INDIANAPOLIS - (July 2, 2002) - Cristiano da Matta has been the hottest driver on the planet in recent weeks, winning three consecutive CART FedEx Championship Series events, but the Craftsman Pit Crew Challenge standings show that the crew of the...
INDIANAPOLIS - (July 2, 2002) - Cristiano da Matta has been the hottest driver on the planet in recent weeks, winning three consecutive CART FedEx Championship Series events, but the Craftsman Pit Crew Challenge standings show that the crew of the #6 Havoline Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone is on a roll of equal proportions.
Two straight weeks as the race leader in the CPCC competition has vaulted the crew of the #6 car into third place in the overall standings, and earned the team the wild-card berth in the season-ending shootout that was available at Chicago. Craftsman put up a free pass to the finals at last weekend's CART Grand Prix of Chicago, and da Matta's team earned that automatic advance by spending just 1:39.450 in the pits during its three stops Sunday.
But if the #6 crew is to take over the top spot, it will have to negotiate a hurdle that it is familiar with as its Newman/Haas Racing teammates with Christian Fittipaldi's #11 Lilly Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone continue to lead the way. Fittipaldi's team leads the standings with 68 points, giving it two more than the squad of the #4 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone of Bruno Junqueira. The Target Chip Ganassi Racing unit has been third or better in the CPCC points in each of the last three races and is looking to take over the top spot with a strong effort at Toronto this weekend.
The Team Rahal squad that services the #9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone of Michel Jourdain Jr. holds down the fourth spot with 56 points giving them a cushion over what is becoming a fierce battle for the fifth position in the standings.
The fifth position became important over the weekend when da Matta's team took the wild-card spot away from Chicago. Since the #6 team is already in the top four, the rules state that the fifth-place team in the standings will advance to the season-ending shootout if da Matta's squad ends the year in the top four.
The Walker Racing team of the #5 Pioneer/Denso Toyota/Reynard/Bridgestone driven by Tora Takagi moved into the fifth and final transfer spot with a strong finish at Chicago but will have to keep the pressure on as seven teams are less than eight points behind them in the standings. Points are awarded to teams via a scoring system similar to the CART standings, with the team that spends the least time in the pits during an event getting 20 points. The final shootout will pit the teams in head-to-head competition during the CART race weekend at California Speedway on November 1-3, with the winning team earning $50,000 from Craftsman.