CHAMPCAR/CART: Chicago Preview

DETROIT (August 16, 1999) - A sports spectacle that has lay dormant in Chicago for 80 years will be revitalized this week in roaring fashion. Champ Cars, which graced the Windy City for the last time in 1918, return this week to...

DETROIT (August 16, 1999) - A sports spectacle that has lay dormant in Chicago for 80 years will be revitalized this week in roaring fashion. Champ Cars, which graced the Windy City for the last time in 1918, return this week to the Chicago suburb of Cicero as the sleek 850-horsepower machines converge on the new Chicago Motor Speedway 1-mile oval for Sunday's 225-lap Target Grand Prix Presented by Shell (ABC-TV, 4 p.m. ET, one-hour delay), Round 15 of the 20-race FedEx Championship Series season. It marks the return of Champ Car racing, which enjoyed a brief but productive four-year run in Chicago in the early 1900s as part of the AAA Championship. All 12 events during that span were run on board tracks, which were oval layouts constructed of wooden boards, and some of the winners are legends in Champ Car racing. The inaugural Chicago event - a 500-mile race - was held June 26, 1915 and won by Dario Resta, who drove a Peugeot at an average speed of 97.5 miles per hour. Resta also won the second event held that year in Chicago, a 100-mile race that was run August 7. Resta continued his dominance of the Chicago event as he swept the two events in 1916, a 300-miler in June and a 250-mile race in October, en route to winning the AAA championship. Chicago played a vital role in the 1917 AAA Championship as it played host to six events on the 21-race schedule. Earl Cooper, that year's AAA champ, won the city's June opener while Ralph DePalma and Louis Chevrolet emerged victorious in the September doubleheader. The highlight was a tripleheader in October when Tom Alley, Ralph Mulford and Pete Henderson claimed wins. DePalma ushered out the Champ Car era in Chicago with flair in 1918 by sweeping the July doubleheader. His winning speed in the first race - 110.70 miles per hour in a Packard - was the fastest in Champ Car's 10-year history to that point. Eight decades later, Chicagoland fans will be treated to high-tech Champ Cars that are expected to reach speeds of nearly 200 miles per hour at the 1-mile oval while enjoying the comforts of the completely refurbished Sportsman's Park. The short oval has been constructed within the confines of Sportsman's Park horse track, making it one of only two facilities in the country to host both types of racing. The 67,000-seat facility, completed in just over a year, will feature 42 luxury sky suites, 40 indoor chalets, 4,000 club-level seats and a row of pit-row suites. The track itself should lend itself to thrilling wheel-to-wheel racing due to the generous width, which measures 70 feet in the straights and 80 feet in the turns. Chicago Motor Speedway is the latest jewel in the crown of CART team owner Chip Ganassi. Ganassi, who enjoyed moderate success as a driver in the series, has excelled as a team owner, with Target/Chip Ganassi Racing claiming the past three FedEx Championship Series titles. He now adds another aspect of the auto racing industry to his resume, joining fellow owners Roger Penske and Carl Haas in having the opportunity to stage a FedEx Championship Series event. Ganassi, who partnered in this project with highly successful local businessman Charles W. Bidwill III, will serve as president of Chicago Motor Speedway. Ganassi will have his hands full this weekend as he juggles the responsibilities of his new venture with the pursuit of a fourth series championship. Target/Chip Ganassi Racing rookie Juan Montoya (Target Honda Reynard) is coming off last week's victory in the Miller Lite 200 at Mid-Ohio and is situated one point behind (152-151) the current leader, Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard) of Team KOOL Green. Montoya owns a series-high five victories, which already equals the CART rookie record for most wins in a season. Franchitti, the only other multiple winner this season with two victories, has held the top spot for two events after wresting it from Montoya, who held it for the previous nine races. Third in the championship is Newman/Haas Racing driver Michael Andretti (Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Swift), one of nine different drivers who own a victory this season. Andretti, who pushed his CART record for career wins to 38 with a triumph at Gateway, has 124 points and is fending off a charging Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) of Team KOOL Green. Tracy enters the event with a string of four consecutive podium appearances, but is eager to add to his lone victory at Milwaukee earlier this season. The FedEx Championship Series race weekend, traditionally a three-day affair, will be extended another day to allow the competitors an additional day of practice at the new oval. The FedEx Championship Series teams will make their debuts on the new layout Thursday with a pair of practice sessions, one beginning at 10 a.m. CST and the other at 2:15 p.m. CST. The teams will practice again on Friday to prepare for Saturday's pole qualifying.


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Series IndyCar
Drivers Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Ralph DePalma , Carl Haas , Chip Ganassi , Roger Penske
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing