CHAMPCAR/CART: Elkhart Lake: Toyota preview

JUNQUEIRA LOOKS TO REPEAT - Bruno Junqueira (Target Toyota) will return to the site of his first Champ Car victory with a much different outlook, yet striving for the same result. A year ago, the Brazilian was still a somewhat unproven rookie ...

JUNQUEIRA LOOKS TO REPEAT - Bruno Junqueira (Target Toyota) will return to the site of his first Champ Car victory with a much different outlook, yet striving for the same result. A year ago, the Brazilian was still a somewhat unproven rookie awaiting his first CART victory. This year, he arrives at Elkhart Lake with another win and a slew of top-five finishes, and most importantly, he is sitting third in points and squarely in the hunt for the CART FedEx Championship.

To date, Junqueira has already won at Motegi, Japan and registered second-place finishes at Portland and Chicago to go along with a pair of fourths at Laguna Seca and Mid-Ohio. It should bode well that he has placed no lower than fourth at the last three permanent road course venues.

BAD THINGS COME IN THREES - Or at least that is what current CART points leader Cristiano da Matta (Havoline Toyota) is hoping. A five-time winner this season, da Matta has dropped out of the last three races while running first twice and second once. He still holds on to a comfortable 27-point lead in the championship, but it has dropped from a high of 52 points before the Cleveland race. Fortunately for da Matta, he has won three of the four permanent road-course events run this season and was running second last weekend at Mid-Ohio before a late-race spin dropped him out of contention. The 1998 Indy Lights champion continues to lead the series in points (122), wins (5), poles (5), laps led (468) and best average starting position (3.0).

Da Matta's Newman/Haas team also has enjoyed a tremendous amount of success at Road America, winning at the Elkhart Lake track on seven occasions.

FITTIPALDI LOOKS TO MOVE UP A SPOT - After matching his previous best finish of the season with a second at Mid-Ohio, Christian Fittipaldi (Lilly Toyota) will be anticipating a move up this weekend at the site of his first career Champ Car victory. The veteran CART driver has excelled on the permanent road courses this season with a third at Mexico, and a second at Laguna Seca and Mid-Ohio. Now he gets a chance to record another victory at his favorite U.S. circuit, where he has earned three top-five finishes and has qualified in the top 10 in six of seven events since entering CART competition in 1995.

FOUR TOYOTA DRIVERS IN TOP 10 - It is certainly not hard to find a Toyota-powered driver when you look at the top of the CART points standings. With 122 points and a 27-point championship lead, Cristiano da Matta leads a five driver Toyota contingent in the top 10. Bruno Junqueira is currently third overall, just nine points out of second with 86, Christian Fittipaldi (74 points) is sixth, and Kenny Bräck (68) is eighth.

VALIANTE CLOSING IN ON TOYOTA ATLANTIC TITLE - While the championship is far from decided, Michael Valiante has clearly made himself the man to beat heading into this weekend's Toyota Atlantic Championship round at Road America. With just three races remaining, Valiante has opened a 19-point lead over Jon Fogarty and 21 over Ryan Hunter-Reay. Valiante has won three races this season, including two of the last three. He and Hunter-Reay are the only drivers with multiple wins this season. Past Toyota Atlantic race winners at Road America include Patrick Carpentier and Alex Barron, each of whom have been winners this season in either CART or the IRL.

"Quotes"

Jim Aust, Toyota vice president of motorsports: "The competition is getting tougher and tougher each week, but we expected as much. There's still a long way to go this season and the current four-races-in four-weeks stretch will play a crucial role in taking home a championship this season. Fortunately, we've run very well on the permanent road courses this season with three wins in four races. After six victories in the season's first eight races, everyone at TRD is hungry to get that feeling back."

-toyota-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Bruno Junqueira , Patrick Carpentier , Christian Fittipaldi , Kenny Brack , Jon Fogarty , Michael Valiante , Alex Barron , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Cristiano da Matta