CHAMPCAR/CART: Cleveland: Pre-race notes

WHO'S HOT * Cristiano da Matta ( ...

WHO'S HOT

* Cristiano da Matta (#6 Havoline Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone) of Newman/Haas Racing tied a CART record last weekend at Toronto and joined Al Unser Jr. and Alex Zanardi as the only Champ Car drivers to win four consecutive races. En route to the win from pole, da Matta swept every championship point available for the second time this season (Portland) under the new rules package for 2002, pacing both qualifying sessions (2), taking the win (20) and leading the most laps (1) for an impressive 23-point performance. To date, he has won seven of the last 10 CART FedEx Championship Series events and is tied with Jimmy Vasser (#8 Shell Ford-Cosworth Lola/Bridgestone) of Team Rahal for 14th on the all-time CART victory list. Da Matta extended his lead in the championship point standings (118-70) over Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver Bruno Junqueira (#4 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone) and will attempt to set the all-time CART record for consecutive victories (five) this weekend at the Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by U.S. Bank. Both Al Unser Jr. (1990) and Alex Zanardi (1998) went on to win championships in the years in which they won their four-consecutive events. However, in the races where they tried to extend their winning streaks to five, both drivers would settle for third-place runs, Unser at Mid-Ohio and Zanardi at Michigan.

* Shinji Nakano (#52 Alpine/Mitsuba Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) posted a career-best finish for the second straight week in Toronto, coming home in the fourth spot one week after carding a career-best fifth in Chicago. The Fernandez Racing pilot has scored 22 championship points in the last two weeks, nearly equaling his total of 23 that he compiled during his first two full seasons of CART competition.

* Scott Dixon (#44 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone) of Target Chip Ganassi Racing rounded out the top five in Toronto with his best finish of the season. Dixon claimed the fifth spot, extending his streak of six consecutive top-10 finishes and holds down the sixth spot in the season standings despite not having led a single race lap all season.

* Michel Jourdain Jr. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) had his streak of top-10 finishes broken in Toronto, but did manage to bring his Team Rahal machine home in the 12th spot, making him the only driver in the series to have scored points in every race this season.

ON THE RIGHT TRACK * Scotsman Dario Franchitti (#27 KOOL Honda/Lola/Bridgestone), currently third in the championship point standings with 64, is the defending champion for this weekend's Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by U.S. Bank. Franchitti set a race-record pace at 118.007 mph en route to the win last season on the 2.106-mile temporary road course at Burke Lakefront Airport. Team KOOL Green stablemate Paul Tracy (#26 KOOL Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) has also tasted victory in Cleveland, having won this event from pole in 1993.

·      Jimmy Vasser of Team Rahal holds the track record for qualifying on the spacious airport runways at the Burke Lakefront venue. The American pilot will again be searching for the speed that earned him the mark of 56.417 seconds (134.385 mph) in 1998.

·      Michael Andretti (#39 Motorola Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) has had success in Cleveland in past CART FedEx Championship Series events. As former race winner (1991) and polesitter (1989), Andretti and his Team Motorola crew will be looking for the formula that earned him a win in Round 2 on the streets of Long Beach.

MANUFACTURING SUCCESS

·      Toyota-powered drivers have won six of eight CART FedEx Championship Series events contested this season. The Toyota sweep of the victory podium with da Matta, Kenny Brack (#12 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone) and Christian Fittipaldi (#11 Lilly Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone) in Toronto was its second in the last four races and marks the fourth consecutive race in which Toyota-powered drivers have finished first and second. With the streak, Toyota (153) extends its lead in the hunt for the Manufacturer's Championship over Honda (118) and Ford-Cosworth (93). Honda holds the rights to the remaining two victories in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach (Round 2) and the Miller Lite 250 in Milwaukee (Round 4).

* In the CART FedEx Championship Series' 20-year history at Cleveland, a Toyota-powered car has never seen victory circle, which could provide inspiration in continuing the marque's run of four straight one-two finishes to date this season. Ford-Cosworth has seven victories at Cleveland (1982-86, '95 and '00), followed by Honda with five (1996-99, '01).

* Lola has won 10 of the past 11 CART FedEx Championship Series events, dating back to a victory by Max Papis in the Honda Grand Prix of Monterrey Featuring the Shell 300 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca last year. Also included in the run are streaks of three in a row (Australia, 2001, Fontana, 2001 and Monterrey, 2002) and four in a row (Laguna Seca, Portland, Chicago and Toronto) by Cristiano da Matta. Junqueira helped Lola's cause this season in Japan with a victory, as did Tracy in Milwaukee. Reynard interrupted Lola's streak when Andretti won at Long Beach in Round 2. Lola leads 170 to 94 in the Constructor's Championship, but Reynard holds the edge at Cleveland having won the last seven events, while Lola has claimed four of the 20 races held on the shores of Lake Erie.

NOTEWORTHY

* Townsend Bell was fined $10,000 and placed on indefinite probation Monday for his part in a race incident during Sunday's Molson Indy Toronto. Bell was involved in an incident on Lap 93 of Sunday's event at Toronto's Exhibition Place in which he made contact with the car of Bruno Junqueira, damaging Junqueira's car and leaving him unable to continue. Bell was excluded from the remainder of the event by CART Chief Steward Wally Dallenbach after making it back to the pits, and received his further sanctions on Monday..."I made a mistake," Bell said Monday. "I thought I could get through successfully, obviously I could not. Wally (Dallenbach) is the Chief Steward, he is the man in charge and I will abide by his decision."...Bell had previously been on probation for an incident in the season-opening Tecate Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix, but had been taken off of probation by Dallenbach after showing progress on the racetrack. Dallenbach also warned that this is the second strike against the former Dayton Indy Lights champion and that another incident could result in a suspension..."Townsend Bell is an extremely capable race car driver that has made a mistake, and hopefully this ruling will help him focus his energies," said Dallenbach. "Many former CART champions have faced similar sanctions in their early years in the series and as Townsend has shown in winning the Indy Lights championship - he has the potential to turn this into a positive."

* The legendary Champ Car career of Bobby Rahal began in 1982 when he drove for Jim Trueman's Truesports team and won the Rookie of the Year award. The season got off to an auspicious beginning for the fledgling team when they posted DNF's at Phoenix, Indianapolis and Milwaukee. Things came together for the young team over the July 4th weekend at Cleveland when the team qualified second and won its first race, the inaugural Grand Prix of Cleveland. The win for Rahal was the first of 24 Champ Car victories. Twenty years later that initial CART triumph still holds special meaning for Rahal..."At the time, I couldn't believe it," said Rahal. "When you look at who was in the race - Al Unser, Sr., Mario Andretti, Gordon Johncock, Johnny Rutherford and I think A.J. (Foyt) was in that race - these guys had been American heroes. They had countless Indy 500 wins among them and everything else, and then to go out and to beat them was something special."..."We started out the year in Phoenix and it was a disaster. This was a team that had no Indy car experience, let along any experience on an oval. We had CanAm and other forms of road racing experience, but we didn't have any oval track experience. When we got to Cleveland all of a sudden everybody was in our area of expertise with regards to road racing, so we went to Cleveland believing that we would be competitive. Of course, what made it all the more special is that I'm from the Cleveland area, my father and mother are Cleveland natives, Jim Trueman, who I drove for was from Cleveland and the guy who owned the cars was from Cleveland. So it was literally a Cleveland team in a lot of respects and the press and everybody really latched on to that."..."Then for us to win the race it was one of those things that I guess Hollywood might write. You know, the hometown team wins the hometown race; it just couldn't have been any better. It was really from that race that I went from being someone who people knew about from the Indy car racing circles to all of a sudden being seen as a winner and certainly the perception about me as a driver changed in racing."

* Last weekend in Toronto, Derrick Walker confirmed the formation of Walker Racing L.L.C., which has acquired the property of and intellectual rights to Reynard North America, and has become the exclusive supplier of Reynard parts to the CART FedEx Championship Series for 2003 and beyond. In the new agreement, Walker Racing L.L.C. is continuing to supply parts to each of the competitors that run Reynards in the CART Champ Car series, while ensuring further development of the chassis and related parts..."We completed the sale two weeks ago and started trading and selling the parts to the teams that are running Reynards," said Walker..."The first major parts that have been developed were on some of the cars last weekend at Chicago. The basic platform of the Reynard is a good one and we realize that CART needs another strong manufacturer in the series. We feel that we can fill that need."...The owner of the team that currently campaigns Champ Car pilot Tora Takagi (#5 Pioneer/Denso Special Toyota/Reynard Bridgestone) also bought the cache of developmental tools for the Reynards, including the jigs, molds and fixtures that are needed to build and develop parts for the cars in the areas where the rules allow.

* Pioneer Rock & Roar Concert Series will feature the southern-rock sounds of classic rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd on July 14th. Free admission will be granted to anyone with tickets to the CART FedEx Championship Series Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by U.S. Bank. The concert takes place after the Round 9 Champ Car race and will be held on the Pioneer Rock & Roar Concert Stage located just south of the main pit gate on Business Aircraft Centers property. Log onto http://www.imgmotorsports.com/clev/concerts.asp for more information.

* All Bridgestone Potenza racing tires used by Champ Car teams competing in the CART FedEx Championship Series are produced at the Bridgestone/Firestone Technical Center in Akron, Ohio- a facility that employs nearly 1,000 people in information services, research, product development, polymers and race tire development/manufacturing. Bridgestone is entertaining over 700 guests consisting of dealers, customers and employees at this weekend's race and Michael Andretti of Team Motorola will make appearances at two Bridgestone retail outlets on Monday, July 15th following the event. For more information contact CART Senior Manager - Partner Services & Development Doug Bresnahan at (317) 716- 9331.

* The WorldCom Most Popular Driver Award allows fans to cast their vote for their favorite CART FedEx Championship Series driver by filling out an official entry form. These entry forms can be filled out on-site in Cleveland at the WorldCom Most Popular Driver voting tent. Also, voting can take place on CART's official website, www.cart.com, www.espn/rpm.com, www.speedtv.com and www.WorldComracing.com. Votes will be tabulated and a fan selected at random will have the opportunity to present the award to the Most Popular Driver at the 2002 CART FedEx Championship Series Awards banquet, a trip to the inaugural 2003 Grand Prix of St. Petersburg and a Skip Barber Racing School package. The winning driver will be presented with a trophy and a check for $25,000 that will be donated to the driver's favorite charity.

* This Sunday's live broadcast of the CART FedEx Championship Series Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by U.S. Bank (CBS, 1:30 p.m. ET) from Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland, Ohio will be the fifth of seven events to air on CBS Sports this season. Provisional qualifying will air on a delay (SPEED Channel, June 12th at 10:00 p.m. ET), followed by the final round of qualifying live on SPEED Channel Saturday July 13th.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Wally Dallenbach Sr. , Al Unser Jr. , Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Max Papis , Bobby Rahal , Christian Fittipaldi , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Alex Zanardi , Tora Takagi , Shinji Nakano , Kenny Brack , Townsend Bell , Al Unser Sr. , Skip Barber , Chip Ganassi , Gordon Johncock , Cristiano da Matta , Johnny Rutherford , Michel Jourdain
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing , Chip Ganassi Racing