CHAMPCAR/CART: Long Beach: Newman/Haas Racing preview

Newman/Haas Racing (NHR) Fast Facts: * 77 POLES, 73 WINS, 182 PODIUMS, FOUR CHAMPIONSHIPS: The team has earned 182 top-three finishes (1st - 73, 2nd - 59, 3rd - 50) and 77 poles as well as FOUR Champ Car Championships ('84-Mario Andretti, ...

Newman/Haas Racing (NHR) Fast Facts:

* 77 POLES, 73 WINS, 182 PODIUMS, FOUR CHAMPIONSHIPS: The team has earned 182 top-three finishes (1st - 73, 2nd - 59, 3rd - 50) and 77 poles as well as FOUR Champ Car Championships ('84-Mario Andretti, '91-Michael Andretti, '93-Nigel Mansell, '02-Cristiano Da Matta). Currently in their 22nd season, NHR is the most successful team competing in the series. NHR won their 73rd Champ car event four races ago in Denver (Junqueira 8-31-03) and Bourdais brought the team it's 77th pole at the final '03 race in Australia (10-25-03).

* LAST YEAR: The team won a total of five races, seven poles and finished on the podium 16 times in 18 events. Junqueira ended the season ranked second while Bourdais was fourth.

* NINE WINS IN SEASON-OPENERS: In their 21 previous season-opening races, the team has earned nine wins.

* 49 OF 73 WINS ON ROAD/STREET COURSES: NHR has won 49 of their 73 victories on road/street courses and 24 on ovals. The most recent road/street course victory was in Denver by Junqueira on 8-31-03. The most recent victory on an oval was in Germany (5-11-03) by Bourdais.

* 61 OF 77 POLES ON ROAD/STREET COURSES: Of NHR's 77 pole positions, 61 have come on road/street courses and 16 on ovals. The team's most recent road/street course pole was earned by Bourdais in Australia (street 10-25-03). Prior to Bourdais' pole on the oval in Germany (5-10) the team's previous pole on an oval was by C. Fittipaldi on 5-15-99 in Rio.

* CHARITABLE CONTRIBUTION: The husband/wife hospitality team of Peter and Mary-Lin Murphy created an organized system for donation of the leftover food from all Champ Car hospitality areas at the conclusion of each race weekend excluding overseas events. The program is called "Drive Away Hunger" and it originated in Long Beach. The recipient for this race is Second Harvest.

Sebastien Bourdais, No. 2 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone: In 2003, earned Rookie of the Year, Greg Moore Legacy Award and Bridgestone's Grip on the Season Award

* ROOKIE OF YEAR IN 2003: Drove the No. 2 Lilly/McDonald's race car to three victories (England, Germany, Cleveland), five poles (St. Petersburg, Monterey, Germany, Cleveland, Australia) and seven podium finishes en route to a fourth place finish in the year-end standings...Ranked second overall in number of races and poles won and third in most laps led...Ran in the top-five in all 18 events...Possible top-three finish in the season-ending standings was hindered by contact or mechanical problems in 9 of 18 events where he had been running in the top-five but finished much lower...Set the fastest race lap four times (St. Petersburg, Cleveland, Vancouver and Elkhart Lake)...Despite only being behind the wheel of a Champ Car for seven days before the season-opener in St. Petersburg, he claimed the pole in his debut and became the first rookie in series history to lead the first lap of his first Champ Car start before contact ended his race after he led a total of 30 laps...Won the pole in the following event in Monterrey, Mexico and became the first rookie since Nigel Mansell in 1993 to win the pole for each of his first two series starts. A radio problem led to a missed stop and he again failed to finish the race after he led a total of 16 laps before contact ended his race...The first time he finished a Champ car race also was the site of his first victory after he paced 95 laps at Brands Hatch, including the final 33...Became the first driver in series history to win from pole in his oval racing debut after he led 74 laps and earned back-to-back victories in the series with a thrilling win in Germany over Mario Dominguez by 0.084 seconds...Won from pole in CART's first night race in Cleveland and went on to set a rookie-record five consecutive top-five finishes...Posted the best qualifying average (3.67) of any driver in the series and also won the Bridgestone Grip on the Season title which was awarded to the driver who, on the whole, posted the fastest race lap on all 18 races of the year...Won the Jim Trueman Rookie of the Year award and became the first rookie to win the Greg Moore Legacy Award...Earned the Bridgestone Grip on the Season award for having the fastest average race lap for the season...Earned a position in the balloting for Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association's (AARWBA) All-American Team as well as Honorable Mention in the final tally.

Bruno Junqueira, No. 6 PacifiCare Ford/Cosworth-Lola-Bridgestone: Second in Championship standings for past two seasons (2002 & 2003). Will begin his fourth season in the series in 2004 and second at NHR.

* SECOND IN POINT STANDINGS IN 2003: Drove the No. 1 PacifiCare race car to his second consecutive runner-up rank in the series in his third year in Champ Car competition and first at NHR...Led the championship standings for the first time in Champ Car career for one race and stayed in the title hunt until the final event in Australia...Was one of the most consistent drivers in the series with two wins, two poles and nine podium finishes (top-three) in 18 events (also 12 top-fives in 18 events)...Although he won two poles, he was the provisional polesitter a total of six times and ran the fastest lap of the race in Monterey and Montreal...His two wins were both from pole (Elkhart Lake, Denver)...He led a 1-2 finish for NHR in its 500th event in Denver...At season's end he compiled a 28 percent podium finish record of his 57 career Champ Car starts... Led a total of 184 laps during the year and became the first driver in 10 years to finish as runner-up in consecutive seasons and set a new personal best by amassing 199 championship points to Paul Tracy's 226...Earned a spot on the balloting for the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association (AARWBA) All-America team in the open-wheel racing category.

What They're Saying About...

Sebastien Bourdais , #2 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone: "There are so many questions about the season opener in Long Beach because of the new pit rules, point system and push to pass button. I was very optimistic last year before the season and I was obviously right because we were fast in the first two races. I feel much more confident this year because I have one year of experience. Long Beach last year was probably the toughest race of the season for me. I was frustrated with the results from the first two races and then I got to Long Beach and the track was difficult to learn. Despite all of that, I was still on my way to a possible podium finish but the engine blew. The disappointment was unbelievable because our potential was much greater than our results up to that point. This year we are in much better shape.

"I don't know how the Push to Pass system is going to work. The strategy is still going to be about playing fuel economy. On one hand you're driving slow, trying to save fuel, and on the other hand you can switch your strategy in two seconds. Hopefully, it's going to bring some nice passing moments, but from what we've seen to be able to make a pass, you still need to be pretty close to the car in front of you. With the pass button and the pit rules, it's going to be interesting and for sure at the beginning of the season we're going to see many, many different strategies from different teams. I think after the second or third race, we'll all come back to the same thing because there's definitely going to be one strategy that works better than any other one. Hopefully, we pick the right ones right away. We have tried to prepare ourselves for the many different scenarios that can happen and we have come up with 15 or so of them. We won't know which ones will be the right ones until we try them or see how they work for other teams. There are too many variables to know how each of them will work but we are trying to do our homework to prepare for as many of them as possible in advance. You can't win a championship just because you have a great start to the season, but you can definitely lose it if you have a really bad start.

"This season is going to be about consistency. It will be more important than ever. If you score big points all the time you can win the championship without winning a race the same way Matt Kenseth did in NASCAR. You can take second or third and still win the championship. That's different from last year because a win gave you quite a big advantage. The new points system make winning the championship all about consistency."

Bruno Junqueira , #6 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone: "The PacifiCare Newman/Haas team is prepared for this year. We learned a lot last year by finishing second in the championship. We did a lot of work over the winter to try to improve the car and I did a lot of work to improve myself as a driver to see if we can do better this year. Starting the season with the same team I worked with last year is going to be an advantage for us over last year. I know everybody I have to work with. We have a great relationship, and they know me well. I think that's going to be a big advantage because last year everything was new for me on the team.

"Long Beach is one of the most important races for us of the entire season because our sponsor PacifiCare is based there and I want to win the race bad for them. They have been very good to me and I can't think of a better way to pay them back than to win the race for them. I think for me to be more relaxed is going to show in the results. But on the other hand I am going to put a little pressure on myself in Long Beach because it's important that I win that race. There is no better way to start the season than with a win!"

"Last year I had a good car at Long Beach. We finished third and could have finished second but Adrian Fernandez moved ahead of us because of a different race strategy. I think that the first part of last year the car was not 100 percent setup for me since I was new to the team. As the year went on we did a little bit of work on the car to improve some small things because the first part of the season I pretty much drove the car that they had in 2002 and that was not the best setup for me. It was a really good car, but it didn't suit my driving style. It was better for Sebastien. When I had opportunity to do one test during the season, mid-season, in Elkhart Lake, we changed a lot of things on the car, and the car was much better. I thought for the second part of the year, I was much faster, winning more poles, being up front more. Then they tried some different setups towards that direction. I'm feeling more comfortable with the car now. I think we found some things at the last test at Sebring that suit my driving style more, and I think we're going to be a little bit better. If we can improve the car just a little bit I think we can win the race this year.

"To win in Long Beach you really need to have a very good car and be really confident. If you can start on the first or second row and have a car that is consistent for the entire race and not burn up your rear tires, you can win in Long Beach. You have to get your car set up so it doesn't burn the rear tires coming out of the last corner of the hairpin by spinning the rear wheels too much.

"I think the 'push to pass' is something that we're going to have a chance to use in the race that's really good. That's going to make the races more exciting, especially on the street courses where it's very difficult to pass. That extra power allows us to pass the guy in front. That's going to make it exciting, you know. We'll have to learn a little bit as drivers on when to use it. For sure, the new Ford 'push to pass' button will be really good for this year.

"I trust a lot in Carl Haas and Paul Newman. They stuck with Champ Car and they believe in that product. I still have a championship to win. I finished second twice. I hope this year can be my year. I hope so. To prepare for the season, I've been cycling a lot, as I did last year. In the winter I began taking Pilates classes. It's very good for stretching and balance. I also have been weight lifting, trying to keep the upper body strong, as well. I think I'm in really good shape. I think it was such a long off-season, that maybe I'm in the best shape in my life. I had a lot of time to work on that side."

-nhr-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Matt Kenseth , Bruno Junqueira , Adrian Fernandez , Paul Tracy , Nigel Mansell , Mario Dominguez , Mario Andretti , Paul Newman , Sébastien Bourdais , Carl Haas , Greg Moore