WHO'S HOT Cristiano da Matta ( ...
Cristiano da Matta (#6 Havoline Toyota/Lola) has won the past two CART FedEx Championship Series events (the 2001 Honda Indy 300 and The 500 Presented by Toyota), and is the defending champion of the Tecate Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix. Da Matta was also unofficially one of the fastest drivers throughout preseason testing, and was the fastest in each of the four testing sessions during CART Sneak Preview at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on February 9-10.
Max Papis (#22 ROCKWELL FIRST POINT Ford-Cosworth/Lola) comes into the 2002 CART FedEx Championship Series season opener on a six-race scoring streak, dating to a second place finish in Germany. Included in the scoring run are a victory at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and a second place finish in the 2001 CART FedEx Championship Series season finale at California Speedway. Papis has also scored championship points in his last three CART FedEx Championship Series season openers, including his first career victory in the 2000 opener at Homestead.
Michael Andretti (#39 Motorola Honda/Reynard) has won three of the past eight CART FedEx Championship Series openers, (Australia, 1994; Homestead, 1997-98), and has podium finishes of second in the 1999 season opener at Homestead and third in the 1988 opener at Phoenix. Overall, Andretti owns eight top-five finishes in 17 season-opening starts, including a fourth place finish at Monterrey last year, and fourths at Phoenix in 1987 and '89.
Paul Tracy (#26 KOOL Honda/Reynard) owns podium results in three of his past three season-opening starts, finishing second at Homestead in 1997, third at Homestead in 2000, and third in Monterrey last year. Tracy did not compete in the 1999 season opener per a CART ruling for a driving infraction late in the 1998 season.
Jimmy Vasser (#8 Shell Ford-Cosworth/Lola) has scored championship points in seven of his past eight CART FedEx Championship Series openers, including a victory in Homestead in 1996. Also included in the run are finishes of third (Homestead '97), fourth (Australia '94, Homestead '99), sixth (Monterrey 2001), eighth (Miami '95), and 10th (Homestead 2000).
ON THE AIR
Extensive television coverage of the Tecate Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix will air in the United States on SPEED Channel. In addition to live coverage of Sunday's race beginning at 4:00 p.m. ET, coverage of first-round qualifying airs Friday, March 8 at 9:00 p.m. ET, and final round qualifying coverage airs at 8:00 p.m. ET on Saturday, March 9. The event coverage will also be enhanced by the magazine-style "CART Friday Night" program, which makes its debut at 10:30 p.m. ET on Friday, March 8, as well as a 30-minute pre-race broadcast which airs at 3:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, March 10. Live audio coverage of both qualifying rounds as well as the Tecate Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix will air on the official web site of the CART FedEx Championship series, www.CART.com. The Internet audio broadcast of Friday's qualifying session airs at 3:00 p.m. ET, with the broadcast of the final round of qualifying on Saturday slated for 2:30 p.m. ET. The Internet broadcast of the Tecate Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix airs at 4:00 p.m. ET.
ON THE RIGHT TRACK
Cristiano da Matta (#6 Havoline Toyota/Lola) has scored championship points in four of his past five starts on permanent road circuits, dating to his 2001 season-opening victory in the Tecate Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix. In addition to the victory in Monterrey, da Matta's 2001 permanent road circuit record includes a sixth place run at Road America, and 10th place finishes at Mid-Ohio and Portland. Da Matta also recorded career-best qualifying performances of second at Portland and Monterrey in 2001.
Two of the three career victories for Max Papis (#22 ROCKWELL FIRST POINT Ford-Cosworth/Lola) have come on permanent road courses. Papis picked up his first career road course victory (and second victory overall) in 2001 at Portland. He started the Portland event from the pole position. At Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Papis established a new CART record for winning a race from the deepest starting position on a road circuit. Papis took his third career Champ Car win, and second on a road circuit, after starting 25th in Monterey, Calif.
Scott Dixon (#7 PWR Championship Racing Toyota/Lola) has scored championship points in all but one of his career starts on permanent road circuits. The 2001 Jim Trueman Rookie of the Year finished fourth at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and Road America, seventh at Portland, and 12th at Mid-Ohio. He just missed the points in the 2001 Monterrey season opener, coming home with a 13th place finish. However, the New Zealander did lead 14 laps in Monterrey, his first stint on the lead in CART FedEx Championship Series competition.
Ford-Cosworth has won three of the past five CART FedEx Championship Series season openers and six of the past nine. The victories have come from Nigel Mansell (Australia '93), Michael Andretti (Australia '94, Homestead '97 and '98), Jacques Villeneuve (Miami '95), and Max Papis (Homestead 2000).
Toyota comes into the 2002 CART FedEx Championship Series opener riding a two-race winning streak thanks to Newman/Haas Racing pilot Cristiano da Matta, who won consecutive events in Surfers Paradise, Australia and Fontana, Calif. to close out the 2001 campaign.
CART has recently announced a number of rule changes designed to improve the on-track competition. Among the rule changes announced at CART Sneak Preview in February at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, are the return of Friday qualifying at road and street course events, with a revised procedure from what had been used on road and street courses in the past. All drivers will be permitted on the circuit throughout each 60-minute qualifying session (on Friday and Saturday) and each driver will be allowed 15 timed laps in each qualifying session. Each session is guaranteed to have at least 45 minutes of green flag time. The fastest driver on Friday's qualifying session will be awarded one point and will be guaranteed a starting spot no lower than second, regardless of his speed in Saturday's final qualifying session. The fastest driver overall at the end of qualifying on Saturday will also receive one point. For oval events, the qualifying order will once again be determined by practice speeds, with the fastest driver in practice being the last driver to qualify. CART has also committed to red flag stoppages for late-race incidents whenever possible in an effort to provide fans with race finishes under green flag conditions. Full-course caution flags will also be minimized, as CART will now follow the worldwide FIA standard for local caution flags whenever possible. Timed races and fuel "economy runs" have also been given some attention, as CART Race Operations is developing a formula that will give competitiors more than enough fuel to compete "flat out" in CART FedEx Championship Series races. Timed races will rarely be mandated this season due in large part thanks to an increased amount of television time available within the SPEED Channel relationship. In mid-February, CART also announced that traction control will be permitted on all cars effective immediately. The decision to allow traction control was based on the difficulty of policing the use of traction control technology.
At the beginning of this week, CART made race announcements on consecutive days that will raise the total number of events on the CART FedEx Championship Series calendar to 20. On Monday, CART announced that it has leased the one-mile Chicago Motor Speedway oval and will self-promote the CART Grand Prix of Chicago on June 30, 2002 (CBS-TV, 3:30 p.m. EDT). The race represents the first time CART has leased a track for an existing event, and the announcement came less than a month after Chicago Motor Speedway officials suspended 2002 auto racing events at the Cicero, Ill. track. On Tuesday, CART announced that it has acquired a majority interest of Raceworks, LLC and that the CART FedEx Championship Series will be one of two featured events at The Grand Prix of the Americas on October 4-6, 2002 on the streets of downtown Miami. CART shares "headline event" status with the American Le Mans Series (ALMS). The ALMS race will take center stage on Saturday, October 5, with the CART FedEx Championship Series event in the spotlight on Sunday, October 6.
With this weekend's season-opening Tecate Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix, the teams competing n the 2002 CART FedEx Championship Series begin the qualifying process for the $50,000-to-win Craftsman Pit Crew Challenge. Now in its fourth year, the Craftsman Pit Crew Challenge awards points to teams based on their performance in the pits during CART FedEx Championship Series events. Using CART's official timing system, the total amount of time for each team on pit road is recorded. Points are then awarded using the same formula that determines the series championship (20 for first, 16 for second, 14 for third, etc.), and the less time spent in the pits means more points. The top four teams in points, plus a to-be-determined "wild card" entry will meet in a shootout during the 2002 CART FedEx Championship Series season-ending weekend at California Speedway in Fontana, Calif. The crew of the #8 Shell Ford-Cosworth/Lola driven by Kenny Brack was the 2001 winner of the shootout, and was awarded $50,000, plus a Waterford Crystal Pit Crew Challenge trophy.