CHAMPCAR/CART: Miami: Team Rahal Talk Track

Jourdain Jr. eyes success at Grand Prix Americas in Miami. HILLIARD, OH . . . Team Rahal's Michel Jourdain Jr. is enjoying a breakout season in the CART FedEx Championship Series in 2002. The 26-year-old native of Mexico City has posted 15 ...

Jourdain Jr. eyes success at Grand Prix Americas in Miami.

HILLIARD, OH . . . Team Rahal's Michel Jourdain Jr. is enjoying a breakout season in the CART FedEx Championship Series in 2002. The 26-year-old native of Mexico City has posted 15 points paying results in 15 races and has established career highs in points (94), top-five results (5) and top-ten results (12). As the only driver to have finished every race this season he leads the series in laps completed and miles logged.

With 94 points in the first 14 races he is poised to be just the fourth driver in Team Rahal history (Rahal, Papis and Brack) to surpass the 100 point plateau in a single season. Jourdain is also eyeing the team mark for top-ten results in a season (15) set by Bobby Rahal during his championship season in 1992. Jourdain has already claimed one Team Rahal record this season. At Elkhart Lake he broke Bobby Rahal's mark for consecutive points paying results (11) a streak which has reach 15 straight and one that he carries into this weeks race on the streets of Miami.

Even with the success he has enjoyed, Jourdain isn't satisfied. "The season started out very well for us but then we experienced some ups and downs and all that. This is such a competitive series that everybody is always fast and everybody has a chance to win the race, or at least finish in the top five, so you have to be at your best at every event. But I think everybody, except maybe Cristiano [da Matta] and Bruno [Junqueira], have had an up-and-down season, so hopefully we can close the season on a high note."

Jourdain's Achilles Heel has been qualifying. While the Office/Depot Gigante team has been able to avoid troubles on race day, the proverbial bumps in the road have come during the qualifying sessions. "I've talked a lot with Jimmy [Vasser] about some of the things that have happened to me in qualifying - they're crazy," said Jourdain. "On the other hand some of the things that have happened to him in the races have been crazy, too, and I'd rather have the good things happen to me in the race. The team is working hard to qualify well and to race well and it would make my life a lot easier to start in the front and we probably would have several podiums were that the case. I've been able to do fast laps, but it's just a matter of putting everything together and then we'll be good."

This week the CART FedEx Championship Series rolls into Miami for the inaugural Grand Prix Americas. The race marks CART's return to South Florida after a one year hiatus. "Miami is obviously an important market for CART and for the Brazilian drivers and the Mexican drivers so it's going to be a huge event," said Jourdain. "I wasn't in the series the first time CART raced there [1995] but I've heard from many people that it was one of CART's biggest races ever. I think it's going to be similar to the atmosphere that exists in Long Beach, but it might be even bigger than that. I'm really, really looking forward to it."

Vasser looks for continued success in Miami

The 2002 season started in a frustrating fashion for Shell Champ Car driver Jimmy Vasser. The 1996 CART champion posted five DNF's in the first ten races and saw his championship hopes evaporate. Since being knocked out on the second lap of Vancouver in late July, Vasser has posted five straight top-ten results. In fact in seven of the last eight races, Vasser has brought his Shell Ford-Cosworth/Lola home in the top-ten.

"We have salvaged the season to some extent because we are finishing races and scoring some points," said Vasser. "Still as I look back at this season I can't help thinking what could have been. We never caught a break in the early going and that hole we dug ourselves was too deep. A win or two to finish the season would certainly end the year on an up note."

South Florida holds some successful racing memories for Vasser. His first CART win came at Miami-Homestead Speedway in the inaugural event of the 1996 season. In 1995 when CART last raced on the downtown streets of Miami, Vasser started 12th but brought his car home in eighth place. In six career starts in Miami or the Miami/Homestead Speedway, Vasser has failed to post a top-ten finish only once (1998) and in four of those races he posted a top-five result.

"The street race in downtown was incredible," recalls Vasser. "There were people everywhere and the fans were great. Miami is an important market for CART and it has a lot of passionate open-wheel racing fans. Based on the success of the previous downtown event, I think this race has the potential to one of the premier events in the series. "

Vasser currently sits 12th in the championship with 76 points is four points behind 11th place Kenny Brack and 10 points behind seventh place Paul Tracy. Vasser should surpass his 2001 total of 77 points this weekend and he still has a solid shot a posting a 100 point season. If Vasser can reach the 100 point plateau it would mark the sixth time in the last seven seasons he had posted 100 points in a season.

Shell Crew leads the Craftsman Pit Crew Challenge.

The updated Craftsman Pit Crew Challenge (CPCC) standings find Jimmy Vasser's Shell crew on top of the points standing and Michel Jourdain's Gigante crew is fifth heading into the final round of preliminary competition. The Craftsman Pit Crew Challenge is a weekly competition which awards points to the pit crews of the teams which finish the race and compile the least time in the pits.

The Shell team has clinched a spot in the CPCC Finals at Fontana in November. Having scored ten points or better in the last five events has vaulted Jimmy Vasser's crew to the top of the standings. They hold a 17 point lead over the second place team of Alex Tagliani from Players/Forsythe Racing.

The Gigante/Office Depot crew of Michel Jourdain Jr. is tied for the fifth and final spot with Bruno Junqueira' s crew entering the weekend. The Gigante/Office Depot crew has posted points in 14 of the 15 rounds this season and they will need a strong showing at Miami to secure a spot in the finals. To secure a spot in the finals the Gigante/Office Depot crew must beat the crews of Bruno Junqueira and Christian Fittipaldi in their total pit stop times.

Points are awarded in the same manner of CART championship with 20 points being awarded to the crew which wins the round. The four crews with the highest point totals from the first 16 races and the pit crew of Cristiano da Matta, which won a wild card spot at Chicago, will compete in the Craftsman Pit Crew Challenge Shootout at Fontana for the $50,000 first prize.

Team Rahal's Shell pit crew captured the 2001 Craftsman Pit Crew Challenge. In 1999 Max Papis' Miller Lite crew captured the regular season points title and finished second in the "Pit Crew Challenge Shootout."

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Max Papis , Bobby Rahal , Alex Tagliani , Christian Fittipaldi , Paul Tracy , Kenny Brack , Cristiano da Matta , Michel Jourdain