CHAMPCAR/CART: Fittipaldi Chicago preview

LINCOLNSHIRE, Ill. (July 25, 2001) --- Christian Fittipaldi, 30, in his sixth season with Newman/Haas Racing has never raced at the Chicago Motor Speedway in its two-year history on the Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) FedEx circuit. Last...

LINCOLNSHIRE, Ill. (July 25, 2001) --- Christian Fittipaldi, 30, in his sixth season with Newman/Haas Racing has never raced at the Chicago Motor Speedway in its two-year history on the Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) FedEx circuit. Last year Fittipaldi's race weekend ended soon after it started as he crashed during practice on the first day of the event but was wearing the Head and Neck Support (HANS), a device he helped develop, and was widely thought to have minimized his injuries to a mild concussion. He was sidelined from the inaugural Chicago race in 1999 after a similar type of accident on August 2, at Gateway International Raceway where he was not wearing the yet-to-be-developed HANS and suffered a subdural hemitoma after his shifting mechanism failed and he crashed.

Chicago Motor Speedway happens to be the home track for the Lincolnshire, Ill. based Newman/Haas Racing and Fittipaldi, driver of the No. 11 Kmart Toyota-Lola, hopes to make the Target Grand Prix, as well as the rest of the season, a memorable tenure for his team. "You really want to do well anywhere you go," Fittipaldi said. "It's not just because we're racing at Chicago, Elkhart Lake, or in Milwaukee that we're going to go a little bit quicker because they are near the race shop. We'll just try to do our best all weekend and see what happens."

Fittipaldi is confident that the Newman/Haas Racing Kmart team will have what it takes to develop a winning racecar for the Chicago affair. He said, "We have a lot of practice time in Chicago on Friday and Saturday so I don't think it will matter that I haven't raced there yet. We really need to get a good set-up for the car and then get to race day and see what happens on the track and in the race. Michael finished second last year so we had a good set-up for the track and Cristiano won there so he must know a thing or two about the place."

Fittipaldi is coming off a frustrating weekend in Michigan where he qualified third in 2000 and had a shot at winning the pole this year but started ninth after qualifying was rained out and did not finish the event or score points as he had done in five of his previous six races. An early spin in the pits set him back but a rear-end mechanical failure ultimately ended his day after leading only one lap as the defending 500-mile winner.

As Fittipaldi is quick to point out, there is still plenty of Champion ahead of him and although he is currently 10th in the CART FedEx Championship standings with 49 points, he is only 35 points behind leader Kenny Brack. "Based on our oval experience, I have to admit that the medium speed or short ovals haven't really been my strongest this year," Fittipaldi said. "We're pretty strong on the super speedways and the road and street courses, but not so much on the short ovals. We definitely need to find a better set-up for me. I'm having problems with a neutral car where I can't put the power down, so we definitely have to improve on that. There are plenty of races ahead of us so we just have to remain focused and finish the events in the top-five."

Qualifying for the Target Grand Prix will air 6 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN2. CART 2Day airs 11 a.m. Sunday on ESPN2, while ABC-TV's live race broadcast begins 4 p.m. ET. Twenty of 21 FedEx Championship Series events are being televised live on ABC-TV or ESPN and 18 are being televised live on Eurosport, a European network that reaches 250 million viewers in 54 countries. Sunday's race will also air on the CART Radio Network and on CART's official website, at www.cart.com .

Make sure to cast your vote for Fittipaldi or his teammate Cristiano da Matta for the 2001 MCI Worldcom Most Popular Driver on cart.com or texaco.com/racing until October 9.

-NHR-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Christian Fittipaldi , Kenny Brack