What to look for at Motegi: THE COUNTDOWN IS ON - It appears as if Jimmy Vasser (Target Toyota) is conducting his own personal countdown to Toyota's first victory. In the three races run this season, Vasser has progressively moved up one ...
What to look for at Motegi:
THE COUNTDOWN IS ON - It appears as if Jimmy Vasser (Target Toyota) is conducting his own personal countdown to Toyota's first victory. In the three races run this season, Vasser has progressively moved up one position at each race. He placed fourth at Homestead, followed by a third at Long Beach and a second at Rio. If form holds true, Vasser could be in the Winner's Circle at Motegi.
AIMING FOR IRONY - Toyota's Costa Mesa, Calif.-based Toyota Racing Development (TRD), U.S.A. is currently campaigning the only U.S.-designed and built engine in Champ Car racing, the Toyota RV8E. Ironically, a Toyota win in Motegi, Japan could result in the first victory for a U.S. powerplant since 1981.
UECKER-ESQUE? - Former major league baseball player and current announcer Bob Uecker became known for the catch-phrase, "I must be in the front row," used during television commercials. After the early portion of the CART season, Toyota might just adopt that phrase as well. Three different Toyota-powered drivers have captured front-row starting spots in the last five races dating back to last year's Champ Car finale.
Juan Montoya (Target Toyota) won the pole at Nazareth and qualified second at both Homestead and Rio. Jimmy Vasser was on the outside of the front row at Long Beach and Scott Pruett was on the pole in the 1999 closer at Fontana. Montoya has qualified third or better in every race this season.
PPIM ON THE RISE - While Jimmy Vasser has been knocking on victory's door this season, Cal Wells' PPI Motorsports team has not conceded the first Toyota victory to Target Chip Ganassi Racing. In each of the last two races, PPIM drivers have run in the top five and registered strong finishes. Second-year driver Cristiano da Matta (Pioneer Toyota) matched a career-best fourth at Rio last weekend, while rookie Oriol Servia (Telefonica Toyota) placed sixth at Long Beach.
STRAIGHT TO THE POINTS - Jimmy Vasser has closed to within six points of the CART FedEx Championship Series points lead, trailing Paul Tracy 48-42. Through the first three races of the season, Vasser has scored all of Toyota's CART Manufacturer points.
TOYOTA IN THE HUNT - Toyota currently sits third in the Manufacturer's points battle, just 12 points out of the lead. In addition, the manufacturer has registered one point for winning the pole at Nazareth that will be awarded when the Bosch Spark Plug Grand Prix Presented by Toyota is run on May 28. After three races, Toyota has already earned 42 points, compared to seven points at the same time last year.
Jim Aust, Toyota vice president for motorsports:
"Well, we've done everything this year except actually win a race. We've had a Toyota finish in second, third, twice in fourth, win a pole and qualify on the front row in every race."
Jimmy Vasser, #12 Target Toyota:
"If we keep running in the top five, things are going to eventually come our way."
Cristiano da Matta, #97 Pioneer Toyota:
"I am really excited to return to Japan for a lot of reasons. We had such a great finish (fourth) in Brazil by matching our best ever. The whole Pioneer team is really pumped up to break that record as soon as possible. It meant a lot to me to be the highest finishing Brazilian in Rio, and I hope to honor Pioneer and Toyota by bringing home another special finish for them in their home country. I also love the fans in Japan. I can't believe how many fans remember me and the team from last year, so to see them again should be a lot of fun."