CHAMPCAR/CART: Detroit: Tenneco Automotive Grand Prix; Juan Montoya rounding into form

DETROIT (June 13, 2000) - Last year during his rookie season, defending FedEx Championship Series champion Juan Montoya of Target Chip Ganassi Racing made his presence known early as he won three of the first five events and maintained the points...

DETROIT (June 13, 2000) - Last year during his rookie season, defending FedEx Championship Series champion Juan Montoya of Target Chip Ganassi Racing made his presence known early as he won three of the first five events and maintained the points lead for 12 of the remaining 15 championship rounds thereafter.

This year, Montoya's approach has been a bit different, to say the least. Heading into Round 6 at Milwaukee without a victory or even a podium finish, Montoya (Target Toyota Lola) stepped up in a big way at the rain-delayed Miller Lite 225 at The Milwaukee Mile. He led 179 of 225 laps from the pole en route to his first victory of the campaign as well as the first for Toyota in its five-year history in the FedEx Championship Series.

The 22-point sweep Montoya registered for winning from the pole and leading the most laps moved him into a fourth-place tie in the championship with Michael Andretti (Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Lola) of Newman/Haas Racing, whose runner-up effort at Milwaukee was the 86th podium result of his career. Montoya and Andretti have 44 points each, 15 fewer than FedEx Championship Series leader Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) of Team KOOL Green, as the series heads to The Raceway on Belle Isle for this weekend's Tenneco Automotive Grand Prix of Detroit (1 p.m. ET Sunday, live, ESPN).

Montoya's victory at Milwaukee made him the sixth different winner in as many events this season, matching a series record for most different winners to start the season established in 1991. The other race winners have been Max Papis (Miller Lite Ford Reynard) of Team Rahal at Homestead; Tracy at Long Beach; Adrian Fernandez (Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing Ford Reynard) of Patrick Racing at Rio de Janeiro; Andretti at Japan and Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske at Nazareth. A seventh different winner at Detroit would establish a new FedEx Championship Series standard for the start of a season and go a long way toward breaking the series record of 10 winners in a season, established last year.

The Detroit entry list includes three former winners at Belle Isle - Tracy (1994), Andretti (1996) and defending champion Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard) of Team KOOL Green. Andretti also won the Detroit Grand Prix in 1990, when the race was conducted on a downtown street course, and won all four pole positions at the downtown venue from 1989-92. Other pole winners at Belle Isle include Montoya last year and de Ferran in 1997.

Tracy enters the weekend with a 59-52 championship lead over Roberto Moreno (Visteon Ford Reynard) of Patrick Racing. Montoya's Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate, Jimmy Vasser (Target Toyota Lola), stands third with 48 points.

The Tenneco Automotive Grand Prix of Detroit begins a run that will see six FedEx Championship Series events contested in the next seven weeks. The series continues with the Freightliner/G.I. Joe's 200 Presented by Texaco, June 25 at Portland International Raceway in Portland, Ore.

WHO'S HOT

* Target Chip Ganassi driver Juan Montoya (Target Toyota Lola), the defending FedEx Championship Series and reigning Indianapolis 500 champion, comes to Detroit off his first victory of the season, June 5 at The Milwaukee Mile. En route to the eighth victory of his two-year FedEx Championship Series career, Montoya scored a maximum 22 championship points, earning 20 for the win and additional single points for the pole position and leading the most laps. Montoya has qualified among the top three for all six events this season - including pole positions at Nazareth, Japan and Milwaukee - and nine of the past 11, dating to a pole at Vancouver last year. He has been the dominant driver in each of the past three FedEx Championship Series events, leading 461 of a possible 651 laps (70 percent) during that three-event stretch. The run consists of leading 172 of 201 laps at Japan, 110 of 225 at Nazareth and 179 of 225 at Milwaukee. In only his second FedEx Championship Series season, he has moved into 11th place on the CART career laps-led list with 1,436, only 11 behind Tom Sneva and Alex Zanardi, who are tied for ninth at 1,447.

* FedEx Championship Series points leader Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) of Team KOOL Green has scored championship points in five of six starts this season, including a victory at Long Beach and podium finishes of third at Homestead and Rio de Janeiro. He holds a 59-52 lead over Roberto Moreno of Patrick Racing in championship points and leads the FedEx Championship Series in laps completed, with 989 of a possible 991 and miles completed, with 1,342.409 of a possible 1,344.387.

* Roberto Moreno (Visteon Ford Reynard) owns five top-10 finishes, including four top-six results, in six starts this season. Included are a runner-up effort in the season opener at Homestead, matching a career best, and a third-place effort at Japan. He also finished fifth at Milwaukee, sixth at Rio de Janeiro and ninth at Long Beach. He currently stands second in the championship with 52 points, seven behind leader Paul Tracy.

* Rookie Kenny Brack (Shell Ford Reynard) of Team Rahal has finished fifth or better in his past three FedEx Championship Series starts, highlighted by a season-best third-place performance at Nazareth. Brack also finished fourth at Milwaukee and fifth at Japan and holds a 39-18 points lead over Alex Tagliani (Player's Forsythe Racing Team Ford Reynard) of Player's Forsythe Racing in the quest for the Jim Trueman Rookie of the Year Award. Brack has scored championship points in each of his past four starts, beginning with a 10th-place finish at Rio de Janeiro.

* Christian Fittipaldi (Big Kmart/Route 66 Ford Lola) of Newman/Haas Racing has scored championship points in five of six starts this season and in 21 of his past 25 FedEx Championship Series events, dating to a ninth-place result at Laguna Seca in 1998. This year's run includes finishes of fifth at Rio de Janeiro, seventh at Homestead, ninth at Milwaukee and 11th at Japan and Nazareth.

ON THE RIGHT TRACK

* Michael Andretti (Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Lola) of Newman/Haas Racing has finished fifth or better in seven of 10 starts at Detroit, including victories in 1990 and '96. He also finished second in 1997, fourth in 1992, '95 and '99, and fifth in '94. He also earned four consecutive pole positions at Detroit from 1989-92 and has led 172 laps in his career at Detroit, including all 62 en route to his victory in 1990.

* Defending Tenneco Automotive Grand Prix of Detroit champion Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard) of Team KOOL Green has finished fourth or better in two of three career starts at The Raceway on Belle Isle, topped by last year's victory when he led the final 13 laps. He also finished fourth in 1998.

* Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske has been on the podium in three of five career starts at Detroit, with consecutive finishes of third in 1996, '97 and '98. He also won the pole position at Detroit in 1997.

* Adrian Fernandez (Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing Ford Reynard) has scored championship points in four of six starts at Detroit, highlighted by a runner-up performance in 1998. He also scored with finishes of fourth in 1996, sixth in '95 and seventh in '93. Fernandez did not compete in last year's race after sustaining a fractured radius bone in his right wrist during practice for the event.

* Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) has scored championship points in five of seven career starts at Detroit, including a victory in 1994. He also recorded a podium result with a runner-up effort to Team KOOL Green teammate Dario Franchitti last year. His other scoring performances include seventh in 1998, eighth in '95 and ninth in '93. He has led a combined 72 laps in his seven career appearances at Detroit, topped by 27 in 1993.

* Jimmy Vasser (Target Toyota) has finished sixth or better in four of his past five appearances at The Raceway on Belle Isle, topped by a runner-up showing in 1995. Vasser also finished fourth in 1997, sixth in 1998 and fifth last year.

MANUFACTURING SUCCESS

* Toyota claimed the first victory in its five-year FedEx Championship Series history with last Monday's victory by Juan Montoya in the Miller Lite 225 at The Milwaukee Mile. Montoya led a race-high 179 of 225 laps while finishing 1.015 seconds ahead of runner-up Michael Andretti. Montoya has led 461 of a possible 651 laps (70 percent) in the past three FedEx Championship Series events conducted at Japan, Nazareth and Milwaukee. Montoya has also qualified third or better for all six FedEx Championship Series events this season, including a series-high three pole positions.

* Honda has won the past two FedEx Championship Series events contested at The Raceway on Belle Isle, with victories from Alex Zanardi in 1998 and Dario Franchitti last year. Honda has also won two of the past three poles at Belle Isle with Gil de Ferran ('97) and Montoya ('99) doing the honors.

* Ford has won three of the six FedEx Championship Series events contested to date in 2000, getting victories from Max Papis at Homestead, Adrian Fernandez at Rio de Janeiro and Michael Andretti in Japan. Those victories have helped Ford to a 104-96 edge over two-time defending champion Honda in the CART Manufacturer's Championship. Toyota currently stands third with 90 points.

NOTEWORTHY

* This Sunday, Father's Day, will find three generations of the Andretti family competing at three different venues in pursuit of a racing victory. Family patriarch Mario Andretti, winner of the 1984 FedEx Championship Series championship who ranks second all-time in Champ Car victories (52), will be attempting to win the historic 24 Hours of Le Mans in his Ford-powered Panoz LMP-1 roadster. Mario's son, Michael Andretti, CART's career victory leader (39) and winner of the 1991 FedEx Championship Series title, will be competing at this weekend's Tenneco Automotive Grand Prix on The Raceway at Belle Isle. Meanwhile, Michael's son, 13-year-old Marco Andretti, will be competing in the Yamaha Sportster karting series this weekend at Oakland Valley Raceway in Port Jervis, N.Y., and looking to extend his points lead in the series championship. Mario and Michael competed against one another in the FedEx Championship Series from 1983-92 and again in '94, finishing one-two five times and sharing the podium on 10 additional occasions. "When I look back at the times we have had at the track together either on the front row, starting together or on podiums, you look at the average and we got to do that much more than we deserved," Mario said. "As a family, there are no better moments. This sport has given us back a lot over the years."

* Casey Mears, runner-up in the 1999 Dayton Indy Lights Championship, is testing a Champ Car today for the PacWest Racing Group at the Putnam Park road course near Indianapolis. Mears, the nephew of three-time FedEx Championship Series champion Rick Mears, is receiving the test as part of PacWest's continuing commitment to the evaluation and development of young drivers. "Casey was one of a group of young drivers who tested a Champ Car for us last year, and he was professional and gave us good feedback," said John Anderson, PacWest's Vice President of Race Operations. "That original test was effected by bad weather and teething problems with the new car, and we believed Casey deserved more time in the seat. We are delighted that we are in a position where we can give him the time in the car that he deserves. At the same time, we have to get a closer look at this young guy and mark him in our books for any future positions that may become available." Mears, son of former Champ Car competitor Roger Mears, currently stands third in this year's Indy Lights championship behind PacWest's own championship leader, Scott Dixon, and Australian Jason Bright. "I am excited," said Mears, in his second season with Dorricott Racing. "Anytime I can get time in a Champ Car is valuable to me. I have to thank [PacWest President] Bruce McCaw and John Anderson for giving me this opportunity."

ON THE AIR

* Qualifying for the Tenneco Automotive Grand Prix of Detroit will air 4:30 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN2. "CART 2Day" airs 10:30 a.m. ET Sunday on ESPN2, with ESPN's live race broadcast scheduled to begin 1 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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Series IndyCar
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing