CHAMPCAR/CART: Elkhart Lake Preview

FedEx CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES LEADER MONTOYA POSITIONED TO TIE MANSELL'S ROOKIE MARK AT TEXACO/HAVOLINE 200 DETROIT (July 6, 1999) - As if it weren't enough that he's leading the FedEx Championship Series...

FedEx CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES LEADER MONTOYA POSITIONED TO TIE MANSELL'S ROOKIE MARK AT TEXACO/HAVOLINE 200

DETROIT (July 6, 1999) - As if it weren't enough that he's leading the FedEx Championship Series championship midway through his rookie season, Target/Chip Ganassi Racing driver Juan Montoya is putting together a campaign which borders on the historic. Already the owner of four victories and four pole positions in the first nine events of the season, Montoya is a threat to establish rookie records in both categories before his stellar rookie season concludes. Heading into Round 10, Sunday's Texaco/Havoline 200 at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis. (2 p.m. ET, live, ABC-TV), Montoya is one victory shy of Nigel Mansell's rookie record of five FedEx Championship Series victories, established in 1993. His four poles to date have moved Montoya more than halfway to Mansell's rookie record of seven. And with a series-high 564 laps led, Montoya is well within striking distance of the FedEx Championship Series rookie record of 610 set by Alex Zanardi in 1996. Although Montoya has been the dominant driver through the first half of the season, and although he has numerous rookie records well within his sights, he still faces challenges from several FedEx Championship Series rivals in his quest to bring Target/Chip Ganassi Racing its unprecedented fourth consecutive series championship. Montoya enters this weekend with 112 PPG Cup points, coming off a maximum 22-point performance at Cleveland for winning from the pole and leading the most laps. His closest pursuer is Gil de Ferran (Valvoline/Cummins Special Honda Reynard) of Walker Racing, who has recorded podium finishes in each of the past three events, including a victory at Portland, to move to second in the championship, with 87 points. Just two points further back is Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard), the defending Texaco/Havoline 200 champion. Franchitti's victory at Road America began a run which saw him score 93 PPG Cup points over the final seven events of the 1998 season to move from eighth to third in the championship. Included, in addition to his triumph at Road America, were victories at Vancouver and Houston. Michael Andretti (Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Swift) currently stands fourth in the championship with 78 points. A three-time winner at Road America (1990, '91 and '96), he is coming off a third-place effort at Cleveland and is the defending Texaco/Havoline 200 pole-sitter. In addition to Franchitti and Andretti, the entry list includes another Texaco/Havoline 200 champion in Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard), who won from the pole in 1993. Tracy's Road America resume also includes consecutive pole positions in 1992, '93 and '94. Sunday's Texaco/Havoline 200 kicks off the busiest stretch of the season for the FedEx Championship Series, with six races scheduled in the next seven weeks. The series continues with the Molson Indy on Sunday, July 18 at Exhibition Place in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

WHO'S HOT

* FedEx Championship Series points leader Juan Montoya (Target Honda Reynard) has scored PPG Cup points in seven consecutive events, and eight of nine overall, including four victories. His performance in the three FedEx Championship Series road/street course events contested to date has been even more impressive, with victories on the temporary street circuits at Long Beach and Cleveland, a runner-up effort on the permanent road course at Portland and pole positions at Portland and Cleveland. Altogether, Montoya has scored 59 of a maximum 66 PPG Cup points available in road and street course competition to date. Montoya has also led at least one lap in each of the past eight FedEx Championship Series events.

* Gil de Ferran (Valvoline/Cummins Special Honda Reynard) has finished on the podium in each of the past three FedEx Championship Series events. Included are a third-place effort at Milwaukee, a victory at Portland and a runner-up performance at Cleveland. The streak has propelled de Ferran into second place in the championship with 87 points, 25 behind Montoya, who leads with 112.

* Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) has finished fifth or better in each of the past three FedEx Championship Series events, including a victory at Milwaukee. The streak also encompasses a fifth-place performance at Portland and a fourth-place showing at Cleveland.

* Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard) has finished on the podium in six of his last eight starts on road or street courses, dating to his inaugural FedEx Championship Series victory last year at Road America. The stretch also includes victories at Vancouver and Houston last year, a runner-up effort at Laguna Seca last year and Long Beach this year and third at Portland this year.

ON THE RIGHT TRACK

* Michael Andretti (Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Swift) has scored PPG Cup points in nine of 14 career appearances at Road America, including victories in 1990, '91, and '96. His 1996 victory, when he took the lead from Al Unser Jr., who suffered an engine failure on the final lap - made him one of only four drivers in CART history to win while leading only the final lap of a race. Andretti's Road America resume also includes podium finishes of second in 1985 and '86. He has at least one lap in seven of 14 starts at the venue, and a career total of 120 on the permanent road course.

* Al Unser Jr. (Marlboro Mercedes Lola) has scored PPG Cup points in 10 of 16 starts at Road America, topped by runner-up finishes in 1983, '91, '92 and '94. He has led four events for a total of 75 laps, topped by 26 of 50 in 1996, when an engine failure on the final lap handed the victory to Michael Andretti and relegated Unser Jr. to a 10th-place finish.

* Jimmy Vasser (Target Honda Reynard) has scored PPG Cup points in his past four starts at Road America, topped by a third-place finish in 1995. The streak also includes finishes of sixth in 1996, eighth in '97 and ninth last year.

* Scott Pruett (Pioneer/MCI WorldCom Toyota Reynard) has scored PPG Cup points in five of seven career appearances at Road America, topped by a fifth-place finish in 1997. Also included are finishes of seventh in 1995 and '96, eighth in '89, and ninth in '92.

* Christian Fittipaldi (Big Kmart Ford Swift) has recorded his best finishes of the past two FedEx Championship Series seasons at Road America. His fourth-place effort in 1997 matched a season-best established at Portland while his third-place showing last year established a season-best finish later matched at Australia. Fittipaldi also leads the FedEx Championship Series in laps (1,416 of a possible 1,418) and miles (2,016.061 of a possible 2,020.273) completed this season.

MILESTONES

* Sunday's start in the Texaco/Havoline 200 will be the 264th of Al Unser Jr.'s CART career, tying him with Bobby Rahal for first place on the all-time list. Unser Jr. (Marlboro Mercedes Lola), in his 18th season in the FedEx Championship Series and second on the CART career victory list with 31, would be in line to break Rahal's record by starting the July 18 Molson Indy in Toronto.

* Michael Andretti (Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Swift) needs nine laps led to become the first driver to lead 6,000 laps in FedEx Championship Series competition. With 5,991 career laps led, Andretti is far ahead of Rick Mears, who stands second with 3,286 career laps led.

* Jimmy Vasser (Target Honda Reynard) and Gil de Ferran (Valvoline/Cummins Special Honda Reynard) are both poised to move into the top 16 in FedEx Championship Series career laps led. Vasser, with 686 career laps led, is just six behind 16th-place Gordon Johncock (692), while de Ferran is just 17 laps further back at 669 laps led, 23 behind Johncock.

MANUFACTURING SUCCESS

* Honda has won three FedEx Championship Series events in a row, and six of the last seven, dating to Juan Montoya's (Target Honda Reynard) win at Long Beach. Also included in the run are victories by Montoya at Nazareth, Rio de Janeiro and Cleveland, by Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) at Milwaukee and by Gil de Ferran (Valvoline/Cummins Special Honda Reynard) at Portland. Honda's performance has helped it to a 176-139 lead over Ford Cosworth in the Manufacturer's Championship.

* Honda has also won the past two FedEx Championship Series events contested at Road America, with Alex Zanardi's win in 1997 preceding Dario Franchitti's (KOOL Honda Reynard) first career FedEx Championship Series victory last year.

* Firestone has won 26 of the past 27 FedEx Championship Series events, dating to Adrian Fernandez' (Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing Ford Reynard) victory at Japan last year. ON THE AIR

* Qualifying for the Texaco/Havoline 200 will air 7:30 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN2. "CART 2Day" airs 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday on ESPN2, while ABC-TV's live race broadcast begins 2 p.m. ET Sunday.

TEXACO/HAVOLINE 200 "QUOTEBOARD"

Michael Andretti (Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Swift), on continuing to build on the momentum generated by a podium finish at Cleveland: "It's always better going to the next race after finishing on the podium at the last one. It would be even better going to the next race leading the championship and we're working on that. It was good to gain some ground in the point standings after not scoring points in a couple of races." (On his 1998 pole at Road America) "After such a long dry spell, it was great to finally win a pole. To do it at Road America made it even better because it's the Texaco/Havoline 200. The series is so competitive now that you really need to win the pole, not only for the extra point toward the championship, but also to gain valuable track position. Back-to-back poles here would be a great start to the weekend. We had a pretty good test at Road America recently and learned a lot of new things. We are always looking for new ways to optimize our Ford-Swift-Firestone package and learn more about the tires. After years of competing here, we are starting with a new race package so we needed to gather some new data in order to be competitive."

DARIO FRANCHITTI (KOOL Honda Reynard), on the challenges of Road America: "I love driving the Elkhart Lake track. Whatever the outcome of the race, it's guaranteed to be an enjoyable weekend just for the sheer pleasure of driving at Road America. But, of course, Team KOOL Green is there to win and that's what we want to do. You have to get everything right to win at Elkhart Lake: a fast, reliable car; good fuel mileage; good pit strategy and, of course, you must drive a mistake-free race. As a driver you have to be on the very top of your game. You have to get the most out of your car on ever turn of every lap and be prepared to go for it. I'm confident that Team KOOL Green can do the job. The team's record speaks for itself: two wins and two poles with Jacques Villeneuve [the first as Forsythe-Green Racing], plus our win last year. So we'll be looking to repeat Jacques' back-to-back success of '94 and '95 this year. If we do, I'll see you at Siebken's [a local watering hole] on Sunday evening."

PAUL TRACY (KOOL Honda Reynard), on chasing the Wisconsin Champ Car sweep: "I'd love to sweep the Wisconsin Champ Car races. My wife, Liisa, is from Crivitz [Wis.], so I'm already an honorary cheesehead. Maybe winning at Milwaukee and Road America in the same year would make it official. I've always gone pretty well at Milwaukee and Road America. I've led every race I've ever run at Milwaukee and I've had some success at Road America as well. I'll never forget when they had to take the timing to four decimal points in 1992 to figure out whether Emerson Fittipaldi or I got the pole. For the record, I did. This year's win at Milwaukee was huge, for me personally but also for the guys on my side of Team KOOL Green. We had a tough season in 1998 but this year we've been competitive almost every weekend. It was just a matter of keeping our heads down, believing in ourselves and in what we were doing, and just staying consistent. Really, that's the way we'll approach Road America. Tony Cicale has been working as my race engineer and he's had a lot of success at Road America, so I'm sure we'll be competitive. Then it's just a matter of maintaining a consistent level of performance and driving a smart race."

CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI (Big Kmart Ford Swift), on continuing his past success at Road America: "We started the season with consistent points finishes and have dropped off a little in the past few races. Overall, we are much stronger this season. I always look forward to the Texaco/Havoline 200 because we have run strong there. I seem to like the track better than it likes me. It's one of the most challenging tracks we race on because you have to drive a perfect lap because it is four miles long. It is definitely a challenge to put together a perfect lap for four miles. It was good to be on the podium again when we finished third last year. It's had been too long. The finish motivated the entire team after such an unbelievable season. I had a big scare the morning of the race when my neck began to hurt after five laps in the warm-up. It couldn't turn my head without unbelievable pain so I went to the Medical Unit to see the doctors. I took an Advil and they worked on my neck. About 40 minutes before the race, they gave me a shot for the pain. Honestly, after the second pace lap before the race, I thought I couldn't make it to the third because of the pain and because I couldn't turn my neck. The race ended well and started a roll of good finishes. Michael had a good test here so both of us are really looking forward to racing here."

GREG MOORE (Player's Forsythe Racing Ltd. Mercedes Reynard), on preparation for the Texaco/Havoline 200: "We've had our share of ups and downs at Road America but I always look forward to racing there because it's such a unique track that is both physically and mentally demanding. It's a big challenge for the car, the driver and the entire crew but the Player's team is well-prepared to handle the test and I think we'll be able to do well at Elkhart Lake. We placed a lot of emphasis on road courses in our off-season testing program and I think that will help us improve our performance on the Road America track."

BRYAN HERTA (Shell Ford Reynard), on his affection for Road America: "I love the track at Elkhart Lake. Road America is a real driver's circuit. It is the most challenging road course that we will drive this season. It is long and fast and there are so many corners that it is a difficult track to drive. It is for those very reasons that I love the course, because it is a real challenge to me personally."

MAX PAPIS (Miller Lite Ford Reynard), on making the transition to a new team through the first half of the FedEx Championship Series season: "The first half of the season has been a series of ups and downs for us, as I have adjusted to a new car and a new team. The chemistry of our team is continuing to develop and that is a process that you can't rush. Each week I feel like we are getting closer to that breakthrough moment when we are going to win. Everybody associated with the team is working hard towards that end." [On his memories of Road America] Elkhart Lake is a very special place for me to race. I picked up my first Champ Car points there in 1996. The course at Road America is fast and good for racing and it challenges the driver to be a real man behind the wheel."

HELIO CASTRO-NEVES (Hogan Motor Leasing, Inc. Mercedes Lola), on setting the car up for Road America: "It's really fast and long but not too tough on the drivers. The track has these really long straights that give you a chance to relax a little bit. You're not all the time thrashing in the cockpit and making adjustments and shifting like you would on a street circuit or a shorter road course. Elkhart is unique in its park setting. It's a really pretty ride around the track. It's almost like driving through a park! As much as it is pretty, it's still a very technical drive. The trickiest part of the set-up is getting the car to work well through the kink. That's where you can lose a lot of time if you don't have the car working just right. You need to run low down force to get the speed on the straights, but then you also need to get a good balance to make it through the kink."

TONY KANAAN (McDonald's Championship Racing Team Honda Reynard), looking forward to his return to Road America after a fourth-place finish last year: "The track is fantastic. I love it. We finished fourth here last year and when you do well on a track, you always like it and look forward to going back. I have no predictions for the weekend, but I hope I can do well. It's time to turn our luck around. It's been a tough year for us, but we never lose hope. We need to get rid of this 'sophomore jinx'."

ROBBY GORDON (Johns Manville/Panasonic/Menards Toyota Swift), on his love-hate relationship with Road America: "When it comes to Road America, I have mixed emotions. I seem to run well there and I love the track, it's fast and it's challenging, not to mention a great setting. But I haven't had the greatest of luck at Elkhart Lake during the races. I'd like to change that this year. Road America is in John Menard's backyard, and like Indy, I know it would mean a lot to him for us to do well there. The key for us is to be able to carry enough speed through the corners to launch down the long, long, straights. They've got three, and you approach 200+ mph on all of them. The car needs to be trimmed to hit the top speeds, but if you can't get through the corners, you're toast. It's a tough setup and with the track being so long, you don't get as many shots at a complete lap in practice and qualifying as you might at the shorter courses. Last year we were off in qualifying, but we managed to score points in the race, finishing 12th. I like to think we can improve on that this year, Toyota has closed the gap considerably. This race is also a race of attrition. If we can be solid all day, the race here can come back to us. But regardless, we're pumped up after Cleveland [a ninth-place finish], that brought the fun back to racing for us this year. Everyone here is hoping we can carry some of that momentum through the month of July."

AL UNSER JR. (Marlboro Mercedes Lola), on his history at Road America: "I love Road America as a track and I love driving it. It demands a lot of respect and it's one of the tracks where I really want to score a victory. Road America has broken my leg and it's broken my heart all the way back to my Can-Am days. I'm looking forward to racing in Wisconsin this weekend. We're continuing to learn more about the Marlboro Mercedes Lola and it was great to bring the Marlboro car home in the top five in Cleveland, especially given it was only our second road-course race with the Lola chassis. Now that we've got some momentum behind us, we need to keep giving it our all and finish in the points."

GIL de FERRAN (Valvoline/Cummins Special Honda Reynard), on the challenges of Road America: "Road America is my favorite track. It's a challenging track in many ways and very varied. It's got slow-speed turns, medium-speed turns, and high-speed turns. You go uphill and downhill. The track has a nice 'flow' to it. It's hard to explain exactly what 'flow' is, but you keep momentum going all the way through the lap, even though there are some slow turns. It's what I call an old-fashioned racetrack. There's not many tracks like Road America anymore. Spa [Belgium] may be the only other one."

PATRICK CARPENTIER (Player's Forsythe Racing Ltd. Mercedes Reynard), on continuing in the footsteps of a well-known compatriot: "Elkhart Lake was where Jacques Villeneuve won his first CART series race as a member of the Player's team (in 1994) and I managed to win an Atlantic series race there [in 1996], so we do have some history of success at Road America. I hope it will continue this year. We're really encouraged by the progress we've made on road courses so far this season, both in qualifying and the races themselves. We're going to Elkhart Lake with two top-10 finishes in a row on road courses and that's provided us with some momentum for one of the toughest courses on the CART circuit."

MAURICIO GUGELMIN (Hollywood PacWest Mercedes), on his enjoyment of Road America: "We normally run pretty well at Elkhart and I think this year will be no exception. We learned a lot at our Mid-Ohio test last week that will be helpful at Road America, too. It's always a tough race, but it's probably the best track that we go to. The circuit is very demanding. There's a great combination of turns and a lot of heavy braking, which I really enjoy. Because we run low downforce, the car isn't that stable through the corners. You're fast but sliding around a bit, and it's fun to really hang it out there. It's also a great time of year to go to Elkhart Lake because they have some of the best corn I've ever tasted!"

GUALTER SALLES (AAR Denso/Castrol Toyota Eagle), on Road America as a driver's track: "I think that for all the drivers, Elkhart Lake is the most enjoyable track to drive because of the long laps and all of the fast corners around there. Personally, it is the track that I enjoy driving most. The set-up for the track is a particular one where the car can run pretty steep there, it's not bumpy at all but very smooth so we can run the car quite low. It's a pretty good track - hopefully, we will have a good set-up to start with and build from there. I haven't tested there but the team has, with Alex [Barron]. Goodyear is doing a good job; the tires are getting more competitive all the time and I'm sure they'll be even better by then. I raced well at Elkhart in the past, qualifying 12th in 1997, so I'm hoping to repeat that and give a good result for [team owner] Dan [Gurney] and All American Racers."

DEFENDING CHAMPION: Dario Franchitti. DEFENDING POLESITTER: Michael Andretti. TRACK LAYOUT: 4.048-mile permanent road course. RACE LENGTH: 50 laps, 202.4 miles. TRACK RECORDS: Qualifying (one lap) - 1998, Michael Andretti, 145.745 mph (1 minute, 39.988 seconds). Race (202.4 miles) - 1991, Michael Andretti, 127.719 mph. RACE NUMBER: 10 of 20 in the FedEx Championship Series. PPG CUP POINTS LEADERS: 1. Juan Montoya, 112 points; 2. Gil de Ferran, 87; 3. Dario Franchitti, 85; 4. Michael Andretti, 78; 5. Greg Moore, 69.

INSTANT REPLAY

Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard ) became the first Scotsman to win a Champ Car race since Jim Clark when he drove to a 7.102-second victory over Alex Zanardi (Target Honda Reynard) in the 1998 Texaco/Havoline 200 at Road America. Franchitti's first career victory, which was quickly followed by wins at Vancouver and Houston, made him the first native Scot to win a Champ Car event since Clark's victory in the 1965 Indianapolis 500. He led a race-high 23 laps while giving team owner Barry Green his first FedEx Championship Series victory since Jacques Villeneuve won at Cleveland in 1995. Christian Fittipaldi (Kmart Ford Swift) rounded out the podium, recording his best finish since taking third at Vancouver in 1996. On the strength of his 11th podium finish in the last 14 events, Zanardi exited the event with 206 points and the FedEx Championship Series lead. He was followed by Target/Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Jimmy Vasser (Target Honda Reynard) with 126 and Adrian Fernandez (Tecate/Quaker State/Labatt Ford Reynard) with 120.

Vital race statistics

Time of race: 1 hour, 35 minutes, 30.767 seconds. Average speed: 127.145 mph. Margin of victory: 7.102 seconds. Caution flags: 2 for 4 laps. Lap leaders: Dario Franchitti, 23 laps; Michael Andretti, 18; Greg Moore, 6; Bryan Herta, 1; JJ Lehto, 1; Bobby Rahal, 1.

ROAD AMERICA RACE HISTORY (17 EVENTS) Year Race Winner Pole Winner 1982 Hector Rebaque Rick Mears 1983 Mario Andretti Mario Andretti 1984 Mario Andretti Mario Andretti 1985 Jacques Villeneuve* Danny Sullivan 1986 Emerson Fittipaldi Bobby Rahal 1987 Mario Andretti Mario Andretti 1988 Emerson Fittipaldi Danny Sullivan 1989 Danny Sullivan Danny Sullivan 1990 Michael Andretti Danny Sullivan 1991 Michael Andretti Bobby Rahal 1992 Emerson Fittipaldi Paul Tracy 1993 Paul Tracy Paul Tracy 1994 Jacques Villeneuve Paul Tracy 1995 Jacques Villeneuve Jacques Villeneuve 1996 Michael Andretti Alex Zanardi 1997 Alex Zanardi Mauricio Gugelmin 1998 Dario Franchitti Michael Andretti

*Uncle of 1995 PPG Cup champion Jacques Villeneuve All-time victories

Mario Andretti                                3
Emerson Fittipaldi                        3
Michael Andretti                        2
Jacques Villeneuve                         2
Hector Rebaque                                1
Jacques Villeneuve*                        1
Danny Sullivan                                1
Paul Tracy                                 1
Alex Zanardi                                1
Dario Franchitti                        1

*Uncle of 1995 PPG Cup champion Jacques Villeneuve

All-time pole positions

Danny Sullivan                            4
Mario Andretti                                3
Paul Tracy                                3
Bobby Rahal                                 2
Rick Mears                                1
Jacques Villeneuve                        1
Alex Zanardi                                 1 
Mauricio Gugelmin                        1
Michael Andretti                        1

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Jacques Villeneuve , Al Unser Jr. , Gil de Ferran , Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Adrian Fernandez , Bobby Rahal , Christian Fittipaldi , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Alex Zanardi , Mauricio Gugelmin , Bryan Herta , Nigel Mansell , Scott Pruett , Mario Andretti , Jim Clark , Rick Mears , Danny Sullivan , Emerson Fittipaldi , Hector Rebaque , Barry Green , Chip Ganassi , Gordon Johncock , Greg Moore , Al Unser , JJ Lehto
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing