CHAMPCAR/CART: Monterey: Newman/Haas Racing Saturday report

Chevron driver da Matta won his first CART pole for the Bridgestone Grand Prix of Monterey-aiming for second "Monterey" win of season. Fast Facts - June 8, 2002 * FIRST CART POLE: Chevron driver Cristiano da Matta scored his FIRST career CART...

Chevron driver da Matta won his first CART pole for the Bridgestone Grand Prix of Monterey-aiming for second "Monterey" win of season.

Fast Facts - June 8, 2002

* FIRST CART POLE: Chevron driver Cristiano da Matta scored his FIRST career CART pole in his 65th CART Champ car event at the Bridgestone Grand Prix of Monterey. Prior to this weekend, he has started in second place five times in the series, most recently in the 2002 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

* LAST POLE 56 RACES AGO/SIXTH AT LAGUNA SECA: Today's pole is the sixth here for Newman/Haas Racing (NHR) and first for the team since Michael Andretti won the pole at Road America in 1999 -- 56 races ago. The team's five previous pole positions here include (Ma. Andretti - 1984, 1986, 1987; Mi. Andretti - 1991*, 1992). (* denotes Marlboro Challenge invitational event, non points).

* 2 NHR WINS AT LAGUNA SECA RACEWAY: The team has a total of two wins at Laguna Seca (Michael Andretti - 1991 and 1992) and a total of 10 podium finishes (Mario Andretti - second in 1983, 1984, 1989, 1993, third in 1988, 1990; Michael Andretti - third in 1990; Paul Tracy - second in 1995).

* DA MATTA AT LAGUNA SECA: Will be his fourth Champ car race here. Set the quickest lap times in each of the four practice sessions at the annual pre-season CART Sneak Preview. Previous best start here was seventh place in 2001 and best finish was 15th in 2000. Ran as high as fifth in the 2001 race before making contact with Dario Franchitti while attempting a pass forcing him to retire in 20th place. Won the 1997 Indy Lights series race here.

* 13th TOYOTA POLE: da Matta scored the 13th CART pole for Toyota. Scott Pruett brought Toyota its first CART pole in 1999 at Fontana and Juan Pablo Montoya won seven in 2000. In 2001, Bruno Junqueira won the pole in Nazareth, Mauricio Gugelmin won the pole in Cleveland and Roberto Moreno won the pole in Australia. Junqueira won the 2002 Japan pole and da Matta won the pole TODAY. Da Matta has been powered by Toyota since joining the series in 1999. Toyota's previous best qualifying at this track is 3rd place with Scott Dixon in 2001 and their best finish at this track is 2nd place by Memo Gidley in 2001.

* GOING FOR FOURTH WIN IN EIGHT RACES FOR NHR: Wins in Australia and Fontana in 2001 plus a win in the 2002 season-opening race in Mexico, enabled da Matta to become the first driver to win three in a row since Juan Montoya accomplished the feat in 1999. He looked set to score a CART-record fourth consecutive victory after leading 30 laps in Long Beach but was hit while leaving his pit box after his second of three pit stops. He ultimately finished eighth after starting second.

* EIGHT CART PODIUM FINISHES: He has FIVE victories ('02 Mexico, '00 Chicago, '01 Mexico, '01Australia, '01 Fontana). He finished 2nd in Long Beach in '01; and 3rd in Cleveland '00 as well as England '01.

* 310 CART LAPS LED: In '02, he has led 82 laps (52 laps en route to victory in Mexico and 30 laps in Long Beach) which is almost twice as many as any other driver in the series. In '01, led 32 laps en route to victory in Mexico, 3 laps in Vancouver, 16 laps en route to victory in Australia and 53 en route to victory in Fontana. In '00, led 73 laps in Toronto and 51 laps en route to victory in Chicago.

* LAST CHAMPIONSHIP: Da Matta clinched the 1997 Indy Lights Championship after winning from the pole in Vancouver. He also won events in Nazareth and Laguna Seca. Had two front-row starts (Vancouver -1st and Laguna - 2nd) as well as five top-five starts (Long Beach - 3rd, Nazareth - 3rd, Toronto - 3rd, Vancouver - 1st, and Laguna - 2nd).

* 64TH FOR TEAM: This is NHR's 64th overall pole since the team's formation in 1983 in their 321st event.

Pole: Cristiano da Matta 1:09.473 / 115.970 mph
5th: Christian Fittipaldi 1:10.184 / 114.795 mph

CRISTIANO DA MATTA, #6 Chevron Toyota-Lola-Bridgestone: "The end of the session was very intense for me. I heard a strange noise come from the engine and I was very concerned that the car would stop because I didn't want to bring out the red flag. Those things happen but it was just very bad timing. After my engine problem, I just had to sit in the pits and watch everyone try to beat my time and there was nothing I could do. We set our fast lap on only our third timed lap and the car had much more in it so I am disappointed that I didn't get a chance to show the potential of the car. It's not the way I wanted to win my first pole. I wanted to fight Kenny and Bruno until the end because I know we had a strong enough car to win pole. There is not much I could have done differently. If I would have stopped on track, CART would have taken away my fastest lap time so I knew I just needed to get back to the pits as fast as I could. I have never won a pole and I wanted to accomplish that not only for myself but also for the team and Chevron that is based only one hour from the track. Winning a pole or a race is never easy especially with the competitive field we have today but I think we have a good car for the race. We are pretty confident. We have been fastest in seven of the eight sessions so we hope to keep it up until the checkered flag."

* NOTES: Da Matta won three consecutive events in the series (Australia and Fontana in 2001 and Monterrey, Mexico in 2002) and became the first driver to accomplish the feat since Juan Montoya (1999). After leading 30 laps and building a strong lead in Long Beach, a pit accident derailed his bid for a CART record-tying fourth consecutive win. A win in Laguna would be his fourth in the past seven CART events. Will be his fourth Champ car race here. Set the quickest lap times in each of the four practice sessions at the annual pre-season CART Sneak Preview. Best start here was seventh place in 2001 and best finish was 15th in 2000. Ran as high as fifth in the 2001 race before making contact with Dario Franchitti while attempting a pass forcing him to retire in 20th place. Won the 1997 Indy Lights series race here. He is currently in fifth place in the point standings, only 13 points back from leader Michel Jourdain.

GUILLAUME "ROCKY" ROCQUELIN, Race Engineer for the #6 Chevron Toyota-Lola-Bridgestone: "We would have preferred to defend our fastest lap time under green conditions but there are so many variables in racing. I'm just happy we were the fastest in the only session that actually matters so far. Something to look at in the future might be for CART to designate safe parking spots on track where a driver can stop and not bring out the red flag or subsequent penalty."

CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI, #11 Lilly Toyota-Lola-Bridgestone: "My car was definitely not a front row car but it was a solid third through fifth place car. I'm happy with a fifth place start. The car had a little oversteer. Tony and Kenny were lucky that they ran their fast laps before the oil was on the track. No one improved their times on their second and final set of tires because of the oil. I think we have a good car for the race and I am looking forward to a strong result."

* NOTES: Will be his seventh race here. Ran well at Sneak Preview here in February and set the fifth fastest time despite limited track time due to mechanical problems. His best start is 8th place (2000 & 1996) and has four top-10 finishes, the best of which is 9th place (2001, 1998). Last year, the timing of the yellow flags disrupted his race. After running as high as fifth place he finished 9th. He is currently in 8th place in the point standings, only 15 points back from leader Michel Jourdain.

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW: There will be a 30 minute morning warm-up beginning at 9:30 AM local time and the Bridgestone GP is set to start at 1:30 PM.

WHERE TO WATCH: SPEED Channel will air live coverage of the Bridgestone Grand Prix of Monterey is beginning at 4:30 p.m., ET on Sunday, June 9.

-nhr-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Michael Andretti , Memo Gidley , Bruno Junqueira , Christian Fittipaldi , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Mauricio Gugelmin , Mario Andretti , Cristiano da Matta