CHAMPCAR/CART: Long Beach: Pre-event notebook

28th Annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. WHO'S HOT * Cristiano da Matta ( ...

28th Annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

WHO'S HOT

* Cristiano da Matta (#6 Chevron Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone) of Newman/Haas Racing comes into the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach riding a three-race win streak dating to a victory in the Honda Indy 300 at Surfers Paradise, Australia last year. If da Matta wins the race this weekend, he will join two-time CART FedEx Championship Series champions Al Unser Jr. and Alex Zanardi as the only drivers in CART history to win four consecutive events.

* Alex Tagliani (#33 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) of Player's/Forsythe Racing has finished in the top five in the past three CART FedEx Championship Series events, dating to a third place finish in the Honda Indy 300 at Surfers Paradise, Australia last year. Included in the run are a third place finish to close out the 2001 CART FedEx Championship Series season in The 500 Presented by Toyota at California Speedway, and a fifth place performance in the 2002 season-opening Tecate Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix.

* Michael Andretti (#39 Motorola Honda/Reynard/Bridgestone) of Team Motorola has scored championship points in his past three CART FedEx Championship Series starts, dating to a second place finish in the Honda Indy 300 at Surfers Paradise, Australia last year. Included in the run are a seventh place finish to close out the 2001 season in The 500 Presented by Toyota at California Speedway and a 12th place finish in the 2002 season-opening Tecate Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix.

ON THE RIGHT TRACK

* Dario Franchitti (#27 KOOL Honda/Reynard/Bridgestone) of Team KOOL Green has scored championship points in four of five career appearances at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, highlighted by back-to-back second place finishes in 1998 and '99. Franchitti also finished 12th in 1997, and sixth last year. Six of the Scot's seven career Champ Car victories have come on temporary street circuits.

* Michael Andretti (#39 Motorola Honda/Reynard/Bridgestone) of Team Motorola has finished in the top 10 in nine of 17 career Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, highlighted by the first win of his Champ Car career in 1986. Andretti has also started from the pole position three times (in 1991, '92, and '95) and has led a combined 126 laps at Long Beach in his career, including 47 en route to his victory in 1986.

* Jimmy Vasser (#8 Shell Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) of Team Rahal owns seven top-10 finishes in ten career starts at Long Beach, including a victory in 1996. He finished seventh in 1992, ninth in '97, eighth in 1998, 10th in '99, third in 2000, and fifth last year.

* Paul Tracy (#26 KOOL Honda/Reynard/Bridgestone) has recorded two victories in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. His first Long Beach win came in 1993, and it was also Tracy's first career Champ Car win. Tracy also came from 17th on the starting grid to win the 2000 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

MANUFACTURING SUCCESS

* Honda-powered drivers have won the past six CART FedEx Championship Series events contested at Long Beach, getting victories from Jimmy Vasser (1996), Alex Zanardi (1997 and '98), Juan Montoya (1999), Paul Tracy (2000), and Helio Castroneves last year. Honda also owns five of the past six pole positions at Long Beach, with three coming from Gil de Ferran (1996, '97, and 2000) and one each from Tony Kanaan (1999) and Helio Castroneves last year.

* Lola Cars have won each of the past four CART FedEx Championship Series events, dating to a victory by Max Papis in the Honda Grand Prix of Monterrey Featuring the Shell 300 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca last year. Also included in the run are three consecutive victories by Newman/Haas Racing driver Cristiano da Matta (Australia and Fontana, 2001; Monterrey, 2002).

NOTEWORTHY

* A production crew from the MTV show "Dismissed" will be shooting at this weekend's Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach for an upcoming episode of the show. Contestants on the show will be working with several Champ Car teams to gather footage for the episode, which is expected to be aired in mid-May on MTV.

* Rockingham Motor Speedway announced this week that it has appointed Stefanucci and Turner as its American agent. The agency is headed by Brian Turner and will primarily assist Rockingham in contact with teams, sponsors and marketers involved with the CART FedEx Championship Series. Turner and his company have a lengthy pedigree in motor sports and have developed into one of America's most respected sponsorship development and event management companies. With its inception as the marketing agency for the Long Beach Grand Prix, responsible for signing long time sponsors such as Toyota, Bosch and Marlboro, S&T became a dominant force in selling and servicing sponsorship programs for motor sports events. The company based in Sunset Beach, Calif., has since been involved with a broad variety of regional, national and international projects ranging from motorsports to soccer and arts festivals. The company's connections with the Long Beach Grand Prix, then led by current CART CEO, Chris Pook, formed the start of a long relationship with CART. S&T were instrumental in attracting the CART series to Long Beach and were also associated with the promotion of CART events in Milwaukee and the Meadowlands for several years. Their qualifications for this assignment were further enhanced when between 1995 and 1998, S&T were appointed to manage the development of the Pikes Peak International Raceway, which opened in Colorado Springs in June 1997. The assignment included all aspects of project development, construction, financing, race schedule development, staffing, sponsorship and ticket sales as well as overall event operations. "We're absolutely delighted to be able to work with someone with the connections and expertise offered by Brian Turner" said Eve Hewitt, Marketing Director of Rockingham. "Brian has shared many experiences similar to those which as Britain's newest motor sports venue, we are facing. We look forward to a great working relationship."

* This weekend's broadcast of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach will be the first time that a CART FedEx Championship Series event will air on the FOX television network. The broadcast will feature Dolby Surround sound, and this is believed to be the first open-wheel race broadcast to utilize surround sound. SPEED Channel will offer the broadcasts in surround sound for all of its CART FedEx Championship Series broadcasts originating from the United States.

* Drivers Jimmy Vasser and Cristiano da Matta and SPEED Channel CART commentator Tommy Kendall will appear on the popular FOX Sports Net program "The Best Damn Sports Show Period" on Thursday, April 11. A CART FedEx Championship Series car will also appear on the program.

* The legendary Mario Andretti will appear at the Borders Books and Music at 2110 Bellflower Rd. in Long Beach beginning at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, April 11. The 52-time Champ Car race winner will sign copies of his best-selling biography, Mario Andretti: A Driving Passion, which was written by long-time motorsports journalist Gordon Kirby, who will also be on-hand to sign copies of the book.

* Simple Green, the Official Cleaner and Degreaser of CART and Naming Rights Sponsor of the CART Safety Team, has partnered with Ace Hardware in a promotion that will offer one lucky fan the opportunity to be a "Pit Crew Member for A Day" during the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Fox Sports Radio AM 1150 will broadcast live from 4:00 - 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, April 11 from the Ace Hardware located at 9045 Adams Blvd. in Huntington Beach, Calif. In addition to the opportunity to be a pit crew member for the race, Patrick Racing rookie driver Townsend Bell, members of the Simple Green CART Safety Team and the Simple Green girls will also be on-hand with plenty of giveaways.

* Popular rock group, the Goo Goo Dolls, will perform a concert at the site of the 28th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Saturday, April 13. The concert is part of the Pioneer Rock-N-Roar Concert Series and will be held at the conclusion of on-track activities at the Pioneer Rock-N-Roar Concert Stage, located in front of the Terrace Theater at the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center. The concert is free to all Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Saturday ticketholders. "We are delighted to have Pioneer-a Long Beach-based company-back to sponsor the Rock-N-Roar weekend, and look forward to hosting the Goo Goo Dolls on stage after the race activities on Saturday," said Grand Prix Association of Long Beach President and CEO Jim Michaelian. "Entertainment is a major factor in the success of the Toyota Grand Prix, and the addition of the Goo Goo Dolls assures that this year's event will set another milestone in this regard." The band released its eighth album, "Gutterflower," on Tuesday, and features John Rezenik on guitar, Robby Takac on bass, and Mike Malinin on drums. This event will not be the band's first exposure to the CART FedEx Championship Series, however, as they performed a private concert at the CART All-Star Extravaganza in Anaheim, Calif. in January, 2001.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Al Unser Jr. , Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Max Papis , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Alex Zanardi , Tony Kanaan , Townsend Bell , Mario Andretti , Chris Pook , Jim Michaelian , Cristiano da Matta , Tommy Kendall