CHAMPCAR/CART: Laguna Seca Toyota preview

<pre> Date: September 10, 2000 Broadcast: ESPN, 3 p.m. ET Race Length: 83 laps for 185.754 miles Track Length: 2.238-mile road course 1999 Winner: ...

<pre> Date: September 10, 2000 Broadcast: ESPN, 3 p.m. ET Race Length: 83 laps for 185.754 miles Track Length: 2.238-mile road course 1999 Winner: Bryan Herta Toyota's Best Finish: 7th, Scott Pruett, 1999 Toyota's Best Qualifying: 8th, Scott Pruett, 1999 Track Speed Records: Qualifying: 1997, Bryan Herta, 118.666 mph Race: 1997, Bryan Herta, 109.647 mph

Manufacturer Points: Ford 256; Honda 247; Toyota 208; Mercedes Benz 57

</pre> What to look for at Laguna Seca:

VASSER RESURGENCE - After a strong start and some mid-season struggles, Jimmy Vasser has bounced back to be the highest finishing Toyota in each of the past two races with a fifth at Road America and a sixth at Vancouver. The results are Vasser's best pair of consecutive finishes since he placed third and Long Beach and second at Rio in April.

He returns home to his native northern California this weekend and to Laguna Seca where he was victorious in the 1997 Champ Car race. Vasser has had three top-five finishes in his last four races at the Monterey track including a fourth in 1996 and a fifth last season.

FAST JUAN - While Juan Montoya has had numerous difficulties in making it to the finish line this season, he's demonstrated that he's still the fastest driver on the FedEx Championship Series circuit. The Colombian has registered five pole positions, six fastest race laps and led a total of 702 laps - series' highs in each category.

GIDLEY STREAK SNAPPED - San Rafael, Calif.-native Memo Gidley saw his string of consecutive points paying finishes snapped at four when he lost a gearbox late in the race at Vancouver. The "California Kid" was on pace to match or better his career-best finish of sixth (set two weeks earlier at Road America) before his mechanical woes. Gidley had finished sixth, tenth (twice) and 12th in four previous starts with Della Penna Motorsports before Vancouver.

IN THE MONEY - Death, taxes and Oriol Servia finishing in the points on a road course. Well, the Catalonian rookie may not be that much of a certainty, but he's proven to be awfully close. In eight road course events this season, Servia has finished in the points seven times - the highest total of any Champ Car driver. He currently sits second in rookie points.

TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALLGAME - Memo Gidley and Oriol Servia are set to be a part of the "California Speedway Night at Edison Field" in Anaheim on Sept. 11. The two Toyota drivers, along with Indy Lights pilot Casey Mears, will be given the opportunity to take batting practice with the Anaheim Angels at 2:30 p.m. Then from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m., the drivers will be signing autographs at the stadium and are scheduled to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at 6:45 p.m.

RICE, WHELDON CONTINUE ATLANTIC DUEL - Toyota Atlantic Championship points leader Buddy Rice and contender Daniel Wheldon return to the track this weekend at Laguna Seca for round 10 of the championship. Rice has started to take control of the points race with consecutive wins at Trois-Rivieres and Road America, but Wheldon's still within striking distance with three races remaining. Rice's name has been mentioned with a number of potential Champ Car seats for next season.


Jim Aust, Toyota vice president of motorsports: "We've had some disappointing results the past few weekends, but Vancouver had some bright spots. We had the fastest car on the race track, had two in the top four for much of the race and, at one point, four in the top eight. Unfortunately, bad timing as far as the full-course yellows cost us a potential win and, at worse, a podium finish. Now we need to turn up the wick and get prepared for the next two weekends at Laguna Seca and Gateway. Gateway will mark the eighth race for us in 10 weeks and there's no doubt it's a physical, emotional and logistical struggle for everyone in the series, but those that handle it the best will be the champions."

Memo Gidley, #10 DirecTV Toyota: "We were fast all day in Vancouver, and we were passing people all day. Even though we did not finish, it was still our best weekend yet. We learned a lot about setting up the car and hopefully we can use that information in the races to come - preferably starting at Laguna Seca. It's a unique situation because this is home for me, yet everything is still a learning experience with a new team. It's really exciting, though, to be improving every week and having the chance to come home and race in northern California."

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Jimmy Vasser , Memo Gidley , Oriol Servia , Bryan Herta , Scott Pruett , Buddy Rice