FedEx CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES HAPPENINGS Notes and Quotes from Championship Auto Racing Teams, April 19, 2000 While Juan Montoya of Target/Chip Ganassi Racing and Dario Franchitti of Team KOOL Green continue to seek the form that made them the top...
FedEx CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES HAPPENINGS
Notes and Quotes from Championship Auto Racing Teams, April 19, 2000
While Juan Montoya of Target/Chip Ganassi Racing and Dario Franchitti of Team KOOL Green continue to seek the form that made them the top two finishers, respectively, in last year's FedEx Championship Series, this year's rookie crop has wasted little time in making an impact in the championship chase.
Montoya (Target Toyota Lola), the defending series champion, stands 20th and Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard) stands 17th through the season's first two events, with one and two points, respectively. Meanwhile, three rookies can currently be found among the top 13 drivers in the championship, and, likewise, three first-year drivers are among the 13 drivers who have led laps during the first two events of the season.
At present, this year's six-driver rookie crop is spearheaded by Player's Forsythe Racing driver Alex Tagliani (Player's Forsythe Racing Team Ford Reynard), who stepped up to the FedEx Championship Series after finishing fourth in last year's Toyota Atlantic Championship. On the strength of finishes of ninth at Homestead and fourth at Long Beach, Tagliani stands seventh in the championship, with 16 points. He led eight laps at Homestead, and Sunday at Long Beach, he became the first driver to score points in the first two events of his inaugural season since Scott Atchison finished 12th and ninth, respectively, at Phoenix and Long Beach in 1988.
Like Tagliani, PPI Motorsports driver Oriol Servia, last year's Dayton Indy Lights champion, turned in an outstanding drive at Long Beach, piloting his Telefonica Toyota Reynard to a sixth-place finish in the 25-car field. He heads to Rio de Janeiro10th in the championship, with eight points.
Despite being sidelined due to a March 31 testing crash at The Milwaukee Mile, rookie Shinji Nakano (Avex Honda Reynard) of Walker Racing holds down 13th place in the championship with five points, earned from an eighth-place finish at Homestead.
Tagliani was not the only driver to lead the opener as Team Rahal driver Kenny Brack (Shell Ford Reynard) also took the point for six laps. Although he has yet to score a championship point, Brack has shown strength in each of his first two starts, and has qualified fifth and seventh at Homestead and Long Beach, respectively.
Like Brack, Takuya Kurosawa (MTCI Ford Reynard) of Dale Coyne Racing has yet to post a scoring finish, but Kurosawa became the first Japanese driver ever to lead a FedEx Championship Series event at Long Beach Sunday. His total of seven laps led was only one fewer than the Coyne team's laps-led total (8) in 16 previous seasons of FedEx Championship Series competition.
The rookie crop is rounded out by Argentine Norberto Fontana (Della Penna/VideoMatch Toyota Reynard) of Della Penna Motorsports, who owns 15th-place finishes in his first two career starts.
* A QUALITY START
With podium finishes in his first two starts of the season, Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) is off to the best start of his 10-year FedEx Championship Series career. Tracy finished third in the season opener at Homestead prior to posting his 16th career victory at Long Beach last weekend. In seven previous years as a full-season competitor, Tracy had never posted back-to-back scoring finishes in his first two starts of the season. His consecutive podiums have him in the FedEx Championship Series points lead for the first time since 1997, when he led following Round 11 at Toronto. With Sunday's victory, Tracy has now finished fifth or better in eight of his past 11 starts on road or street courses, dating to last year at Portland, and has scored championship points in 10 of those events. Included are runner-up finishes last year at Toronto, Detroit and Mid-Ohio and a victory last year at Houston, in addition to Sunday's triumph.
* PROUD AT PENSKE
Once again, Marlboro Team Penske enjoyed an outstanding weekend at Long Beach, as Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) won his eighth FedEx Championship Series career pole position and led a race-high 30 laps, while Helio Castro-Neves (Marlboro Honda Reynard) matched a career best with a runner-up finish. De Ferran has now led a series-high 71 laps, and joins Paul Tracy as the only drivers to lead laps in both of the season's first two events. Castro-Neves' runner-up effort was a career best on a road or street course and matched his overall career best established at Milwaukee in 1998 and matched at Gateway last year.
* FedEx CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES LEADERS
FedEx Championship Series points, earnings and Manufacturer's Championship leaders heading into the April 30 Rio 200 at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil:
1. Paul Tracy, Team KOOL Green 34 2. Jimmy Vasser, Target/Chip Ganassi Racing 26 3. Max Papis, Team Rahal 20 4. Roberto Moreno, Patrick Racing 20 5. Gil de Ferran, Marlboro Team Penske 18
Note-Ties for positions are broken by driver with the higher finish.
1. Paul Tracy, Team KOOL Green $150,000 2. Max Papis, Team Rahal $110,750 3. Jimmy Vasser, Target Chip Ganassi Racing $85,000 4. Roberto Moreno, Patrick Racing $77,500 5. Helio Castro-Neves, Marlboro Team Penske $60,000
Honda Turbo V8 38 Ford Cosworth XF 32 Toyota RV8E 26 Mercedes-Benz IC108F 8