CHAMPCAR/CART: Vancouver preview

First-Time Championship Leader Castroneves Looks To Protect Advantage At Molson Indy Vancouver DETROIT (August 28, 2001) - The FedEx Championship Series brings a breathtaking points race to one of its most breathtaking venues this weekend when...

First-Time Championship Leader Castroneves Looks To Protect Advantage At Molson Indy Vancouver

DETROIT (August 28, 2001) - The FedEx Championship Series brings a breathtaking points race to one of its most breathtaking venues this weekend when the series travels to the Pacific Northwest for the Molson Indy Vancouver at Concord Pacific Place (6 p.m. ET Sunday, tape delay, ESPN2).

The Canadian Rockies will serve as a picturesque setting for Round 15 of the championship on the streets of Vancouver, British Columbia. And a typically tight points race, which could find any of four drivers exiting Vancouver with the championship lead, figures to add spice to one of the most eagerly anticipated weekends of the FedEx Championship Series season.

Reigning Indianapolis 500 champion Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske comes to Vancouver in the championship lead for the first time in his four-year FedEx Championship Series career. Castroneves, who owns victories at Long Beach, Detroit and Mid-Ohio and has scored championship points in five of his past six starts, moved past Kenny Brack of Team Rahal with a seventh-place finish at Road America two weeks ago, giving him 110 points for the season.

Brack (Shell Ford Lola), who had held the lead since Round 5 in Japan, is now the pursuer for the first time since mid-May, standing second with 105 points. He is tied for the series victory lead with Castroneves, having scored the first three triumphs of his career earlier this season, at Japan, Milwaukee and Chicago, respectively. Brack also leads the FedEx Championship Series with five pole positions, including one in the most recent event at Road America.

Brack's 14th-place, scoreless finish at Road America helped a pair of other drivers get within striking distance of the lead heading into the Molson Indy Vancouver. Defending FedEx Championship Series champion Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard), Castroneves' Marlboro Team Penske teammate, solidified his hold on third place in the championship with a fifth-place performance at Road America, his third straight top-five result (third at Chicago, second at Mid-Ohio). He comes to Vancouver with 99 points, 11 off his teammate's lead.

The up-and-down season of three-time Molson Indy Vancouver champion Michael Andretti (Motorola Honda Reynard), meanwhile, is on the upswing again, thanks to a runner-up finish at Road America. He stands fourth with 89 points, and could leave Vancouver with the points lead with a 22-point sweep for winning from the pole and leading the most race laps, depending on what the trio in front of him does.

Rounding out the five primary championship contenders is rookie Scott Dixon (Powerware Panasonic PacWest Toyota) of the PacWest Racing Group, whose fourth-place finish at Road America brought him to 82 points for the season. Dixon, who became the youngest race winner in CART history at Nazareth in May, has scored championship points in six of his past seven starts, including three top-five finishes, and leads the championship in laps and miles completed.

Andretti, who won at Vancouver in 1991, '92 and '96, is one of four former Molson Indy Vancouver champions in this weekend's field. The others are Mauricio Gugelmin (Nextel PacWest Toyota) of the PacWest Racing Group, who recorded his only career FedEx Championship Series victory at Vancouver in 1997; and Team KOOL Green teammates Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard) and Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard), who claimed Vancouver victories in 1998 and 2000, respectively.

All FedEx Championship Series entries ride on Firestone Tires, the Official Tire of CART.

The Motorola 220 is Round 13 of 21 in the 2001 FedEx Championship Series. The series visits seven countries and four continents during the season and climaxes with the season-ending Marlboro 500 Presented by Toyota on Sunday, Nov. 4 at California Speedway in Fontana, Calif. Thanks to a partnership between Marlboro, Toyota, CART and California Speedway, the winner of the season finale will collect $1 million, one of the richest paydays in all of motorsports. Christian Fittipaldi (Kmart Toyota Lola) of Newman/Haas Racing is the defending event champion. An additional $1 million, as well as the prestigious Vanderbilt Cup, will be awarded to the driver who wins the FedEx Championship Series championship.

Following the Molson Indy Vancouver, the FedEx Championship Series makes its first-ever visit to Europe for the German 500, Sept. 15 at EuroSpeedway in Lausitz, Germany, followed by the Rockingham 500, Sept. 22 at Rockingham Motor Speedway in Corby, England. Both events will be telecast live on ESPN, beginning at 7:30 a.m. ET.

WHO'S HOT

* Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske has scored championship points in five of his past six starts, including a victory at Mid-Ohio, to take the FedEx Championship Series championship lead for the first time in his four-year career. With 110 points, Castroneves holds a five-point advantage over Kenny Brack (Shell Ford Lola) of Team Rahal, who held the lead from Round 5 of the championship, at Japan, through Round 13 at Mid-Ohio. Castroneves' run of scoring finishes includes finishes of 12th at Cleveland, eighth at Michigan and seventh at Chicago and Road America, in addition to his victory at Mid-Ohio. He also owns victories at Long Beach and Detroit; pole positions at Long Beach, Japan and Detroit and has led 389 laps, second in the FedEx Championship Series, including a series-high 237 on road or street courses.

* Rookie Scott Dixon (Powerware Panasonic PacWest Toyota) of the PacWest Racing Group has scored championship points in six of his past seven starts, including three top-five results, to move into fifth place in the FedEx Championship Series championship, with 82 points. Dixon comes to Vancouver off a fourth-place result at Road America. His current run also includes finishes of fourth at Chicago, fifth at Toronto, seventh at Portland, 10th at Michigan and 12th at Mid-Ohio. Dixon - whose victory at Nazareth made him, at age 20 years, nine months and 14 days, the youngest race winner in CART history - also owns a podium result of third at Milwaukee. He holds an 82-47 lead over Bruno Junqueira (Target Toyota Lola) of Target Chip Ganassi Racing in the battle for the $50,000 Jim Trueman Rookie of the Year Award. Dixon also leads the FedEx Championship Series in laps completed, with 1,711 of a possible 1,757; and miles completed, with 2,774.447 of a possible 2,877.674.

* Defending FedEx Championship Series champion Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske owns top-five finishes in his past three starts, comprised of third at Chicago, second at Mid-Ohio and fifth at Road America. He stands third in the FedEx Championship Series championship with 99 points, 11 behind championship leader and Marlboro Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves. De Ferran also owns two pole positions in his past five starts, at Toronto and Mid-Ohio.

* Patrick Carpentier (Player's/Indeck Ford Reynard) of the Player's Forsythe Racing Team has scored championship points in each of his past four FedEx Championship Series starts, with three podium finishes. Included is his first career FedEx Championship Series victory at Michigan Speedway last month, as well as finishes of second at Chicago, third at Mid-Ohio and ninth at Road America. He stands eighth in the FedEx Championship Series championship, with 69 points.

* Alex Tagliani (Player's/Indeck Ford Reynard), Patrick Carpentier's Player's Forsythe Racing teammate, owns the longest active streak of points-paying finishes in the FedEx Championship Series, with seven, dating to a 12th-place result at Portland. The run also includes a career-best runner-up finish at Toronto, as well as finishes of ninth at Cleveland, sixth at Michigan and Chicago, seventh at Mid-Ohio and eighth at Road America. The run has moved Tagliani from 25th to 14th place in the FedEx Championship Series championship, with 49 points.

* Cristiano da Matta (Texaco/Havoline/Kmart Toyota Lola) of Newman/Haas Racing has scored championship points in three of his past four starts, and six of his past eight, dating to a seventh-place finish at Detroit. The run is highlighted by a fourth-place finish at Michigan and includes a sixth-place effort in his most recent outing at Road America. Da Matta stands seventh in the FedEx Championship Series championship, with 78 points.

* Roberto Moreno (Visteon Toyota Reynard) of Patrick Racing has scored championship points in seven of his past eight FedEx Championship Series starts, beginning with a third-place finish at Detroit. He has scored in seven straight starts on road or street courses, dating to an 11th-place finish at Long Beach and including a season-best runner-up effort at Portland. Moreno comes to Vancouver in 10th place in the FedEx Championship Series championship, with 54 points.

ON THE RIGHT TRACK

* Michael Andretti (Motorola Honda Reynard) of Team Motorola has earned three victories (1991, '92 and '96) in 10 career starts at Vancouver, as well as podium finishes of second in 1998 and third in 1994. Andretti won consecutive pole positions at Vancouver in 1990, '91 and '92 and is CART's career laps-led leader at the venue, with 321, topped by 97 en route to his 1992 victory.

* Gil de Ferran owns top-five finishes in four of six career starts at Vancouver, with podium performances of second in 1995 and third in '97. He also finished fourth in 1996 and fifth last year.

* Mauricio Gugelmin (Nextel PacWest Toyota) of the PacWest Racing Group owns five top-six finishes in seven career starts at Vancouver, including a 1997 victory, the first of his FedEx Championship Series career. He also finished fourth in 1999, fifth in 1994 and sixth in 1996 and '98.

* Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard) of Team KOOL Green his finished on the podium in two of four career starts at Vancouver, including a victory in 1998. He also finished second to Team KOOL Green teammate Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) from the pole last year, when he led a race-high 50 laps. Franchitti owns the track qualifying record of 106.144 miles per hour (1 minute .405 seconds), established last year, and was also the polesitter at Vancouver in 1998. He also scored championship points with a 10th-place finish in 1999.

MANUFACTURING SUCCESS

* Honda has won the past three FedEx Championship Series events contested at Vancouver, getting victories from Dario Franchitti in 1998, Juan Montoya in 1999 and Paul Tracy last year. Honda has also captured the past five Vancouver pole positions, with Alex Zanardi (1996, '97), Dario Franchitti (1998, 2000) and Juan Montoya (1999) doing the honors.

* Honda has won all four FedEx Championship Series events contested on temporary street circuits this season, with victories from Helio Castroneves at Long Beach and Detroit, Dario Franchitti at Cleveland and Michael Andretti at Toronto.

ON THE AIR

* Qualifying for the Molson Indy Vancouver will air 1 a.m. ET Sunday on ESPN2. CART 2Day airs 11 a.m. Sunday on ESPN, while ESPN2's tape-delayed race broadcast begins 6 p.m. ET. Twenty of 21 FedEx Championship Series events are being televised live on ABC-TV or ESPN and 18 are being televised live on Eurosport, a European network that reaches 250 million viewers in 54 countries. Sunday's race will also air on the CART Radio Network and on CART's official website, which will also carry Saturday's qualifying, at www.cart.com .

-CART-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Michael Andretti , Bruno Junqueira , Roberto Moreno , Patrick Carpentier , Alex Tagliani , Christian Fittipaldi , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Alex Zanardi , Mauricio Gugelmin , Kenny Brack , Chip Ganassi , Cristiano da Matta
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing