CHAMPCAR/CART: Milwaukee Miller Lite 225 preview

DETROIT (May 31, 2000) - The Milwaukee Mile has been an active Champ Car venue longer than any other current stop in the FedEx Championship Series, but it has been a long time since the venerable short oval hosted a field with as much luster as...

DETROIT (May 31, 2000) - The Milwaukee Mile has been an active Champ Car venue longer than any other current stop in the FedEx Championship Series, but it has been a long time since the venerable short oval hosted a field with as much luster as the lineup for Sunday's Miller Lite 225, Round 6 of the FedEx Championship Series (4 p.m. ET, live, ABC-TV).

Start with defending FedEx Championship Series champion Juan Montoya (Target Toyota Lola), fresh off a dominant performance in which he became the first Indianapolis 500 rookie driver to win the prestigious event since Graham Hill in 1966. A day earlier, Montoya finished a season-best fourth in the rescheduled Bosch Spark Plug Grand Prix Presented by Toyota at Nazareth Speedway. Sunday, he led 167 of 200 laps at the famed Brickyard to add another jewel to the crown of defending four-time FedEx Championship Series team champion Target Chip Ganassi Racing.

Marlboro Team Penske driver Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) arrives at The Milwaukee Mile celebrating a historic win as well, as he delivered the historic 100th Champ Car victory for legendary Penske Racing at Nazareth last Saturday. De Ferran's victory ended a dry spell that had covered three years and 54 events since Paul Tracy had recorded the team's 99th triumph at Gateway International Raceway on May 24, 1997.

Speaking of Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard), he comes to Milwaukee as the FedEx Championship Series leader and defending race champion. Now plying his trade for Team KOOL Green, Tracy owns an impressive resume at The Mile, including a victory in 1995 and pole positions in 1996 and '97. He has finished among the top seven six times in seven career starts on the 1.032-mile oval.

Tracy holds a 59-48 lead over Jimmy Vasser (Target Toyota Lola), Montoya's Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate, in the championship standings. Like Tracy, Vasser is a former winner at Milwaukee, having captured the 1998 event.

Montoya may be the reigning Indianapolis 500 champion, but he is not the only one in this weekend's Miller Lite 225 field. Rookie Kenny Brack (Shell Ford Reynard) won the 500 in 1999 and comes to Milwaukee off a season-best finish of third at Nazareth.

Likewise, Tracy and Vasser are not the only previous Miller Lite 225 winners on this weekend's entry list. Joining them is Newman/Haas Racing driver Michael Andretti (Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Lola), owner of five victories at The Milwaukee Mile (1986-87, '91-92, '96). Andretti's five wins at the Wisconsin State Fairgrounds are more than any active FedEx Championship Series driver has recorded at any venue.

The first five events of the FedEx Championship Series season have produced five different winners. In addition to de Ferran at Nazareth, they include Tracy at Long Beach, Andretti at Japan, Adrian Fernandez (Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing Ford Reynard) of Patrick Racing at Rio de Janeiro, and Max Papis (Miller Lite Ford Reynard) of Team Rahal in the season opener at Homestead. All told, 11 different drivers have shared in the 15 podium positions through the first five events.

Following the Miller Lite 225, the FedEx Championship Series continues with the Tenneco Automotive Grand Prix of Detroit, June 16-18 at The Raceway on Belle Isle.

* FedEx Championship Series points leader and defending Miller Lite 225 champion Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) of Team KOOL Green is the only driver to have scored championship points in all five events this season. The runs consists of a victory at Long Beach, podium finishes of third at Homestead and Rio de Janeiro, finishing sixth at Japan, and taking 10th at Nazareth. He leads the series in laps completed (765 of a possible 766) and miles completed (1,111.241 of a possible 1,112.187). Tracy enters this weekend's Miller Lite 225 with a 59-48 lead over Jimmy Vasser (Target Toyota Lola) in the championship.

* Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard), who recorded the 100th Champ Car victory in the illustrious history of Penske Racing at Nazareth last week, has scored championship points in four of five starts this season and moved into third in the championship, with 42 points. In addition to his victory at Nazareth, de Ferran owns finishes of sixth at Homestead, seventh at Long Beach and ninth at Japan. He also claimed pole positions at Homestead and Long Beach and led the most race laps at each of those venues as well.

* Defending FedEx Championship Series champion Juan Montoya (Target Toyota Lola) of Target Chip Ganassi Racing logged a season-high fourth place finish at Nazareth last weekend, improving to 10th in the championship, with 22 points. He has dominated the laps led category at each of the past two FedEx Championship Series events - 172 of 201 at Japan and 110 of 225 at Nazareth - and is the series leader in laps led with 303. Montoya also led 167 of 200 laps en route to a dominant victory in Sunday's Indianapolis 500. In addition, Montoya has started back-to-back FedEx Championship Series events from the pole (Japan, Nazareth) and has qualified among the top-three drivers for the past six events, and eight of the last 10, dating to last year's pole at Vancouver.

* Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver Jimmy Vasser (Target Toyota Lola) has finished seventh or better in four of five FedEx Championship Series events this season, topped by a runner-up effort at Rio de Janeiro. The run also includes finishes of fourth at Homestead, third at Long Beach and seventh at Nazareth.

* Rookie Kenny Brack (Shell Ford Reynard) of Team Rahal has improved his finish in each of his five FedEx Championship Series starts this season, topped by his first career podium finish of third at Nazareth last Saturday. He has scored championship points in each of his past three starts, including finishes of 10th at Rio de Janeiro and fifth at Japan. * Michael Andretti (Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Lola) of Newman/Haas Racing owns five career victories at The Milwaukee Mile (1986-87, '91-92, and '96), and has finished seventh or better in 12 of 15 starts there. The success includes second in 1989 and '97, third in '95, fourth in '84 and '94, and fifth in '90. He has started among the top 10 in 12 of 15 appearances with pole positions in 1986 and '88. He has led 641 laps, or 10 percent of his CART career-leading total of 6,160, at Milwaukee.

* Defending Miller Lite 225 champion Paul Tracy owns six top-seven finishes, including four top-three efforts, in seven career starts at The Milwaukee Mile. His podium finishes include victories in 1995 and last year, when he led 53 laps. Tracy also finished third in 1994 and '96 and started on the pole in 1996 and '97. He has started outside the top seven only once in seven career appearances at Milwaukee.

* Jimmy Vasser has scored championship points in all seven of his career starts at Milwaukee, including a victory in 1998. He also scored a podium finish with his third-place effort in 1997 and finished fourth last year, when he led 55 laps.

* Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) owns four top-10 finishes in five career starts at Milwaukee, topped by third last year when he started 16th. He also finished seventh in 1997, eighth in '95 and ninth in '96.

* Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard) earned his first career pole position at Milwaukee last year, at an average speed of 169.704 miles per hour (21.931 seconds). He also established a FedEx Championship Series career-best finish of second at Milwaukee during his rookie season of 1998, an effort that was later matched at Gateway last year and Long Beach this year.

* Newman/Haas driver Christian Fittipaldi (Big Kmart/Route 66 Ford Lola) has scored championship points in all three of his starts at Milwaukee with finishes of sixth in 1996 and last year, and seventh in 1995. He missed the 1997 event due to a broken leg and the '98 event due to a mild concussion sustained during a practice accident at The Mile.

* Ford-powered drivers have won three of four FedEx Championship Series events contested on ovals this season. The run includes victories by Max Papis (Miller Lite Ford Reynard) at Homestead, Adrian Fernandez at Rio de Janeiro and Michael Andretti at Japan.

* Honda-powered drivers have won the past two FedEx Championship Series events contested at The Milwaukee Mile, with victories from Jimmy Vasser in 1998 and Paul Tracy last year.

* Toyota needs only a fifth-place finish in one of the remaining 15 FedEx Championship Series events this season to match its previous best points total in five years of competition for the CART Manufacturer's Championship. A Toyota-powered driver has finished fourth or better in each of the five events to date, bringing the manufacturer 70 points through five rounds of the championship, just 10 behind the 80 it scored all of last season.

* Beginning June 1, Firestone Racing is putting up for Internet auction a tire signed by more than 100 drivers, owners and dignitaries in both the FedEx Championship Series and Indy Racing League and several celebrities. All proceeds from the winning bid go to the Sam Schmidt Family Trust, to aid the IRL driver paralyzed in a winter testing accident. The authentic Firestone Firehawk racing radial display tire has been signed by nearly every current CART and IRL driver, luminaries including Mario Andretti, Al Unser, A.J. Foyt, Johnny Rutherford, Andrew Craig and Tony George, and celebrities such as Paul Newman, Ashley Judd, Sylvester Stallone and Anthony Edwards. To bid on the tire, go to www.ebay.com and use the general search for "Firestone Indy display tire." Bidding runs through June 10.

* The Champ Car piloted by PacWest Racing Group driver Mark Blundell (Motorola PacWest Mercedes) is the topic of an ambitious project begin undertaken through Friday by the Howstuffworks web site. The project, which was launched Tuesday, will cover virtually every aspect of putting Blundell's FedEx Championship Series entry on track for this weekend's Miller Lite 225. Howstuffworks.com will take its visitors behind the scenes to learn about Blundell, the car, and the PacWest team. Visitors will also learn about the chassis, the car's aerodynamics, the suspension, the engine, the transmission, the cockpit and even the pits. All the information is supported by a three-dimensional animation program which allows the car to be dissected and examined in detail. A contest has been created in conjunction with the project, giving Howstuffworks visitors the opportunity to win a checkered flag autographed by Blundell, a team jersey autographed by members of the Motorola PacWest team, a die-cast model of Blundell's car and limited-edition Motorola team T-shirts. The project can be observed by logging onto www.howstuffworks.com or by linking off the www.pacwestracing.com homepage.

* Qualifying for the Miller Lite 225 will air 5:30 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN2. "CART 2Day" airs 10:30 a.m. ET Sunday on ESPN2, with ABC-TV's live race broadcast scheduled to begin 4 p.m. ET. The race will also air live 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 Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Max Papis , Adrian Fernandez , Christian Fittipaldi , Paul Tracy , Kenny Brack , Mark Blundell , Sam Schmidt , Al Unser Sr. , Paul Newman , Chip Ganassi , A.J. Foyt , Johnny Rutherford
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing , Team Penske