DETROIT (August 29, 2000) - After a rare misstep in his quest for the Vanderbilt Cup, symbol of the FedEx Championship Series driving championship, Newman/Haas Racing driver Michael Andretti can take comfort that the series' next competitive stop...
DETROIT (August 29, 2000) - After a rare misstep in his quest for the Vanderbilt Cup, symbol of the FedEx Championship Series driving championship, Newman/Haas Racing driver Michael Andretti can take comfort that the series' next competitive stop comes north of the border.
Andretti (Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Lola) has enjoyed extraordinary success at FedEx Championship Series events contested in Canada and he looks to continue that trend this weekend as the streets of Vancouver, British Columbia host Round 15 of the championship, Sunday's Molson Indy Vancouver (4 p.m. ET, live, ABC-TV).
Last month, Andretti recorded the sixth of his 40 career FedEx Championship Series victories at Toronto, giving him more wins at that venue than at any other in his storied 17-year career. Now, coming off a scoreless finish at Road America - only his second in the past 12 events - Andretti, the championship points leader, visits Concord Pacific Place, where he has earned three victories (1991, '92 and '96) and three pole positions (1990-92) in nine career starts.
Andretti is chasing the Canadian double for the third time in his career, having won at Toronto and Vancouver in 1991 and '92. Al Unser Jr. is the only other driver to have won both Canadian events in a single season, that coming in 1990.
Andretti's scoreless finish at Road America allowed the championship race to tighten considerably as five other drivers are within 25 points of his lead. Andretti comes to Vancouver with 125 points, followed by Roberto Moreno (Visteon Ford Reynard) of Patrick Racing, who has 112. Other drivers in the hunt include Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske with 106 points; Adrian Fernandez (Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing Ford Reynard) of Patrick Racing with 103; rookie Kenny Brack (Shell Ford Reynard) of Team Rahal with 102; and Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) of Team KOOL Green with 100.
Defending FedEx Series champ Juan Montoya (Target Toyota Lola) of Target Chip Ganassi Racing is also the defending Molson Indy Vancouver champion. Montoya recorded his CART rookie-record seventh triumph at Vancouver last year, one of three events he won from the pole.
Other previous Vancouver winners on this weekend's entry list include Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard) of Team KOOL Green, who drove to victory in 1998, and Mauricio Gugelmin (Nextel PacWest Mercedes) of the PacWest Racing Group, whose first career FedEx Championship Series triumph came at this venue in 1997.
This year, for the first time in FedEx Championship Series history, all cars ride on Firestone Firehawks, the Official Tire of CART.
The Molson Indy Vancouver begins the stretch run to the FedEx Championship Series championship, which will play out over the final two months of the season. For the fourth consecutive season, the FedEx Championship Series concludes at California Speedway in Fontana, Calif., and for the third straight year, the season finale will pay the winner $1 million. Thanks to a partnership between Marlboro, Toyota, CART and California Speedway, the payday is the largest on the circuit. The day could be twice as nice for one lucky driver as the series champion also receives $1 million from the season-ending bonus fund.
The Molson Indy Vancouver begins a run of three consecutive event weekends for FedEx Championship Series competitors. The series continues with Round 16, the Honda Grand Prix of Monterey Featuring the Shell 300, Sept. 8-10 at Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey, Calif.
Despite seeing a streak of six consecutive scoring performances come to an end with an 18th-place finish in the Motorola 220 at Road America, Michael Andretti (Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Lola) of Newman/Haas Racing continues to set the pace in the chase for the Vanderbilt Cup, emblematic of the FedEx Championship Series driving championship. Andretti has scored championship points in 10 of his last 12 starts, including victories at Japan and Toronto and podium finishes of second at Milwaukee, Michigan and Chicago. He leads the series in laps completed (1,847 of a possible 2,012) and miles completed (2,957.241 of a possible 3,309.751) and enters this weekend's Molson Indy Vancouver with a 125-112 championship lead over Roberto Moreno (Visteon Ford Reynard) of Patrick Racing.
Adrian Fernandez (Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing Ford Reynard) of Patrick Racing has scored championship points in 11 of his past 12 FedEx Championship Series starts, and has moved from 26th to fourth place in the championship in that span. His scoring run began with a victory at Brazil and includes podium finishes of second at Toronto and Road America as well as top-five results of fifth at Nazareth and Chicago. With 103 points, he trails third-place Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard, 106 points) by only three and is just nine behind Roberto Moreno, his Patrick Racing teammate.
Rookie Kenny Brack (Shell Ford Reynard) of Team Rahal comes to the Molson Indy Vancouver off his third podium finish of the season, a third-place result at Road America. He has scored championship points in 10 of his past 12 FedEx Championship Series starts, including podium finishes of second at Cleveland and third at Nazareth. He also owns finishes of fourth at Milwaukee and Chicago, fifth at Japan and Mid-Ohio and sixth at Portland. Brack has topped the 100 championship-point mark and stands fifth in the title battle with 102 points. He also holds a commanding 102-45 points lead over Alex Tagliani (Player's Forsythe Racing Team Ford Reynard) of Player's Forsythe Racing in the battle for the Jim Trueman Rookie of the Year Award.
With his 10th-place finish at Road America, rookie Oriol Servia (Telefonica Toyota Reynard) of PPI Motorsports became the only FedEx Championship Series driver to have scored championship points in as many as six of the seven road or street course events contested this season. The remainder of Servia's run includes finishes of sixth at Long Beach, a career-best third at Detroit, eighth at Portland, 11th at Toronto and 10th at Mid-Ohio. He stands 16th in the championship with 44 points.
Memo Gidley (DIRECTV Toyota Reynard) of Della Penna Motorsports comes to Vancouver off a sixth-place finish at Road America, a career best in 17 FedEx Championship Series starts. Since joining Della Penna Motorsports last month, Gidley has recorded four consecutive points-paying finishes, including 10th at Michigan and Chicago, and 12th at Mid-Ohio. Despite competing in only six of 13 events to date, Gidley stands 18th in the championship with 20 points.
Michael Andretti (Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Lola) owns three victories in nine career starts on the streets of Vancouver, in 1991, '92 and '96. He also won consecutive pole positions from 1990-92, and added podium finishes of third in 1994 and second in 1998. He is CART's career laps-led leader at Vancouver with 321, including 97 in 1992, 82 in '96 and 70 in '91.
Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske owns top-four finishes in three of five career starts at Vancouver, with podium performances of second in 1995 and third in 1997. He also finished fourth in 1996.
Mauricio Gugelmin (Nextel PacWest Mercedes) of the PacWest Racing Group recorded his only career FedEx Championship Series victory at Vancouver in 1997 and owns five top-six efforts overall in six career starts at the venue. The run includes finishes of fourth last year, fifth in 1994, and sixth in '96 and '98.
Jimmy Vasser (Target Toyota Lola) owns two podium results in his past three appearances at Vancouver, with results of second in 1997 and third last year. He led a race-high 46 laps in 1997 and has started among the top five drivers three times, topped by an outside pole position in 1995.
Honda-powered drivers have won the past two FedEx Championship Series events contested on the streets of Vancouver as well as the past four pole positions. Dario Franchitti (1998) and Juan Montoya (1999) have claimed the race victories, both of which came from the pole. Alex Zanardi began Honda's qualifying run with back-to-back poles in 1996 and '97.
Honda has also won five of seven FedEx Championship Series events contested on road or street courses this season, with victories from Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) at Long Beach and Road America, Gil de Ferran at Portland, and Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard) at Detroit and Mid-Ohio.
Toyota received its first-ever laps led in Champ Car competition from Alex Barron at Vancouver in 1998, and until this year, those were the only laps a Toyota-powered driver had ever led on a road or street course in four years of FedEx Championship Series competition. This season, however, Toyota-powered drivers have led 149 road/street laps, led by Cristiano da Matta (Pioneer/MCI WorldCom Toyota Reynard) of PPI Motorsports with 73. Defending FedEx Championship Series champion Juan Montoya (Target Toyota Lola) of Target Chip Ganassi Racing has led 70 road/street laps while teammate Jimmy Vasser (Target Toyota Lola) has led six.
A wide variety of activities have been planned in conjunction with this year's Molson Indy Vancouver to honor the memory of Greg Moore, a Champ Car driver who lost his life in a racing accident in the 1999 season finale. Moore, a native of Maple Ridge, B.C., near Vancouver, earned five victories and five pole positions during his four-year Champ Car career and finished among the top 10 in the series championship in each of his FedEx Championship Series seasons. He also won the 1995 Indy Lights championship and owns the series record for career victories, with 13. Highlighting the weekend will be the official retirement of Moore's car number, 99, from Champ Car and Indy Lights competition, during pre-race ceremonies Sunday. National Hockey League legend Wayne Gretzky will be among the participants in the ceremonies. Car No. 99 joins the No.14 of all-time Champ Car victory leader A.J. Foyt as the only retired numbers in CART history.
The entry list for this weekend's Molson Indy Vancouver includes Alex Barron, who will be making his 2000 FedEx Championship Series debut in the SPORTS TODAY Ford Lola entered by Dale Coyne Racing. Barron's last start came for Penske Racing in the 1999 season finale at California Speedway, where he started 14th and finished 24th. He spent most of the 1998 and '99 seasons driving for Dan Gurney's All American Racers, where he made 24 starts, with a best result of ninth at Nazareth in 1999. Barron returns this weekend to the venue where he gave Toyota its first-ever laps led in Champ Car competition, having led 12 laps at the 1998 Molson Indy Vancouver. He won the 1997 Toyota Atlantic championship as a rookie prior to stepping up to Champ Car competition.
Qualifying for the Molson Indy Vancouver will air 1:30 a.m. ET Sunday on ESPN2. "CART 2Day" airs 10:30 a.m. ET Sunday on ESPN2, with ABC-TV's live race broadcast scheduled to begin 4 p.m. ET. The race will also air live on the CART Radio Network and on CART's official website at www.cart.com .