CHAMPCAR/CART: Mid-Ohio preview

After Brief Respite, Recharged FedEx Championship Series Returns to Action in Miller Lite 200 at Mid-Ohio DETROIT (August 8, 2001) - The FedEx Championship Series recently concluded its most grueling stretch of the season, with six races...

After Brief Respite, Recharged FedEx Championship Series Returns to Action in Miller Lite 200 at Mid-Ohio

DETROIT (August 8, 2001) - The FedEx Championship Series recently concluded its most grueling stretch of the season, with six races in seven weeks. The run began with reigning Indianapolis 500 champion Helio Castroneves' second victory of the season at Detroit, and ended with 2000 CART Rookie of the Year Kenny Brack's third win of the year at Chicago.

Now, as the series heads to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for the Miller Lite 200 (noon ET Sunday, live, ESPN), Brack (Shell Ford Lola) leads the championship chase with 104 points and Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard) is his closest pursuer, with 82. But a handful of other drivers remain in contention for the Vanderbilt Cup, emblematic of the FedEx Championship Series Championship, as the series enters its 13th round in Lexington.

Which is pretty much what you'd expect from a championship that has produced eight different winners in the season's first 11 completed events, not to mention a staggering 18 different podium finishers in that same span. That has already established a CART record for different podium finishers in a season, topping the 17 of 1995 and '96, while CART's record for different winners in a campaign is 11, established last year.

At the head of the most competitive driver lineup in the world at present is Brack, whose three victories this season are a series high. His victory at Chicago put him back in the points after back-to-back scoreless finishes at Toronto and Michigan.

All of Brack's victories have come on ovals this year - the other two were recorded at Japan and Milwaukee - but Team Rahal knows how to prepare for road-course competition as well, as evidenced by teammate Max Papis' (Miller Lite Ford Lola) victory at the most recent road-course event in Portland.

Castroneves, meanwhile, will be looking for a repeat of last year's dominant Marlboro Team Penske performance at Mid-Ohio, when teammate Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) won the pole and Castroneves started on the outside. The two then combined to lead all 83 laps and finish one-two in the race, with Castroneves on top.

Castroneves has claimed a pair of victories this season, at Long Beach and Detroit, and has scored 50 of his 82 championship points on road or street courses. He holds a one-point lead over Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard) of Team KOOL Green, who stands third in the championship with 81 points. Franchitti, who owns a victory at Cleveland this season, is a two-time pole-sitter (1998, '99) at Mid-Ohio who also owns a podium finish of third at the venue in 1999.

Michael Andretti (Motorola Honda Reynard) of Team Motorola, who stands fourth in the championship with 73 points, is a two-time winner at Mid-Ohio (1990, '91) who also owns three career pole positions (1990-92) at the track. Andretti holds a one-point edge over fifth-place de Ferran, the defending FedEx Championship Series champion and defending Mid-Ohio pole-sitter, who arrives off a podium finish of third at Chicago which brought his season total to 72 points.

Joining Castroneves and Andretti as previous winners at Mid-Ohio are Alex Zanardi (Pioneer/WorldCom Honda Reynard) of Mo Nunn Racing, who won back-to-back at Mid-Ohio in 1996 and '97; and Adrian Fernandez (Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Honda Reynard) of Fernandez Racing, who logged his third of seven career victories at Mid-Ohio in 1998.

All FedEx Championship Series entries ride on Firestone Tires, the Official Tire of CART.

The Miller Lite 200 is Round 13 of 21 in the 2001 FedEx Championship Series. The series visits seven countries and four continents during the season and climaxes with the season-ending Marlboro 500 Presented by Toyota on Sunday, Nov. 4 at California Speedway in Fontana, Calif. Thanks to a partnership between Marlboro, Toyota, CART and California Speedway, the winner of the season finale will collect $1 million, one of the richest paydays in all of motorsports. Christian Fittipaldi (Kmart Toyota Lola) of Newman/Haas Racing is the defending event champion. An additional $1 million, as well as the prestigious Vanderbilt Cup, will be awarded to the driver who wins the FedEx Championship Series championship.

Following the Miller Lite 200, the FedEx Championship Series makes its annual visit to Elkhart Lake, Wis. this season for the Motorola 220, August 17-19 at Road America.

WHO'S HOT

* FedEx Championship Series championship leader Kenny Brack (Shell Ford Lola) of Team Rahal has won a series-high three events this season, the first three victories of his FedEx Championship Series career. Brack, CART's 2000 Rookie of the Year, has recorded victories at Japan, Milwaukee and Chicago, and his additional top-five finishes of second at Nazareth and fifth at Mexico have helped move him into the FedEx Championship Series championship lead with 104 points. Brack's victory at Chicago gave him six finishes of fourth or better in as many career starts on one-mile ovals. He also owns four pole positions this season, at Mexico, Texas, Milwaukee (where the starting grid was based on championship points) and Michigan (where the starting grid was based on practice times). Brack has scored championship points in eight of 11 starts this season and has led a series-high 472 laps, including 443 on ovals.

* Patrick Carpentier (Player's/Indeck Ford Reynard) of the Player's Forsythe Racing Team has posted podium finishes in his past two FedEx Championship Series starts, beginning with his first career victory at Michigan International Speedway last month. He followed that with a runner-up effort at Chicago and has collected 36 of his 51 championship points in the past two events to move from 21st to ninth place in the FedEx Championship Series championship.

* Patrick Carpentier's Player's Forsythe Racing teammate, Alex Tagliani (Player's/Indeck Ford Reynard) has scored championship points in five consecutive starts and six of his past seven, after going scoreless through his first four starts of the season. Included in his current run is Tagliani's career-best finish of second at Toronto, as well as back-to-back sixth-place finishes at Michigan and Chicago. His current scoring run has moved Tagliani from 25th to 15th in the FedEx Championship Series championship, with 38 points.

* Memo Gidley (Target Toyota Lola) of Target Chip Ganassi Racing has posted top-five finishes in two of his past four starts, including a career-best finish of second at Cleveland and a career-best oval result of fifth at Chicago. Despite making only five starts since joining the Target Ganassi team prior to Round 8 at Portland, Gidlay stands fifth in the FedEx Championship Series with 134 laps led, including 68 at Michigan and a race-high 57 at Cleveland. He stands 17th in the FedEx Championship Series championship, with 27 points.

* Rookie Scott Dixon (Powerware Panasonic PacWest Toyota) of the PacWest Racing Group has scored championship points in seven of his past nine FedEx Championship Series starts, dating to his first career victory at Nazareth, which made him, at age 20 years, nine months and 14 days, the youngest driver ever to win a major open-wheel event. Also included in Dixon's run is a podium finish of third at Milwaukee and top-five results of fourth at Chicago and fifth at Toronto. Dixon, who holds a commanding 69-27 lead over Bruno Junqueira (Target Toyota Lola) of Target Chip Ganassi Racing in the battle for the $50,000 Jim Trueman Rookie of the Year Award, has moved into sixth place in the FedEx Championship Series championship with 69 points. Dixon also leads the series in laps led, with 1,583 of a possible 1,629 and miles completed 2,405.840 of a possible 2,509.607.

ON THE RIGHT TRACK

* Michael Andretti (Motorola Honda Reynard) of Team Motorola owns five top-five finishes in 16 career starts at Mid-Ohio, including back-to-back victories from the pole in 1990 and '91. He also reached the podium with finishes of third in 1989 and '96 and finished fifth in 1994. He is the only driver to have won three consecutive pole positions at the venue (1990-92) and has recorded 246 of his 6,509 career laps led at Mid-Ohio.

* Alex Zanardi (Pioneer Honda Reynard) of Mo Nunn Racing drove to consecutive victories at Mid-Ohio in 1996 and '97, the former coming form the pole. He has led 135 laps in his three career starts at Mid-Ohio, including 79 of 83 in 1996 and 56 of 83 a year later.

* Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) of Team KOOL Green owns four runner-up finishes in eight career starts at Mid-Ohio (1992, '94, '95 and '99). He qualified on the outside pole three consecutive times from 1992-94, and has led a total of 80 laps during his Mid-Ohio career, including a race-high 56 in 1994.

* Adrian Fernandez (Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Honda Reynard) of Fernandez Racing drove to victory at Mid-Ohio in 1998 and has finished among the top six drivers in five of his six career appearances at the venue. The run also includes finishes of fourth in 1995 and sixth in 1994, '96 and last year.

* Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske has finished among the top six drivers in three of his past four starts at Mid-Ohio, including a runner-up finish to Marlboro Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves last year. He also finished sixth in 1997 and '99. De Ferran won the pole at Mid-Ohio last year, tying the track record of 124.394 miles per hour (1 minute, 5.347 seconds) established by Dario Franchitti in 1999.

* Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard) of Team KOOL Green won back-to-back poles at Mid-Ohio in 1998 and '99, the latter coming at an average speed of 124.394 miles per hour (1 minute, 5.347 seconds), establishing a track record which was later tied by Gil de Ferran during qualifying last year.

* Jimmy Vasser (Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard) of Patrick Racing has finished among the top five drivers in three of his past five starts at Mid-Ohio, topped by a runner-up effort to then-teammate Alex Zanardi in 1996. He also finished fifth in 1997 and fourth in '99.

* Bryan Herta (Forsythe-Indeck Ford Reynard) of Forsythe Championship Racing has started among the top three drivers in all five of his career appearances at Mid-Ohio, with a pole position in 1997 and outside poles in 1995 and '99. His best finish at the venue is fourth in 1996.

MANUFACTURING SUCCESS

* Honda-powered drivers have won four of the past five FedEx Championship Series events contested at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. The victories have come from Alex Zanardi (1996, '97), Juan Montoya (1999) and Helio Castroneves (2000). Honda has also won four of the past five FedEx Championship Series events contested on road or street courses, with victories from Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard) at Long Beach and Detroit, Dario Franchitti at Cleveland and Michael Andretti at Toronto. Honda holds a 190-171 lead over Ford-Cosworth in the battle for the CART Manufacturer's Championship, while Toyota stands third with 166 points.

* Ford-powered drivers have won five of 11 FedEx Championship Series events contested to date. The victories have come from Kenny Brack at Japan, Milwaukee and Chicago; Max Papis (Miller Lite Ford Lola) at Portland and Patrick Carpentier at Michigan.

* Kenny's Brack's victory at Chicago was the fifth of the season for the Lola chassis, which trails Reynard, 211-187 in the points battle for the CART Constructor's Championship. Lola's other wins this season have come from Brack at Japan and Milwaukee, Cristiano da Matta (Texaco/Havoline Kmart Toyota Lola) at Mexico and Max Papis at Portland. Reynard's triumphs have come from Helio Castroneves at Long Beach and Detroit, Scott Dixon at Nazareth, Dario Franchitti at Cleveland, Michael Andretti at Toronto and Patrick Carpentier at Michigan.

NOTEWORTHY

* FedEx Championship Series championship leader Kenny Brack finished third Saturday in the season finale of the 2001 International Race of Champions series at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and wrapped up third place in the 2001 IROC championship, the highest open-wheel finish in the series since Robby Gordon placed second in 1996. NASCAR's Bobby Labonte and Tony Stewart finished one-two in Saturday's event and also finished first and second, respectively in the season championship. Labonte finished the four-race season with 68 points, followed by Stewart (58), Brack (57) and NASCAR's Dale Jarrett (47).

"They're great drivers and I just couldn't get up to them to challenge at the end," Brack said. "Obviously, they are very good in these kinds of cars. It's fun to race with them. There was a lot of banging and shoving out there and I did some, too. The car just wasn't as fast on the straights. We closed the gap a little at the end. But I couldn't get close enough to challenge. Boy, that one point in the championship cost me $45,000 today. I still got $80,000, though. I hope they invite me back next year. If the schedule works out, I'd like to come back and beat them the next time."

* Race fans throughout central Ohio will have a chance to get a behind-the-scenes look at Champ Car racing when Team Rahal and Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course host Fan Fest 2001 on Thursday at Quaker Steak and Lube, 8500 Lyra Road in Westerville, Oh. Admission to the Fan Fest, which will run from 4-7 p.m., is free. Current Team Rahal drivers Kenny Brack and Max Papis, along with team owner and three-time FedEx Championship Series champion (1986, '87, '92) Bobby Rahal, will sign autographs from 4-6 p.m. Fans will also have to opportunity to enjoy a performance by RPM, Brack's rock band, beginning at 6 p.m. The four-person band, for which Brack serves as lead guitarist, is comprised entirely of people involved in the CART FedEx Championship Series. Show cars for both Team Rahal drivers will be on display and representatives of the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course will be on hand with more information about this weekend's Miller Lite 200 and the Mid-Ohio School driving school. "This is a great chance for fans to get a behind-the-scenes look at what goes on with Team Rahal," Rahal said. "This is a means for us to give our great fan base here in Columbus and central Ohio a preview of the upcoming weekend of racing at one of the great road courses in existence, Mid-Ohio."

* Former Champ Car driver Alex Barron completed a successful 200-mile test Monday at the Eurospeedway in Lausitz, Germany in preparation for next month's inaugural German 500 at the venue. The test, which followed a test held last week at Rockingham Motor Speedway in England, was conducted by CART in conjunction with Dale Coyne Racing and Firestone. It was designed to complement simulations run by the series' engine and chassis manufacturers and teams, providing more reliable data with regard to track surface conditions, tire wear and projected straightaway and cornering speeds. Barron, a veteran of 32 Champ Car starts, competed for Dale Coyne Racing during the latter portion of the 2000 FedEx Championship Series season, and ended the campaign with a career-best eighth-place finish at California Speedway. "The track is simply fantastic ... amazing!" Barron said of the two-mile superspeedway following his test, which was witnessed by several hundred spectators. "The [track] is perfect for a fast Champ Car race. I reckon the top drivers won't need more than 35 seconds to complete a lap." Said Coyne: "The fans can look forward to a real festival of motor sport here. The track allows plenty of chances for overtaking maneuvers. They have built an exceptional and unique course here, and the investors and the county of Brandenburg can be really proud of what they have achieved." The German 500 at Eurospeedway, CART's first-ever event in Europe, is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 15 (ESPN, 7:30 a.m. live) and will be followed by the Rockingham 500 at Rockingham Motor Speedway on Saturday, Sept. 22 (ESPN, 7:30 a.m. live).

* Arciero/Blair Racing will host a luncheon for patients at Akron Children Hospital, their families and staff, on Thursday afternoon at the Arciero/Blair Racing Hospitality Coach in the paddock at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Representatives from Elf Race Fuel, the Official Fuel of CART, will be joined by FedEx Championship Series and Dayton Indy Lights Championship drivers in presenting a "Kid Racer," a child's electric open-wheel race car, to the hospital patients and staff. The luncheon begins at 1 p.m., with the "Kid Racer" presentation scheduled for 2 p.m. Following the presentation, the patients, families and staff of the hospital will be given a tour of the Mid-Ohio garage and paddock facilities.

ON THE AIR

* Qualifying for the Miller Lite 200 will air 1 a.m. ET Sunday on ESPN2. CART 2Day airs 10:30 a.m. Sunday on ESPN2, while ESPN's live race broadcast begins noon ET. Twenty of 21 FedEx Championship Series events are being televised live on ABC-TV or ESPN and 18 are being televised live on Eurosport, a European network that reaches 250 million viewers in 54 countries. Sunday's race will also air on the CART Radio Network and on CART's official website at www.cart.com .

-CART-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Dale Jarrett , Tony Stewart , Robby Gordon , Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Memo Gidley , Bruno Junqueira , Max Papis , Adrian Fernandez , Bobby Rahal , Patrick Carpentier , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Alex Zanardi , Bryan Herta , Kenny Brack , Alex Barron , Chip Ganassi , Dale Coyne , Cristiano da Matta , Mo Nunn
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing , Dale Coyne Racing