CHAMPCAR/CART: Luiz Garcia, Jr. Gets Frist Drive in Champ Car

LUIZ GARCIA JR. GETS FIRST DRIVE IN CART CHAMPIONSHIP CAR HOMESTEAD, Fla. (Feb. 26, 1999) -- Brazilian driver Luiz Garcia Jr. had his first opportunity to drive a CART Champ Car Friday, testing at the Miami-Dade Homestead Motorsports ...

LUIZ GARCIA JR. GETS FIRST DRIVE IN CART CHAMPIONSHIP CAR

HOMESTEAD, Fla. (Feb. 26, 1999) -- Brazilian driver Luiz Garcia Jr. had his first opportunity to drive a CART Champ Car Friday, testing at the Miami-Dade Homestead Motorsports Complex. He's now looking forward to his debut in CART FedEx Championship Series competition, which will take place in the March 19-21 Marlboro Grand Prix of Miami Presented by Toyota. Garcia, who enjoyed success in three British series before joining the CART PPG-Dayton Indy Lights Championship in 1998, will drive the No. 71 Tang Ford-Reynard for the Payton-Coyne team in the full FedEx Championship Series. "It was everything that I expected. It's the fastest I've ever gone, for sure," Garcia said. "It was a feeling similar to when I drove in Formula 3000 for the first time, but in a much bigger scale! When you change the gears, you can really feel the extra horsepower. It was actually scary. But as soon as you get going, you get used to it. It's a natural step." Garcia's fastest lap was 26.8 seconds. "He was real nice and steady," explained car owner Dale Coyne. "He was real good for his first time out in a Champ Car." Garcia won the Brazilian Formula Ford title in 1991, scoring three victories for Team Texaco Petropolis. He then shifted his attention to British competition. He placed third in the 1993 British Formula Vauxhall Lotus Championship, and competed in the British Formula 3 Championship in 1994-95. He placed second in 1996 British Formula 2 Championship, scoring two victories among six podium finishes. Garcia made his oval track debut at Homestead in 1997 in Indy Lights competition. "My first Indy Lights race was very tough, because I had no oval experience at all, and I came here straight for the race," he explained. "I had to learn to drive on an oval and get used to an Indy Lights car at the same time. It was tough, because everybody else had been testing for a long time, and I had no practice on an oval at all. I started 23rd and finished 15th, and I got an award for most overtakings during the race. So I was learning during the race!" Last year Garcia was third fastest in practice but crashed in the last session prior to qualifying. He qualified 22nd in a backup car -- the team's show car! -- and retired early in the event with a broken wheel bearing. Garcia went on to win the Indy Lights race at Cleveland. "I'm very happy to be doing the CART FedEx Series this year," Garcia said. "It's been a long time that I've been working to get here. I think I'm going to enjoy today when I get home, because you can't really enjoy it while you're doing it, because of the work and concentration you've got to put into it. But it's a great feeling. Now that it's over, I'm starting to enjoy everything that's happened today." However, the young Brazilian is realistic about his chances. "I had a late start. It took quite a bit of time to put everything in place, and everybody else has been testing since November. So we have a lot to do to catch up." Garcia and the other CART PPG Championship Series drivers will open official practice for the Marlboro Grand Prix of Miami on Friday, March 19. Qualifying to set the field is set for Saturday, prior to the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race. The Grand Prix of Miami Presented by Toyota takes the green flag at 2 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are still available for the Grand Prix of Miami Presented by Toyota and Florida Dodge Dealers 400. For additional information or credit card orders, call (305) 230-7223.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Dale Coyne , Luiz Garcia