CHAMPCAR/CART: Fontana Pre Race Notes

NOTEWORTHY * The nine-point margin (209-200) separating leader Dario Franchitti from second-place Juan Montoya heading into the final event of the FedEx Championship Series season ranks as the third closest in CART's 21-year history. The only ...

NOTEWORTHY

* The nine-point margin (209-200) separating leader Dario Franchitti from second-place Juan Montoya heading into the final event of the FedEx Championship Series season ranks as the third closest in CART's 21-year history. The only closer races occurred in 1985, When Al Unser held a 139-136 advantage over Al Unser Jr. entering the final event in Miami, and in 1986, when Bobby Rahal led Michael Andretti, 174-171, heading to Miami. Unser went on to win the 1985 championship, 151-150, in the closest points race in CART history while Rahal took the 1986 title by a 179-171 margin over Andretti.

* Sunday's Marlboro 500 Presented by Toyota will mark the 285th and final event of Wally Dallenbach's tenure as CART's Chief Steward, a position he has held since 1981. Dallenbach was instrumental in the formation of the CART Safety Team and the construction of the CART Mobile Medical Facility. He leaves behind a legacy of respect, integrity, an unflagging sense of fairness and a consummate devotion to his sport. In recognition of his multitude of contributions to CART and the FedEx Championship Series, Dallenbach will serve as Grand Marshal of this weekend's Marlboro 500 Presented by Toyota. "Wally has been a father figure for everyone in the sport, both competitors and officials alike," said Tim Mayer, CART's senior vice president of racing operations. "Like a father, he has had to guide many from time to time but that guidance has always been of benefit and ultimately has helped forge the spirit of competition and sportsmanship that dominates the FedEx Championship Series today. Luckily, we are not losing Wally's advice and guidance, and we look forward to having him within the CART family for many years to come. He leaves a proud legacy for all officials to follow and certainly leaves large boots to fill. His successor will benefit from decades of racing wisdom and the benefits of his stewardship will remain with CART for many years to come. We are proud and excited that Wally's last race marks the climax of this year's FedEx Championship Series championship. It is a fitting tribute to mark his retirement as Chief Steward."

* The entry list for the Marlboro 500 Presented by Toyota includes 27 drivers, several of whom will be making their first FedEx Championship Series appearances in awhile. Alex Barron (Marlboro Mercedes Penske) will make his second start of the season for Marlboro Team Penske, and his first overall since finishing 18th at Michigan in Round 12. PJ Jones (Visteon Ford Swift) makes his first start for Patrick Racing since qualifying a career-best second and finishing 21st at Vancouver in Round 16 while All American Racers has tabbed veteran Raul Boesel to pilot the AAR Denso/Castrol Toyota Eagle. Boesel will be making his third start of the season and second for AAR after finishing 12th at Chicago in Round 15. Dennis Vitolo (Team NicoDerm CQ-NICORETTE Ford Reynard) likewise makes his first start for Payton Coyne Racing since Chicago, where he qualified 26th and finished 15th.

* The Mario Andretti Trophy, centerpiece of the CART All-Star Team, will be unveiled 1:45 p.m. Friday during a press conference at California Speedway featuring Andretti, artist Elie Hazak and CART President and Chief Executive Officer Andrew Craig. The inaugural CART All-Star team will honor the top five drivers in the 1999 FedEx Championship Series season, as chosen in balloting by their fellow drivers, a select panel of media and celebrity voters Tim Allen, Anthony Edwards and Robin Yount. CART commissioned Hazak to create the Mario Andretti Trophy - which will go to the top vote-getter annually in the All-Star balloting -- as well as the four individual trophies which will be presented to the other members of the team. Members of the team will be announced at CART's 2000 Spring Training in Homestead, Fla.

* To help set the table for the millions of dollars which will be awarded later in the weekend, Thursday's on-track activity at California Speedway will feature the finals of the inaugural Craftsman Pit Crew Challenge. The competition features a top prize of $50,000 which will be awarded to one of four pit crews which qualified for the finals based on their performances through the first 19 rounds of the FedEx Championship Series. Crews for Max Papis (Miller Lite Ford Reynard), Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard), Juan Montoya (Target Honda Reynard) and Michael Andretti (Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Swift) qualified for the finals based on points accumulated from Homestead to Australia. Points were awarded according to the same scale used to determine the FedEx Championship Series champion, but based on total time spent in the pits at each event. The four finalists will compete in a specially staged pit stop competition 3 p.m. Thursday to determine the winner of the $50,000 grand prize presented by Craftsman. The finals will consist of a five-minute warm-up session, followed by 10 minutes of track time in which all four cars will run simultaneously. Each finalist will be required to make a minimum of two pits stops in the session, during which all four tires must be changed correctly. The $50,000 winner will be determined following calculation of the total pit times accumulated by each team - plus any penalties assessed in accordance with the 1999 CART rule book - divided by the number of pit stops. Finalists may make more than two stops, if they wish, in an attempt to lower the average spent on each stop.

* One of the highlights of the season-ending weekend figures to be Friday's second annual Runway Madness Presented by FedEx live show and auction at the Ontario, Calif. airport. Paul Page and Parker Johnstone, broadcasters of FedEx Championship Series events on ABC-TV and ESPN, will serve as Masters of Ceremonies for the program. They'll be joined in that role by veteran Indianapolis Star-News motorsports writer Robin Miller and John Szymanski, the one-man-show and unofficial Director of Enthusiasm for Newman/Haas Racing. Runway Madness II, proceeds of which benefit Championship Auto Racing Auxiliary (CARA) Charities, will include food, carnival games, celebrity guests, live and silent auction items, a raffle and entertainment, including alternative rock band Smashmouth. All American Racers team owners Dan and Evi Gurney and Newman/Haas Racing driver Michael Andretti and his wife, Leslie, are honorary co-chairpersons of the event, which was attended by more than 1,200 guests and raised more than $110,000 for charity last year. Information on this year's event is available from CARA Charities at (317) 299-2277.

* The 1999 FedEx Championship Series champion, either Dario Franchitti or Juan Montoya, will be a featured guest on CBS-TV's Late Show with David Letterman on Thursday, Nov. 4. The program airs following the late local news in most markets.

* A press conference and photo opportunity featuring Dario Franchitti and Juan Montoya is scheduled for 9 a.m. Friday in the media conference room at California Speedway.

* The battle between Dario Franchitti and Juan Montoya for the PPG Cup isn't the only championship clash going on in the FedEx Championship Series this weekend. The Nation's Cup is still up for grabs as well, with Brazil holding a slim 257-253 lead over the four-time defending champions from the United States. Canada also remains within reach of the title at 248 points. Brazil held a 34-point (187-153) lead on the U.S. following Tony Kanaan's (McDonald's Championship Racing Team Honda Reynard) victory in Round 12 at Michigan Speedway, but the American contingent has outscored the Brazilians in every event since to chop away at the deficit. Points in the Nation's Cup are scored according to the same scale used to score the driver's championship, but only the highest-finishing driver scored for his country in any given event. Single bonus points are also awarded to the country whose driver wins the pole position or leads the most laps. Since debuting in 1995, the Nation's Cup has been won by the United States in each of its four years of existence.

* FedEx Championship Series fans across the country have the opportunity to win valuable prizes this weekend in conjunction with "CART Fan Appreciation Weekend at California Speedway." CART, California Speedway, FedEx, Kmart, Firestone, Pioneer Electronics, Penske Auto Centers and Southern California Toyota dealers are partners in the promotion, which was launched last month. The grand prize is a Toyota Tundra pickup truck equipped with a top-of-the-line Pioneer car audio system. Other prizes include trips for two, courtesy of Firestone, to next year's Champ Car events on each of the four continents where FedEx Championship Series races are contested; a Pioneer Home Theater system; 500 Kmart $50 cash cards; 100 full-year supplies of Penske Auto Center Crew Chief oil changes as well as 150 gift certificates for automotive service valued at $100; 30 Pioneer Simple Solution home theatre speaker packages; 10 sets of Firestone Firehawk tires and 100 Firestone racing jackets. In addition to the prizes offered nationally, fans attending the Marlboro 500 Presented by Toyota will have the opportunity to win prizes in a separate sweepstakes event going on throughout the weekend.

* According to the latest Neilsen I-PRO audit, CART's official website, www.cart.com , received a record 1,142,646 visits in September, an increase of 241 percent over September, 1998 and a 21 percent increase over the August, 1999 total of 940,860 visits.

* In conjunction with this weekend's Marlboro 500 Presented by Toyota, Victory Lane magazine, Vintage Oval Racing magazine and the California Speedway are presenting the third annual Victory Lane Champ Car Showcase. Historic racers once driven by Mauri Rose, Tony Bettenhausen, Rodger Ward, Jack Brabham, Dan Gurney and Mario Andretti will be among those featured in on-track, at-speed practice sessions being run throughout the weekend. The entry list includes a 1925 Miller 122, a 1993 Lola T9300 and numerous Offenhausers, Climaxes and Eagles in between. The highlight of the Champ Car Showcase will be the Showcase session, during which a unique collection of historic Champ Cars will parade in formation around the two-mile California Speedway oval, then run at speed for the remainder of the session.

ON THE AIR

* Qualifying for The 500 Presented by Toyota will air 12:30 a.m. ET Sunday on ESPN2. "CART 2Day" airs 11 a.m. ET Sunday on ESPN2 while ESPN's live race broadcast begins 3 p.m. ET Sunday.

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Wally Dallenbach , Al Unser Jr. , Michael Andretti , Raul Boesel , Max Papis , Bobby Rahal , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Tony Kanaan , Alex Barron , Dan Gurney , Mario Andretti , Jack Brabham , Rodger Ward , Tony Bettenhausen , Robin Miller , Al Unser
Teams Team Penske