CHAMPCAR/CART: Chicago: Newman/Haas pre-race notes, quotes

CRISTIANO DA MATTA, ...

CRISTIANO DA MATTA, #6 Havoline Toyota-Lola-Bridgestone:

* AT CMS: Will be his fourth Champ car race at CMS and second with NHR. Da Matta won his first CART Champ car victory here in 2000 after beating his NHR predecessor, Michael Andretti by 1.6 seconds to take the win from his fifth place start. He qualified 9th in 1999 and finished 14th and qualified 20th in 2001 and finished 19th.

* 2002 CHAMPIONSHIP LEADER: Led 52 laps in route to victory in the 2002 season-opener in Monterrey Mexico which was his third consecutive win in the series dating back to the final two rounds in 2001 (Australia, Fontana). It was also his second consecutive victory in the season-opener in Mexico. At the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, da Matta looked set to match a CART record fourth consecutive victory when he built a seven second lead after taking over the top spot for the first 30 laps before he was taken out of contention when hit departing his second of three pit stop and ultimately finished eighth after starting second. He started 8th in Japan but mechanical failure sidelined him near the end of the race in 13th place. Was in sixth place in Milwaukee when a fuel pressure problem forced a 10-pit stop race (instead of 3) and dropped him to an 11th place finish. Ran in front of eventual third place finisher Max Papis. Won his first pole as well as his first win from the pole in Monterey, Calif. (6-9-02) after leading 82 of 87 laps. Won all 23 points available after being fastest in provisional qualifying, final qualifying, winning the race and leading the most laps in Portland to build a 20 point lead over second place, Bruno Junqueira, in the standings. To date, da Matta has led series-high 219 laps on road courses.

* FIVE WINS IN EIGHT RACES/MOST CONSECUTIVE WINS: With his victory in Portland, Ore. (6-16-02), da Matta scored his fifth victory in eight races dating back to his win in Surfers Paradise, Queensland, Australia. At the season-opener in Monterrey, Mexico, da Matta won his third consecutive event in the CART FedEx Series (Australia and Fontana in 2001 and Mexico in 2002) and became the first driver to accomplish the feat since Juan Montoya (1999).

* DIVERSE TALENT: Of his seven wins in CART, four of them have come on one of the four different type of tracks the series competes on (Chicago '00 - oval; Monterrey '01 & '02, Laguna Seca '02, Portland '02 - road course; Australia '01 - street course; Fontana '01 - Superspeedway/500-mile).

* CART FedEx ALL-STAR TEAM: Was nominated to the five-driver 2001 CART FedEx Championship All-Star Team. The elite group is voted on by drivers, a select group of motorsports media and fans.

CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI, #11 Lilly Toyota-Lola-Bridgestone:

* AT CMS: Will be his second Champ car race at CMS as he missed the inaugural event in 1999 (sustained a subdural hematoma in a test accident caused by a faulty transmission) as well as the race in 2000 (mild concussion from a practice accident on Friday). Started 24th and finished 25 in the 2001 event as the team struggled with their short oval setup. Has scored the team's highest oval finish so far in 2002 of fourth place in Milwaukee.

* EIGHTH IN 2002 CHAMPIONSHIP (only 31 pts. out of first): Has three top-4 finishes in six races to date. At the season-opener in Monterrey, Mexico, Fittipaldi ran the fastest qualifying lap but it was disallowed after he brought out a red flag due to hitting the concrete barriers. His second fastest lap resulted in a fourth place start and a subsequent third place finish after running as high as second. In Long Beach, Fittipaldi set the second fastest time in provisional qualifying but dropped to a 9th place start in final qualifying, ran as high as 3rd and retired in 13th after gearbox failure. Struggled at the first short oval race of the season in Japan and finished 11th. Team improved their short oval set up for the race Milwaukee where he finished fourth. Drove to his best finish of second place since his victory in the 2000 season-finale at the California Speedway 500-mile race in Monterey, Calif. Was third fastest in provisional qualifying but failed to improve his time on Saturday and started fifth. A mid-race collision with Paul Tracy, who attempted a pass, dropped him 10 laps back by the time he continued before he ultimately retired from the race in 13th place with seven laps to go.

* OTHER 2002 RACING PLANS: When the 2002 race schedule permits, Fittipaldi plans to compete in six NASCAR-sanctioned Busch Grand National (BGN) events after enjoying his first experience in the BGN 2001 season finale near his home in Fla. He qualified his Mike's Hard Lemonade Chevrolet 33rd out of a field of 43 for the GNC Live Well 300 and retired in 39th place due to contact with Hank Parker Jr. after completing 106 of 200 laps on November 10, 2001. He ran as high as 10th place.

* CART VICTORIES - 2: Scored his first CART victory in the Texaco/Havoline 200 at Road America (7-11-99/71st CART start), He bettered his previous best 500-mile finish of 2nd place in the 1995 Indy 500 by winning the 2000 season-finale Marlboro 500. For his 2nd place finish to (eventual 1997 Formula One World Champion) Jacques Villeneuve, he was also named 1995 Indy 500 "Rookie of the Year."

* CART POLES - 1: Fittipaldi set a track record en route to his first CART pole in his homeland of Brazil on May 14, 1999.

What They're Saying:

CRISTIANO DA MATTA, #6 Havoline Toyota-Lola-Bridgestone: "Chicago Motor Speedway has been a track where I have had a couple of ups and downs. My first year there in 1999 with PPI, we had a good car but didn't have a good race. We had a good car all weekend long but we made a couple of errors with the car in the race and didn't do as good. Then in 2000 we came back and I won my first race in CART as well as the first win for the team so I have very sweet memories from the place. For that reason, I will always have good memories from Chicago. Last year with Newman/Haas it was my first season with the team and it was their home race and I was the defending winner so we all had big, big expectations but nothing worked out our way. We couldn't get the car right. It was just one of those weekends where everything goes wrong and it was tough on everyone. We did a lot of testing in May to improve the situation and I think we have made big gains. Between Christian and myself, we ran over 1000 miles in May and we saw improvements in (the race in) Milwaukee. I was running sixth when I had fuel pump problems and Christian finished fourth which is a good finish for championship points. The Chicago race will be tough but we think we will run much better than we did last year here. Our goal was to collect as many points as possible on the road courses, which seems to be our strong point, and we were able to do that except for the one point we left on the table on Friday in Laguna Seca. We have a 20 point lead heading into Chicago with 22 points maximum available but we need to keep scoring points and increase our lead. I'll try to make 2002 as good as 2000 in Chicago was."

CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI, #11 Lilly Toyota-Lola-Bridgestone: "We have scored points in four out of six races so far this season but didn't get any points at the last race in Portland and we really thought we could have made up some ground there because we usually run well. It's no secret that short ovals have not been our strongest tracks to race on but we think we should run okay in Chicago because we have made improvements to out set-up in testing in May. After that, we ran better in Milwaukee and I was able to finish fourth there which gave us a good amount of Championship points. The race last year was one of the most difficult in the history of the team. Everyone from the shop that doesn't usually travel with the team came to the race and we were all disappointed not to have run better. So far this season, we are much more consistent overall, which has put us in a stronger position in the Championship. We still need to improve our short oval set-up and need to keep working on our road and street course performance and collect points every race in order to stay in the hunt."

-nhr-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Jacques Villeneuve , Hank Parker Jr. , Michael Andretti , Bruno Junqueira , Max Papis