HOMESTEAD, Fla. (March 22, 2000)--- After driving over 3000 miles with no checkered flag in site, CART's winningest active driver Michael Andretti and his championship-contending teammate Christian Fittipaldi are ready to hear the command ...
HOMESTEAD, Fla. (March 22, 2000)--- After driving over 3000 miles with no checkered flag in site, CART's winningest active driver Michael Andretti and his championship-contending teammate Christian Fittipaldi are ready to hear the command "Gentlemen Start Your Engines" on Sunday, March 26 at the CART FedEx Championship season-opener.
Andretti will get behind the wheel of his No. 6 Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford-Lola in hopes remaining the most successful CART driver in the soon to be four-year history of CART racing at the Homestead-Miami Speedway He scored back-to-back wins in 1997 and 1998 and narrowly missed setting an unprecedented record for winning three consecutive season-openers in CART when he finished second to Greg Moore in 1999.
"All of the elements have come together for the start of a great season," said Andretti who has won 13 of his series high 38 wins on an oval. "We always set our goals (for the next season) high during the off-season, but our testing has given us a good level of confidence. The car feels great. The Ford and Lola have been working well. The team has been working well and I am ready to race. The competition is going to be tough but I think we are in the best shape we have been in the past four years."
Fittipaldi has completed many miles of testing on the 1.5-mile oval in Homestead, as well as other tracks in the U.S., and is ready to take his No. I I Big Kmart/Route 66 racecar to victory lane as he did at the Texaco/ Havoline 200 at Road America in 1999. While in the midst of a breakthrough season that saw him win his first CART pole and race victory, Fittipaldi was the series leader in most laps completed, with all but two, until a testing accident after 12 of 20 races while a mere 28 points out of first place (win - 20). During a test session on the oval at Gateway International Raceway on August 2, a transmission failure resulted in a crash and subsequent subdural hemitoma, which forced him to put his championship hopes on hold while missing five races to recuperate.
"We have had a really good off-season testing program," said the 29-year-old Brazilian. "If there were points given for off-season testing, we would be looking very good for the championship. Unfortunately, there are only 20 events where points are given and everything has to work perfect during those 20. We have had a good off-season and are confident about our opportunities to have a strong season and carry on with the momentum from 1999. It's amazing because the competition gets harder each year. The teams gear up a little bit more every year, and you have stronger drivers and more pressure. You have to take your time and build on your experience."
"Everyone wants to kick the season off with momentum, which is why doing well in the Marlboro Grand Prix of Miami is important," added Andretti. "Sometimes it helps you carry the momentum on the rest of the season. Experience is the key. There are a lot of young drivers in this series and they are talented but I hope my experience gives me an edge. You need any edge you can get in a sport where onehundredth of a second can mean the difference between winning or losing."
Within days of hearing the famous command "Gentlemen Start Your Engines," both Andretti and Fittipaldi are anxiously waiting to get the 2000 season underway and start laying groundwork for capturing the prestigious CART FedEx Championship. Practice for the Grand Prix of Miami, Round I of 20 on the 2000 CART FedEx Championship Series, begins Friday (March 24), with qualifying set for Saturday (March 25). Race time Sunday (March 26) is 2 p.m. EST with a same-day, tape-delayed broadcast set for ESPN-TV at 4:30 p.m.