12th-place finish at Cleveland and including his first career victory at Road America. The run was interrupted as Fittipaldi missed five events while recovering from a subdural hematoma sustained in a testing accident at Gateway in August. He finished seventh in the season-opening Marlboro Grand Prix of Miami Presented by Toyota. Overall, Fittipaldi has scored in 16 of his past 18 starts, dating to a third-place finish at Australia in 1998.

* Tony Kanaan (Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Mercedes Reynard) of newly formed Mo Nunn Racing has scored in six of his past seven FedEx Championship Series starts, dating to an 11th-place finish at Chicago last year, and eight of 10 dating to his first career victory at Michigan Speedway. Kanaan finished 10th at Homestead and is the defending pole-sitter at Long Beach.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Al Unser Jr. , Gil de Ferran , Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Max Papis , Roberto Moreno , Patrick Carpentier , Christian Fittipaldi , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Tony Kanaan , Nelson Piquet , Emerson Fittipaldi , Chip Ganassi , Mo Nunn
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing