CHAMPCAR/CART: Andretti seeks continued success at Mid-0hio

DETROIT (August 9, 2000) - The FedEx Championship Series season did not begin on a good note for Michael Andretti. On second thought, perhaps it did if you consider the historical significance. With finishes of 22nd at Homestead and 14th at...

DETROIT (August 9, 2000) - The FedEx Championship Series season did not begin on a good note for Michael Andretti.

On second thought, perhaps it did if you consider the historical significance.

With finishes of 22nd at Homestead and 14th at Long Beach, Andretti (Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Lola) went scoreless through the first two events of the campaign. Only once in 16 previous FedEx Championship Series seasons had he recorded back-to-back scoreless finishes to start the season.

Interestingly, the other instance occurred in 1991 when Andretti finished 14th at Australia and 16th at Long Beach, but then charged through the remaining 15 events of the campaign with eight wins en route to his only FedEx Championship Series championship. Now in his 17th season, Andretti finds himself positioned for a run at a second crown as the series prepares for Round 13, this weekend's Miller Lite 200 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (4 p.m. ET Sunday, tape delay, ABC-TV).

Andretti has parlayed victories at Japan and Toronto and points-paying results in nine of his past 10 starts, including seven top-four finishes, into a 120-98 championship lead over Roberto Moreno (Visteon Ford Reynard) of Patrick Racing through the season's first 12 rounds. This marks the latest point in the season that Andretti has held the championship lead since his 1991 title.

Andretti is also a two-time winner on the 2.258-mile permanent road course at Mid-Ohio, having scored back-to-back victories from the pole in 1990 and '91. He also owns podium finishes of third in 1989 and '96 and claimed consecutive pole positions from 1990-92.

Other previous Mid-Ohio winners in this weekend's field include defending FedEx Championship Series and reigning Indianapolis 500 champion Juan Montoya (Target Toyota Lola) of Target Chip Ganassi Racing, the defending champ, and Adrian Fernandez (Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing Ford Reynard) of Patrick Racing, who was victorious in 1998. Montoya and Fernandez are both among the top eight in the championship heading into the weekend. Montoya stands eighth with 77 points and Fernandez sixth with 79.

Following Andretti and Moreno in the points race through 12 rounds of the championship are Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske, third with 89 points; Cristiano da Matta (Pioneer/MCI WorldCom Toyota Reynard) of PPI Motorsports, fourth with 82 and Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) of Team KOOL Green, fifth with 80.

Fernandez stands sixth, followed by rookie Kenny Brack (Shell Ford Reynard) of Team Rahal, seventh with 78 points; Montoya; Jimmy Vasser (Target Toyota Lola) of Target Chip Ganassi Racing, ninth with 68 and Patrick Carpentier (Player's Forsythe Racing Team Ford Reynard) of Player's Forsythe Racing, who rounds out the top 10 with 65.

Following the Miller Lite 200, the FedEx Championship Series travels to Elkhart Lake, Wis. for Round 14, the Motorola 220, on Sunday, Aug. 20, at Road America.

* Michael Andretti (Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Lola) of Newman/Haas Racing has vaulted to the top of the FedEx Championship Series points race by finishing fourth or better in six of his past seven starts, and seven of the last nine. The run consists of victories at Japan and Toronto, runner-up efforts at Milwaukee, Michigan and Chicago, and fourth-place performances at Portland and Cleveland. Andretti holds a 120-98 points lead over second-place Roberto Moreno (Visteon Ford Reynard) of Patrick Racing. Overall, Andretti has scored championship points in nine of 12 starts this season.

* Cristiano da Matta (Pioneer/MCI WorldCom Toyota Reynard) of PPI Motorsports has finished fifth or better in four of his past five FedEx Championship Series starts, highlighted by his first career victory July 30 at Chicago Motor Speedway. Also included are finishes of fifth at Portland, third at Cleveland and fourth at Toronto. Da Matta, the 1998 Dayton Indy Lights champion, has parlayed six top-five finishes into fourth place in the championship, with 82 points.

* Adrian Fernandez (Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing Ford Reynard) of Patrick Racing has scored championship points in nine of his last 10 FedEx Championship Series starts, beginning with a victory at Rio de Janeiro. He also owns a podium finish of second at Toronto and has moved to sixth in the championship with 79 points.

* Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske has scored championship points in nine of his 12 FedEx Championship Series starts this season and joins Michael Andretti and Juan Montoya (Target Toyota Lola) as two-time race winners, with victories at Nazareth and Portland. He is coming off a third-place result at Chicago. De Ferran also owns poles at Homestead and Long Beach and has qualified among the top 10 in 10 of 12 starts.

* Rookie Kenny Brack (Shell Ford Reynard) of Team Rahal has scored championship points in eight of his past 10 FedEx Championship Series starts, and has finished sixth or better in six of those. The run consists of two podium finishes - second at Cleveland and third at Nazareth - as well as finishes of fourth at Milwaukee and Chicago, fifth at Japan and sixth at Portland. He stands seventh in the championship with 78 points and owns a 78-40 lead over Alex Tagliani (Player's Forsythe Racing Team Ford Reynard) of Player's Forsythe Racing in the battle for the $50,000 Jim Trueman Rookie of the Year Award.

* Michael Andretti owns a pair of victories at Mid-Ohio (1990, '91), both of which came from the pole. He also finished on the podium with third-place efforts in 1989 and '96 and is the only driver to win three consecutive pole positions at the venue (1990-92). He has scored championship points in seven of his past 10 appearances at Mid-Ohio.

* Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) of Team KOOL Green owns four runner-up finishes in seven career starts at Mid-Ohio (1992, '94, '95 and '99). He also started on the outside pole from 1992-94. He has scored championship points in five of seven career appearances at the venue.

* Adrian Fernandez owns four top-six finishes in five career appearances at Mid-Ohio, including a victory in 1998. He also finished fourth in 1995 and sixth in 1994 and '96. Fernandez sat out last year's event at Mid-Ohio while recovering from a fractured radius bone in his right wrist sustained in a race practice accident at Detroit.

* Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard) of Team KOOL Green has won back-to-back pole positions at Mid-Ohio and owns the track qualifying record of 124.394 miles per hour (1 minute, 5.347 seconds), established last year. His top finish in three appearances at the venue is third, also last year.

* Jimmy Vasser (Target Toyota Lola) of Target Chip Ganassi Racing has recorded five top-10 finishes in seven career appearances at Mid-Ohio, topped by a runner-up effort in 1996. He also finished 10th in 1993, ninth in '95, fifth in '97 and fourth last year. He has started on the outside pole twice, in 1996 and '98.

* Toyota has won the past two FedEx Championship Series events, with victories from Juan Montoya at Michigan and Cristiano da Matta at Chicago. Montoya also recorded the manufacturer's first victory in five years of FedEx Championship Series competition, on June 5 at Milwaukee.

* Honda has won three of the past four FedEx Championship Series victories at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, with victories from Alex Zanardi (1996-97) and Juan Montoya last year. Honda-powered drivers have also claimed three of the past four Mid-Ohio poles with Zanardi in '96 being followed by Dario Franchitti in 1998 and '99.

* Ford-powered drivers have an impressive run of runner-up finishes heading into the Miller Lite 200. A Ford-powered driver has finished second in seven consecutive FedEx Championship Series events, dating to Michael Andretti's runner-up performance at Milwaukee. Andretti also finished second at Michigan Speedway and Chicago. Other Ford drivers contributing to the run are Max Papis (Miller Lite Ford Reynard) at Detroit, Roberto Moreno (Visteon Ford Reynard) at Portland, rookie Kenny Brack at Cleveland and Adrian Fernandez at Toronto. Those performances have helped Ford to a 211-187 lead over Toyota in the CART Manufacturer's Championship.

* Della Penna Motorsports announced last week that it had signed American driver Memo Gidley to pilot the team's DIRECTV Toyota Reynard for the remaining eight events of the FedEx Championship Series season. Gidley has recorded back-to-back 10th-place finishes for the team at Michigan and Chicago as a replacement driver for Argentine rookie Norberto Fontana. Gidley is in his second season of FedEx Championship Series competition and owns six points-paying finishes in 15 career starts while driving for Walker Racing and Payton Coyne Racing in 1999 and Player's Forsythe Racing and Della Penna Motorsports this season. He owns a career-best finish of eighth, established this season at Rio de Janeiro while filling in for the injured Patrick Carpentier at Player's Forsythe Racing. "Initially, Memo was going to drive for us on the oval tracks and Norberto would continue to drive at the road and street courses," team owner John Della Penna said. "The series environment is so competitive, though, that we can't afford to give up anything. I can't have two drivers switching back and forth. The team needs continuity. We have half the season left and we need to post some good results. Memo has done that for us in the last two races. He comes to us with a strong idea of what he needs out of the car. We're able to be much more effective and, as Memo has shown, finish consistently at the top of the field." Said Gidley, "I've really enjoyed driving for the Della Penna Motorsports team at Michigan and Chicago. I was impressed with the dedication and effort the team put into both of those races. John, the team, and I really see eye-to-eye on many things, and I think this is a very good match. I feel the strength of Della Penna Motorsports is underestimated and look forward to surprising a few people with our results."

* The fourth annual "Taste of CART" progressive dinner, featuring the culinary expertise of the various hospitality staffs of the FedEx Championship Series, will be held 6 p.m. Friday in the Mid-Ohio paddock. Team chefs will prepare appetizers, salads, main courses and desserts in competition for a trophy and cash prize. Cost is $50 per person with proceeds going to the Championship Auto Racing Auxiliary (CARA). A portion of the proceeds will also go to the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis. For further information, call CARA, at (317) 299-2277.

* Friday's activities at Mid-Ohio will include a Fan Forum, a question-and-answer session open to all fans, from 12:30-1:30 p.m. on Championship Row in the Mid-Ohio infield. The Fan Forum is being introduced to give fans the opportunity to interact with the personalities who drive the sport of Champ Car racing. Friday's impressive lineup of guests will include interim CART President and CEO Bobby Rahal; motorsports legend and 1984 FedEx Championship Series champion Mario Andretti; three-time FedEx Championship Series champion (1979, '81, '82) Rick Mears; ABC/ESPN broadcasters Paul Page and Parker Johnstone and CART President of Racing Operations Hal Whiteford.

* Qualifying for the Miller Lite 200 will air midnight ET Sunday (late Saturday) on ESPN2. "CART 2Day" airs 10:30 a.m. ET Sunday on ESPN2 while ABC-TV's tape-delayed race broadcast begins 4 p.m. ET Sunday. The race will also air live on the CART Radio Network and on CART's official website at www.cart.com.

-CART-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Gil de Ferran , Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Memo Gidley , Max Papis , Adrian Fernandez , Roberto Moreno , Bobby Rahal , Patrick Carpentier , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Kenny Brack , Mario Andretti , Rick Mears , Chip Ganassi , Norberto Fontana , Cristiano da Matta
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing