CHAMPCAR/CART: Denver: Toyota preview

What to look for at Denver: TOYOTA MAINTAINS CHAMPIONSHIP LEAD - With just six races remaining, Toyota maintains a 24-point lead in the hunt for its first CART Manufacturers Championship with a 226-202 advantage over Honda. Toyota has held the...

What to look for at Denver:

TOYOTA MAINTAINS CHAMPIONSHIP LEAD - With just six races remaining, Toyota maintains a 24-point lead in the hunt for its first CART Manufacturers Championship with a 226-202 advantage over Honda. Toyota has held the lead since the fifth round of the season at Laguna Seca, where the manufacturer swept the podium.

TOYOTA LOOKS FOR 8TH WIN in 2002 - With seven wins in the season's first 13 races, Toyota has established a new program record for wins in a season. In addition, the manufacturer closed out the 2001 campaign with wins at Australia and Fontana to give Toyota nine wins in the last 15 Champ Car events. Those victories have included every type of CART track, with street-circuit wins at Australia and Toronto; permanent road-course victories at Mexico, Laguna Seca, Portland and Road America; a short oval win at Chicago; and victories at the 200+ mph super speedways in Fontana and Motegi.

STATISTICALLY SPEAKING - In addition to the Manufacturer's Championship points lead, Toyota also leads all manufacturers in victories (seven), poles (eight), front-row starts (13), laps led (895), road-course points (172,) and oval-track points (54). Toyota-powered driver Cristiano da Matta also leads the CART Drivers Championship, 55 points over the second-place driver.

DA MATTA LOOKS TO JOIN ELITE - With a victory in Denver this weekend, Cristiano da Matta can become just the fifth driver in CART history to win as many as seven races in a season. The long-time Toyota pilot would join Al Unser Jr. (8 in 1994), Michael Andretti (8 in 1991), Juan Montoya (7 in 1999), and Alex Zanardi (7 in 1998). Da Matta has one previous street-circuit win this season in Toronto to go along with last year's triumph in Australia.

DA MATTA TAKES COMMANDING POINTS LEAD - With a second-place finish last weekend in Montreal, Cristiano da Matta has extended his championship lead to 55 points, with only six races remaining in the season. The Brazilian has already eliminated three fellow CART drivers from championship consideration. With a maximum of 136 possible points remaining, he can clinch the 2002 title by scoring 82 more points (a third-place in each race) this season, regardless of his competition's finishes.

Da Matta currently leads the series in points (161), wins (6), top-three podium finishes (7), laps led (526), pole positions (6), front-row starting spots (8) and road-course points (137).

FAST STARTERS - With on-track passing opportunities rare in CART this season, qualifying has never been more important, and two Toyota drivers have shown the ability to consistently start at the front.

With one of the most impressive qualifying runs in CART history, Cristiano da Matta has yet to start below third in his last nine races, with six pole positions, one second and two thirds. His average starting position this season is 2.7, easily the best in the series. Da Matta can tie the all-time Champ Car record for poles in a season with three more in the series' final six races.

Only fellow Toyota driver Bruno Junqueira has consistently been able to give da Matta a run for his money in qualifying this season. The Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver has two pole positions this season, and he has started in the top 10 in 12 of 13 races. In addition, Junqueira has registered seven top-three starts so far, which is second only to da Matta.

FOUR TOYOTA DRIVERS IN TOP 10 - It is certainly not hard to find a Toyota-powered driver when you look at the top of the CART Driver's Championship standings. With 161 points and a 55-point championship lead, Cristiano da Matta heads a four-driver Toyota contingent in the top 10. Bruno Junqueira is third overall and just four points out of second place with 101, Christian Fittipaldi (88 points) is fifth, and Kenny Bräck (68) is 10th.

TOYOTA ATLANTIC CHAMP TO BE CROWNED IN DENVER - While Cristiano da Matta appears to be running away with the Champ Car title, the Toyota Atlantic Championship battle will come down to the final race of the season in Denver. Michael Valiante holds a slim six-point lead over Jon Fogarty heading into the Mile High City. With a maximum of 23 points to be earned, both drivers hold their own fate in their hands with Valiante holding the tie-breaker due to his three victories to just one for Fogarty.


Jim Aust, Toyota vice president of motorsports: "We came into this stretch of four-races-in-four-weeks knowing that it would go a long way toward determining the championship this year. So far, we've been able to come away with a Toyota win and two seconds. It's going to be important to finish strong here. After Denver, there will only be five races remaining, and we'd like to enter the home stretch with a lot of momentum, so this weekend's race will be a key."


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About this article
Series Atlantic , IndyCar
Drivers Michael Andretti , Bruno Junqueira , Christian Fittipaldi , Alex Zanardi , Kenny Brack , Jon Fogarty , Michael Valiante , Cristiano da Matta
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing