CHAMPCAR/CART: Chicago preview

DETROIT (July 26, 2000) - With its sixth event in seven weeks, the FedEx Championship Series concludes its most arduous stretch of the 2000 season at this weekend's Target Grand Prix Presented by Energizer (4 p.m. ET Sunday, live, ABC-TV). The...

DETROIT (July 26, 2000) - With its sixth event in seven weeks, the FedEx Championship Series concludes its most arduous stretch of the 2000 season at this weekend's Target Grand Prix Presented by Energizer (4 p.m. ET Sunday, live, ABC-TV). The run that began on June 18 in Detroit has been demanding for not only the drivers and crews, but for the hundreds of support personnel who travel with the series as well.

But if the Champ Car competitors are feeling any fatigue, it hasn't shown on the race track. Two weeks ago in Toronto, they put on an outstanding street race in which Michael Andretti recorded his CART career-leading 40th victory. Last weekend at Michigan, they followed up by staging one of the most thrilling events in all of Champ Car annals, in which the lead changed hands 52 times at the start/finish line (and an unofficial 162 times all around the race track) before Juan Montoya nipped Andretti by 0.040 seconds at the checkered flag in the third-closest finish in Champ Car history.

Now, the series comes to the one-mile oval at Chicago Motor Speedway with Montoya (Target Toyota Lola) on a roll following his second 500-mile triumph of the season (he also won the Indianapolis 500 in May) and the defending event champion. Montoya established a CART rookie record for victories with his sixth (later extended to seven at Vancouver) in last year's inaugural Target Grand Prix, and he used that victory as a springboard to the FedEx Championship Series championship.

Montoya arrives at Chicago fifth in this year's championship battle, with 74 points. The points lead is held by Andretti (Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Lola) whose 104 points have him 14 clear of Roberto Moreno (Visteon Ford Reynard) of Patrick Racing, in second place with 90 points.

Andretti has vaulted to the championship lead by finishing fourth or better in the past four events, and six of the past eight, with victories at Japan and Toronto. Meanwhile, the shuffle behind Andretti and Moreno continued when five of the top seven drivers heading into the event failed to score at Michigan.

As a result, positions three through 10 are separated by a mere 18 points. Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) of Team KOOL Green parlayed a record-setting pole position (234.949 miles per hour) and seventh-place finish at Michigan into third place with 80 points. Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske stands fourth at 75, followed by Montoya, a point further behind at 74.

Rounding out the top 10 drivers are Adrian Fernandez (Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing Ford Reynard) of Patrick Racing (69 points); Kenny Brack (Shell Ford Reynard) of Team Rahal (66); Patrick Carpentier (Player's Forsythe Racing Team Ford Reynard) of Player's Forsythe Racing (65); Jimmy Vasser (Target Toyota Lola) of Target Chip Ganassi Racing (63) and Cristiano da Matta (Pioneer/MCI WorldCom Toyota Reynard) of PPI Motorsports (62).

This year, for the first time in FedEx Championship Series history, all cars ride on Firestone Firehawks, the Official Tire of CART.

Following the Target Grand Prix Presented by Energizer, the FedEx Championship Series takes a weekend off before resuming with Round 13, the Miller Lite 200, Aug. 11-13 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio.

Michael Andretti (Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Lola) of Newman/Haas Racing has finished fourth or better in five of his past six FedEx Championship Series starts, and six of the past eight. Included in the run are victories at Japan and Toronto, runner-up efforts at Milwaukee and Michigan and fourth-place performances at Portland and Cleveland. As a result, he has moved into the championship lead, with 104 points, 14 ahead of second-place Roberto Moreno (Visteon Ford Reynard) of Patrick Racing, who has 90. Overall, Andretti has scored championship points in eight of 11 events this season.

Juan Montoya (Target Toyota Lola) of Target Chip Ganassi Racing comes to the Target Grand Prix Presented by Energizer, where he is the defending champion, off a spectacular victory in last weekend's Michigan 500 Presented by Toyota at Michigan Speedway. Montoya's 0.40-second margin of victory over Michael Andretti was the third-closest in Champ Car history, trailing only Mark Blundell's 0.027-second victory over Gil de Ferran at Portland in 1997 and Tony Kanaan's 0.032-second victory over Montoya at Michigan last year. Montoya has led a series-high 580 laps, nearly three times the total (194) of second-place Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske, and has moved to fifth in the championship with 74 points.

Patrick Carpentier (Player's Forsythe Racing Team Ford Reynard) of Player's Forsythe Racing has scored championship points in seven of eight FedEx Championship Series starts to date, and has finished fifth or better in five of those. The run includes a season-best result of third at Milwaukee, as well as a fourth-place effort at Michigan and fifth-place performances at Homestead, Detroit and Cleveland. Despite missing three events with a small fracture of the left wrist sustained in an April accident at his Las Vegas home, Carpentier has gained 11 places in the championship over the past six events, and currently stands eighth with 65 points.

Adrian Fernandez (Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing Ford Reynard) of Patrick Racing has scored championship points in eight of his last nine FedEx Championship Series starts, beginning with a victory at Rio de Janeiro. He also owns a podium finish of second at Toronto and finished sixth at Michigan last weekend. He has moved to sixth in the championship with 69 points.

Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske has scored championship points in eight of his 11 FedEx Championship Series starts this season, and joins Michael Andretti and Juan Montoya as a two-time winner, with victories at Nazareth and Portland. He also owns poles at Homestead and Long Beach and has qualified among the top 10 drivers in nine of 11 starts.

Juan Montoya enters this weekend's Target Grand Prix Presented by Energizer as the FedEx Championship Series leader in points scored on ovals. Montoya has scored 64 of his 74 points to date in oval-track competition, with victories at Milwaukee and Michigan, a fourth-place finish at Nazareth and a seventh-place result at Japan. He also owns pole positions at Japan, Nazareth and Milwaukee, and led the most race laps at those three venues as well. Of his 580 laps led to date., 521 have come on ovals. He is also the defending Target Grand Prix Presented by Energizer champion, having led a race-high 132 laps en route to victory in last year's inaugural event.

Michael Andretti has scored 60 of his series-high 104 points on ovals, with a victory at Japan, runner-up efforts at Milwaukee and Michigan and finishes of sixth at Nazareth and ninth at Rio de Janeiro. He has also recorded 86 of his 133 laps led on ovals.

Roberto Moreno has finished among the top-six drivers in four of six starts on ovals, with podium finishes of second at Homestead and third at Japan. He also finished sixth at Rio de Janeiro and fifth at Milwaukee.

Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) leads the FedEx Championship Series in laps completed on ovals, with 1,157 of a possible 1,159. He has scored championship points in five of six oval-track starts to date, with finishes of third at Homestead and Rio de Janeiro, sixth at Japan, seventh at Michigan and 10th at Nazareth.

Ford has built a 194-169 lead over Honda in the CART Manufacturer's Championship, and has collected a series-high 108 of those points in oval-track competition. Ford owns oval-track victories this season from Max Papis (Miller Lite Ford Reynard) at Homestead, Adrian Fernandez at Rio de Janeiro, and Michael Andretti at Japan.

After leading just 14 laps in its first four seasons of FedEx Championship Series competition (1996-99), Toyota-powered drivers have led 662 laps this season, the most of any of the series' four engine manufacturers. 524 of those laps led have come on ovals, including 521 from Juan Montoya.

Honda-powered drivers swept the podium at last year's inaugural Target Grand Prix Presented by Energizer, as Juan Montoya of Target Chip Ganassi Racing drove to victory, Dario Franchitti of Team KOOL Green finished second and Jimmy Vasser of Target Chip Ganassi Racing finished third.

Mauricio Gugelmin of the PacWest Racing Group and Adrian Fernandez of Patrick Racing will both be making significant starts at this weekend's Target Grand Prix Presented by Energizer. Gugelmin (Nextel PacWest Mercedes), in his eighth year in the FedEx Championship Series, will be making his 120th start, tying him with Roberto Guerrero for 15th place on CART's all-time list. Fernandez will make his 117th start, tying him with Kevin Cogan and Hiro Matsushita for 17th place on the CART career list.

Qualifying for the Target Grand Prix Presented by Energizer will air 5 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN2. "CART 2Day" airs 11 a.m. ET Sunday on ESPN2, with ABC-TV's live race broadcast scheduled to begin at 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 .

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Roberto Guerrero , Adrian Fernandez , Roberto Moreno , Patrick Carpentier , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Tony Kanaan , Mauricio Gugelmin , Mark Blundell , Chip Ganassi , Kevin Cogan
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing , Chip Ganassi Racing