DETROIT (June 21, 2000) - After launching the road course portion of its season in record-setting fashion at Detroit last weekend, the FedEx Championship Series seeks its eighth different winner in as many events as it travels to the Pacific ...
DETROIT (June 21, 2000) - After launching the road course portion of its season in record-setting fashion at Detroit last weekend, the FedEx Championship Series seeks its eighth different winner in as many events as it travels to the Pacific Northwest for Sunday's Freightliner/G.I. Joe's 200 Presented by Texaco at Portland International Raceway (7 p.m. ET, tape delay, ESPN2).
When Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske drove to victory at Detroit, he became the seventh different race winner to start the season, breaking a FedEx Championship Series record established in 1991. With 13 events remaining on the schedule, the series is well on its way toward breaking the record of 10 different winners in the season, established last year.
Largely due to that competitiveness, the series arrives at Portland with its top 10 drivers separated by just 21 points. With a sweep of the maximum 22 points available for a race victory, winning the pole position and leading the most race laps, any one of those 10 could theoretically exit Portland with the championship lead.
At present, that lead is held by Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) of Team KOOL Green, winner at Long Beach, podium finisher in each of the season's first three events, and point producer in each of the first five. But Tracy has gone scoreless in each of the past two events at Milwaukee and Detroit, allowing a talented field to move well within striking distance of his 59 championship points.
Tracy's closest pursuer is Jimmy Vasser (Target Toyota Lola) of Target Chip Ganassi Racing, who owns 54 points following five top-seven finishes in his first seven starts of the season, highlighted by a runner-up effort at Rio de Janeiro. Roberto Moreno (Visteon Ford Reynard) of Patrick Racing stands third with 52 points. He has finished ninth or better in five of seven starts this season and matched a career-best with a runner-up effort at Homestead.
Max Papis (Miller Lite Ford Reynard) of Team Rahal stands fourth in the championship with 47 points. He won the season opener at Homestead and finished second at Detroit. Defending Freightliner/G.I. Joe's 200 Presented by Texaco champion Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske joins Papis with 47 points, 20 of which came from his victory at Nazareth, the 100th in the storied history of Penske Racing.
Defending FedEx Championship Series and reigning Indianapolis 500 champion Juan Montoya (Target Toyota Lola) of Target Chip Ganassi Racing trails Papis and de Ferran by just a point, with 46. His victory at Milwaukee was the first for a Toyota-powered driver in the engine manufacturer's five-year FedEx Championship Series history. Montoya has also started on the pole and led the most race laps at each of the past four events, at Japan, Nazareth, Milwaukee and Detroit.
Michael Andretti (Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Lola) of Newman Haas Racing brings 44 championship points to Portland, built mainly on a victory at Japan - his CART career-leading 39th - and a runner-up effort at Milwaukee. Andretti is a three-time FedEx Championship Series winner at Portland International Raceway (1990, '91 and '92).
Rounding out the top 10 drivers in the championship are 1999 FedEx Championship series runner-up Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard) of Team KOOL Green, eighth with 40 points; rookie Kenny Brack (Shell Ford Reynard) of Team Rahal, ninth with 39 points; and veteran Adrian Fernandez (Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing Ford Reynard) of Patrick Racing, winner at Rio de Janeiro.
Joining Andretti and de Ferran as previous winners at Portland is Mark Blundell (Motorola PacWest Mercedes) of the PacWest Racing Group, who edged de Ferran by 0.027 seconds - about seven feet - to win the closest race in FedEx Championship Series history in 1997.
This year for the first time in FedEx Championship Series history, all cars ride on Firestone Firehawks, the Official Tire of CART.
Following the Freightliner/G.I. Joe's 200 Presented by Texaco, the FedEx Championship Series returns to the Midwest for its third event in as many weeks, The Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by Firstar on Sunday, July 2, at Burke Lakefront Airport on the shores of Lake Erie.
Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver Juan Montoya (Target Toyota Lola) the defending FedEx Championship Series and reigning Indianapolis 500 champion, has qualified among the top three drivers for all seven FedEx Championship Series events this season. He has started on the pole and led the most race laps at each of the past four events, at Japan, Nazareth, Milwaukee and Detroit. Montoya has led at least the first 58 laps of each of those events; led a series-high 541 laps, over 400 more than his closest pursuer, Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske; and has moved into eighth place on the CART career laps-led list with 1,495.
Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske has finished on the podium in each of his road or street course starts this season, including his first career FedEx Championship Series victory last Sunday at Detroit. He finished second at Long Beach in his other road course start this season.
Patrick Carpentier (Player's Forsythe Racing Team Ford Reynard) of Player's Forsythe Racing has finished fifth or better in three of his four starts this season. Carpentier finished fifth at Homestead, third at Milwaukee and fifth at Detroit. He missed starts at Long Beach, Rio de Janeiro and Japan while recovering from a slight fracture of his left wrist sustained in an April accident at his Las Vegas home.
Rookies Oriol Servia (Telefonica Toyota Reynard) of PPI Motorsports and Alex Tagliani (Player's Forsythe Racing Team Ford Reynard) of Player's Forsythe Racing have both recorded top-six finishes in each of the two FedEx Championship Series road/street events to date. Tagliani finished a career-high fourth at Long Beach and took sixth at Detroit, while Servia, the 1999 Dayton Indy Lights champion, was sixth at Long Beach and third at Detroit.
Michael Andretti (Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Lola) owns three victories at Portland International Raceway, in 1990, '91 and '92, in addition to back-to-back runner-up finishes in 1986 and '87. He has scored championship points in 12 of 15 appearances at Portland, with nine top-10 finishes, and has led 402 laps there during his career, including 100 or more in 1990 (101), '91 (102) and '93 (100).
Defending Freightliner/G.I. Joe's 200 Presented by Texaco champion Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) has finished on the podium in three of five career appearances at Portland. In addition to last year's victory, he finished second in 1996 and '97. His runner-up effort by 0.027 seconds to Mark Blundell in 1997 stands as the closest finish in FedEx Championship Series history. In addition, de Ferran has never qualified outside the top-10 in his five starts at Portland.
Adrian Fernandez (Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing Ford Reynard) has scored championship points in five of six career starts at Portland, with a best finish of fourth last year. He also finished 10th in 1994, ninth in '95, 12th in '96 and 10th in '97.
Honda has won three of the past four FedEx Championship Series events contested at Portland International Raceway, getting victories from Alex Zanardi (1996, '98) and Gil de Ferran last year. Honda has also won both events contested on road/street courses this year, getting victories from Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) at Long Beach and Helio Castroneves at Detroit.
Ford continues to lead closely contested CART Manufacturer's Championship with 120 points, four more than second-place Honda (116) and 12 ahead of third-place Toyota (108). Ford has claimed three victories this season, from Max Papis (Miller Lite Ford Reynard) at Homestead, Adrian Fernandez at Rio de Janeiro and Michael Andretti at Japan, and has scored at least one podium finish in six of seven events.
Toyota-powered Juan Montoya has started on the pole for each of the past four FedEx Championship Series events, at Japan, Nazareth, Milwaukee (where he earned Toyota's first-ever series victory) and Detroit. He has also recorded race-high laps-led totals at each of those four events including 172 of 201 at Japan, 110 of 225 at Nazareth, 179 of 225 at Milwaukee and 59 of 84 at Detroit. He has led a series-high 541 laps this season, over 400 more than de Ferran, his closest pursuer, and 50.3 percent of the 1,075 laps completed through the seven FedEx Championship Series events contested to date.
Portland holds special meaning for Firestone because it's at Portland International Raceway that the tire maker scored its first significant series victory in the rain. In 1997, Mark Blundell won a drag race to the finish line using the Firestone Firehawk rain tire, just a year after Firestone was humbled by its treaded rubber's performance at Detroit. This year, all FedEx Championship Series competitors use Firestone tires.
Mo Nunn Racing announced Tuesday that seven-year FedEx Championship Series veteran Bryan Herta will substitute for the injured Tony Kanaan in the team's Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Mercedes Reynard beginning with this weekend's Freightliner G.I. Joe's 200 Presented by Texaco at Portland International Raceway. Kanaan will be sidelined for the next four to six weeks while recovering from injuries sustained during a qualifying accident at last weekend's Tenneco Automotive Grand Prix in Detroit. He sustained a broken left forearm and four cracked ribs on his left side in the accident. Kanaan was released from Detroit Receiving Hospital Tuesday to return to his Miami home, and is expected to begin rehabilitation in Indianapolis next week. "We are very fortunate to have Bryan available to drive for us at this point in time," said team co-owner Morris Nunn. "He was one of our original choices to driver for this team when we were first formulating our plans late last year. We are very enthused about the progress we've been making with our Mercedes-Benz program and there are some developments we plan to make in the next few races. I'm confident Bryan is the right guy to help us keep up the momentum." Herta made two starts earlier this season as a substitute for the injured Shinji Nakano (Avex Honda Reynard) at Walker Racing, finishing fifth in the first of those at Long Beach. He is a two-time race winner and a seven-time pole sitter in the in the FedEx Championship Series, and has posted five top-five finishes, including three podiums, at the next three FedEx Championship Series venues: Portland, Cleveland and Toronto. "The circumstances surrounding this opportunity are unfortunate," Herta said. "I wish Tony the speediest recovery possible. I just hope to make a solid contribution in the interim. It's probably the best possible part of the schedule for me to step in and pinch-hit. Portland and Cleveland are two of my favorite tracks. I'll have my hands full learning the Mercedes-Reynard package and working with new people, so knowing the tracks gives me one less thing to worry about."
Team KOOL Green fueler Jeff Simon sustained a broken left foot as a result of a pit incident involving driver Paul Tracy during Sunday's Tenneco Automotive Grand Prix of Detroit. Simon, who has four fractured metatarsals in his left foot, is scheduled for surgery Thursday in Indianapolis with Dr. Terry Trammell, CART's Chief Orthopedic Consultant. Simon is expected to miss six weeks with his return targeted for the Miller Lite 200 on Aug. 11-13 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Team KOOL Green has not named a replacement for Simon at this time. "I'm really sorry for Jeff," said Tracy, who visited Simon in the CART Medical Facility following the incident and called him Monday in Indianapolis to check on his condition. "He's a very important part of Team KOOL Green and a big reason why we are so fast on our stops." Simon was a key component of Tracy's six-man pit crew which captured the $50,000 first prize in last year's inaugural Craftsman Pit Crew Challenge. Tracy, the FedEx Championship Series points leader, was black-flagged by CART officials and excluded from the remainder of the event for Sunday's rule violation, finishing 20th.
With one-third of the FedEx Championship Series season completed, Cristiano da Matta (Pioneer/MCI WorldCom Toyota Reynard) of PPI Motorsports holds the lead in the season-long competition for the Budweiser Hard Charger Award, which recognizes the driver who improves the most from start to finish at each event. Through seven events, Da Matta has accumulated 52 points, one for each position gained at each FedEx Championship Series event. Luiz Garcia Jr. (Hollywood/Embratel/Tang/Banco Sofisa Mercedes Reynard) of the Arciero Project Racing Group stands second with 46 points, while Paul Tracy of Team KOOL Green and Michel Jourdain Jr. (Herdez Mercedes Lola) of Bettenhausen Motorsports are tied for third with 44. Mark Blundell (Motorola PacWest Mercedes) rounds out the top five with 39 points. Standings are kept both race-by-race and through the season, with drivers receiving one point for each place gained. The overall winner at the conclusion of the campaign will receive a cash award from Budweiser, Official Beer of CART.
Della Penna Motorsports Chief Engineer Diane Holl will be recognized by the Portland Fire of the WNBA for her accomplishments in motorsports during the team's Friday night game with the Seattle Storm. Holl is the only female chief engineer for a premier motorsports team in CART, Formula One, NASCAR or the IRNLS.
Qualifying for the Freightliner/G.I. Joe's 200 Presented by Texaco will air 5:30 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN2. "CART 2Day" airs 11 a.m. ET Sunday on ESPN2, with ESPN2's tape-delayed race broadcast scheduled to begin 7 p.m. ET. The race will also air live on the CART Radio Network and on CART's official website at www.cart.com .