Newman/Haas swap roles of "veteran" and "rookie" for CART's first night race. MILWAUKEE, Wis. (May 28, 2003) --- In an effort to form the best driver combination to defend their 2002 CART Champ Car Championship in 2003, Newman/Haas Racing (NHR)...
Newman/Haas swap roles of "veteran" and "rookie" for CART's first night race.
MILWAUKEE, Wis. (May 28, 2003) --- In an effort to form the best driver combination to defend their 2002 CART Champ Car Championship in 2003, Newman/Haas Racing (NHR) employed rookie Sebastien Bourdais to team with veteran Bruno Junqueira. After successfully helping Bourdais get acclimated to the new challenges of competing in the Champ Car series to date, Junqueira and Bourdais will temporarily swap roles as the 2002 runner-up in the Championship competes in his first night race at the Milwaukee Mile Centennial 250 Presented by Miller Lite on Saturday, May 31.
Although the event will be the first Champ Car race held at night, CART has ensured that visibility will not be a factor as the legendary 1.032-mile oval will be infused with 1.3 million watts of Musco Lighting for the 250-lap event on Saturday night. Lighting isn't the only feature making it's debut at the track as the historic facility has been the recipient of new amenities including grandstands. Lincolnshire, Ill.-based NHR has long considered this event their home race for two reasons - the fact that it is located less than one-hour from their race shop and because team co-owner Carl A. Haas is the promoter of racing at the facility.
Despite earning his fifth top-five finish in five Champ Car events this season, PacifiCare driver Bruno Junqueira isn't willing to be content with the results that have put him in a two-way tie for the points lead with Paul Tracy, both with 66. Junqueira is looking forward to getting back on one of his favorite tracks for his first night event and would like nothing better than surpassing his best finish here of fourth place in 2001 with a win as well as extend his Championship hopes.
"It will be the first time I have raced at night so that will be exciting," said Junqueira who earned his first of five pole positions in his oval racing debut in Nazareth, Pa. in 2001. "I like racing on the one-mile ovals a lot and I think the PacifiCare team can have a good race in Milwaukee. I think that it's never too early to think about the championship. Every race gives you the same number of points so every one is just as important as the next. Being tied with Paul [Tracy] and having our next race take place at The Milwaukee Mile where he is very good would make taking over the points lead after the race even better. In order to finish in front of Paul Tracy in Milwaukee, I think I am going to have to win the race. He's going to be very strong."
In an effort to promote the best show for the fans, CART has mandated that the road-course aerodynamic package will be in effect for Milwaukee, increasing downforce and allowing for two grooves of racing. They have also raised the tire allotment for each team by one, giving them eight sets of Bridgestone tires to use for the event due to increased practice time as well as an additional pit stop brought about by the resumption of the mandatory pit window every 59 laps.
"I think it will be a difficult race," added Junqueira, whose most recent oval pole came in the 2002 Indy 500. "I have never run high downforce on a short oval. In Milwaukee we are used to downshifting but maybe we won't need to brake now because of the aero package."
Lilly driver Bourdais will head to Milwaukee for only his second oval race after earning back-to-back wins in the previous Champ Car races on the Brands Hatch road course in England and the 2-mile Superspeedway in Lausitz, Germany but he believes the event in Milwaukee will be the most challenging so far this season.
"Even though we won (on the oval) in Germany, to me Milwaukee will be my first race on an oval," said Bourdais who moved from 16th to fourth in the point standings after his two victories and is now only 17 points behind the leaders with 49. "With the aerodynamic setup that everyone ran on the cars in Germany, it was not as much of an oval feel as the Milwaukee race will be. Milwaukee, to my point of view, is going to be my first proper oval experience because you have to lift and sometimes brake in Milwaukee. It will take a while for us to get up to speed there because we will need to make sure we don't have any big moments with the wall. It will be hard not to make a mistake. It will be the most challenging weekend we have had so far but the Lilly team will steadily prepare for the new experience as they have for the other races"
Each day on track so far this season has brought new challenges for the Frenchman but for the first time this season Bourdais can claim the label of "veteran" in the area of night racing. Bourdais competed in and won the 24 Hours of Spa in 2002 as well as made four appearances in the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance event from 1999 to 2002, where his highest finish was fourth place in 2000. He believes experience will be a factor this weekend but it has nothing to do with the time the two-hour race will take place.
"I think the experienced drivers are going to be very strong in Milwaukee, and I still need to learn a lot about ovals," said Bourdais. "You need really to take your time on an oval. It's definitely the safest way to do it. And in another hand, confidence can be your biggest enemy, so you need always to be cautious with that. Experience will be a big factor at this race so Bruno, Paul (Tracy), Michel (Jourdain) and all of the guys that have experience on this type of track will be strong."
A win here would be the seventh for NHR and their 71st overall. Michael Andretti brought the team wins here in 1991, 1992 and 1996 while Paul Tracy earned one of his three Milwaukee victories while driving for the team in 1995. Nigel Mansell (1993) and Mario Andretti (1985) each brought the team one victory at this historic track. Bourdais brought the team its first pole on an oval since Christian Fittipaldi accomplished the feat at the 1999 event in Rio de Janeiro at the previous race in Germany. Of their 73 pole positions only one has come at this track (Mario Andretti, 1985).
The Milwaukee Mile Centennial 250 Presented by Miller Lite will take place on the night of May 31, and will be broadcast live by SPEED Channel at 9 p.m. Eastern. The race broadcast will be preceded by live qualifying coverage on Friday night, with SPEED Channel's broadcast team taking the air beginning at 9:30 p.m.