McDONALD'S DRIVER BOURDAIS AND HOLE IN THE WALL CAMPS DRIVER JUNQUEIRA HOPE TO CONQUER THE ELUSIVE MILWAUKEE MILE AND BRING TEAM FIRST WIN AT HOME IN 10 YEARS WEST ALLIS, Wis. (June 1, 2006) --- Newman/Haas Racing (NHR) returns to the famed ...
McDONALD'S DRIVER BOURDAIS AND HOLE IN THE WALL CAMPS DRIVER JUNQUEIRA HOPE TO CONQUER THE ELUSIVE MILWAUKEE MILE AND BRING TEAM FIRST WIN AT HOME IN 10 YEARS
WEST ALLIS, Wis. (June 1, 2006) --- Newman/Haas Racing (NHR) returns to the famed Milwaukee Mile, for what they consider their "home race" due to its proximity to their Lincolnshire, Ill. base approximately one hour away from the site of this weekend's Time Warner Cable Road Runner 225. While the team considers The Mile home, the rest of the Champ Car World Series field may consider this to be NHR's Achilles Heel since it has been NHR's most challenging track of the season. Knowledge gained from a pre-race test here in 2005 where Bruno Junqueira led the time sheets as well as stronger results in that race by Sebastien Bourdais and Oriol Servia, who filled in for Junqueira here, have shown that the team has made gains on their short oval setup and can hope for better results here.
"Milwaukee is going to be a very interesting race for me because it's going to be my first race back on an oval and it was the first race I missed last year after the crash in Indianapolis," said Junqueira, who has started fourth or better in the three races so far this season but has encountered a variety of setbacks to limit his finishing position. "It's a track that I did very well last year in the pre-race test. I was the fastest and I hope that Newman/Haas is going to have a good car there and I'm going to feel comfortable and drive fast and be up front."
After setting the best time in the pre-race test here in 2005 Junqueira was looking forward to his return to the track but instead remained in Indianapolis following surgery to repair his broken back from an injury the previous weekend. This will mark his fifth race at the Milwaukee Mile and first on an oval since his crash. His best finish here of fourth place came in his rookie season in 2001 and his best start was fifth in 2002 but he is confident the team has made gains.
"We found a really good setup for the track last year during the test and the fact that the team got a podium finish with Oriol (Servia) last year was good," said Junqueira who earned the first two of his eight Champ Car poles on ovals in Nazareth and Japan as well as one at the 2002 Indianapolis 500 Superspeedway. "It showed that we have a fast car on the one-mile oval and I think it showed that we can do really well this year and have a good finish. Milwaukee is a very fast one mile oval, it's almost flat all the way around so we need to have a really precise car and be able to drive around different lines as well in the race because of the traffic."
Already this season McDonald's driver Sebastien Bourdais has matched his personal record of three consecutive wins after having driven to victory in all three of the 2006 events to date and holds a 25 point lead over second place Justin Wilson (102-77) in the championship. He strung three wins together in 2004 and again in 2005 and looked likely to match a series record of four consecutive wins in Montreal last year but a slow pit stop hindered his result. Had he won, he would not only have matched a series record but would have extended it to six after his wins in the next events in Las Vegas and Australia. He is concentrating more on continuing to make progress on the team's setup here than earning a fourth consecutive race in the series although that would be a great accomplishment given that the Milwaukee Mile is one of the few tracks on the current calendar he has failed to lead a lap or win on.
"Newman/Haas Racing definitely improved last year in Milwaukee thanks to Oriol," said Bourdais. "I think he brought some different ideas on the setup and things and we made changes and it suited my style very well so I definitely felt comfortable for the very first time in the McDonald's car at Milwaukee. We were running strong and moving forward and got to P2 (position two) and had rear brake failure and got in the pits too quick and got penalized for it which was a bit frustrating but still we know that we have the potential now."
NHR has competed at the legendary Milwaukee Mile course on the Wisconsin State Fairgrounds since their first season in 1983 although the track has hosted 109 Championship Car races since 1933 with 52 different drivers visiting the winner's circle. In their 23 previous races here, NHR drivers Mario Andretti, Nigel Mansell, Paul Tracy and Michael Andretti have combined to bring the team six wins at this track with the most recent coming in 10 years ago in 1996 by Michael Andretti. Mario Andretti brought the team their lone pole here in 1985. In total the team has earned 12 podium finishes with the most recent coming last year when Oriol Servia finished third in his debut as the replacement driver for Junqueira. Bourdais' highest start at the track was second place in 2004 and in 2005 was in contention for a podium finish here but a pit speed penalty dropped his best result to a sixth place finish. Bourdais realizes the track will be challenging and hopes to have a good day on Sunday.
"The biggest challenge is that it's the only short oval of the season so it's tough for me because I have very, very little experience on that kind of track which is probably the toughest one (oval) of all because it requires extremely fine tuning. It requires a lot of experience and historically Milwaukee is one of the toughest ones because there is no banking so there are no mistakes allowed," said Bourdais. "It's very difficult for me. It's probably going to take me 10 to 12 years of racing in Champ Car worth of experience to get to someone's level of the past when they used to have five short oval races a year. It (racing at Milwaukee) can be a lot of fun and it can also be the worst day of your life too. I've had both; I've had good days and extremely bad days in Milwaukee so hopefully the best is still to come. It would be nice to bring the McDonald's team four wins in a row to start the season but to do it we will have to win the race that has traditionally been our most challenging of the year since I have joined the team."
In addition to the challenges posed by the unique track, former NHR driver Paul Tracy will be formidable. He is one of the most successful drivers at the Milwaukee Mile, having won here four times and has led a total of 723 laps here in his career. Of his four wins, one came while driving for NHR in 1995. The Canadian also has two pole positions and eight top-six finishes on the oval. Only Rodger Ward (7) and Michael Andretti (5) have more victories at the West Allis track, than the 2003 series champion.
This weekend's Time Warner Cable Road Runner 225 can be seen live Sunday, June 4 on SPEED, beginning at 2 p.m. Eastern Time. SPEED will also air a 30-minute qualifying highlights show Sunday beginning at 1:30 p.m. Eastern Time.