CHAMPCAR/CART: Monterey: Toyota preview

What to look for at Monterey: QUICKLY PUT TOGETHER, QUICKER ON THE TRACK - When Scott Dixon signed with the Target Chip Ganassi Racing team prior to last weekend's Miller Lite 250 in Milwaukee, a third team was quickly assembled around him.

What to look for at Monterey:

QUICKLY PUT TOGETHER, QUICKER ON THE TRACK - When Scott Dixon signed with the Target Chip Ganassi Racing team prior to last weekend's Miller Lite 250 in Milwaukee, a third team was quickly assembled around him. Without ever having sat in his No. 44 Target Toyota before last Friday, Dixon proceeded to qualify a Toyota-best fourth at the Milwaukee Mile. During the race, the 2001 CART Rookie of the Year ran second through much of the early going before a pit problem dropped him back in the field. He eventually finished a team-high sixth in his first outing, quickly showing he will likely play a role in this year's championship hunt.

DA MATTA LOOKS TO CONTINUE ROAD COURSE DOMINANCE - After a pair of oval track events, no one will be happier to return to road courses than Cristiano da Matta, where he has been dominant this season. After winning in Monterrey, Mexico, in the season opener, da Matta was comfortably leading the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach - building up a seven-second lead - before he was taken out of contention when hit departing his pit. To date, da Matta has led a series-high 82 laps on road courses, almost double second-place Michael Andretti.

PARITY THE RULE IN TOYOTA RANKS - Parity has been the word in the Toyota ranks this year as a different driver has been the top finishing Toyota-powered pilot in each of the season's first four events. Cristiano da Matta was victorious in Mexico; Kenny Bräck finished fourth at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach; Bruno Junqueira won from the pole at Motegi, and Christian Fittipaldi placed fourth at Milwaukee. In addition, a different driver has been the top Toyota qualifier at each event with Christian Fittipaldi (Mexico), Cristiano da Matta (Long Beach), Bruno Junqueira (Japan) and Scott Dixon (Milwaukee) all taking turns as the highest-qualifying Toyota driver.

VIVA BELO HORIZONTE! - Bruno Junqueira and Cristiano da Matta are the two top qualifiers in CART this season with average starting positions of 4 and 5.5, respectively. That the duo drive Toyota-powered Lolas is not the only thing they have in common as each share the hometown of Belo Horizonte, Brazil. Ironically, Belo Horizonte featured neither a major race track nor go-kart track. The major advantage each did have was growing up the son of a race car driver. The two have known one another since childhood.

Heading into Laguna, Junqueira and da Matta share the distinction of being the only drivers in the FedEx Championship Series to qualify in the top 10 in each race this season, both have a race win, and each currently sits in the top 10 overall in CART FedEx Championship points.

TOYOTA ATLANTIC FIGHT CONTINUES AT LAGUNA - After having not raced since the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach in early April, the Toyota Atlantic Championship is in the middle of three consecutive race weekends - and six races in seven weeks - this weekend at Laguna Seca. Jon Fogarty arrives in Northern California with the series points lead, but fellow race winners Michael Valiante and Roger Yasukawa will be in the fight as well. Rookie Ryan Hunter-Reay has been long on speed, but short on luck. He has earned consecutive poles at Long Beach and Milwaukee, but he was taken out on the first turn through the Southern California streets and then had mechanical problems while leading at the famed Milwaukee Mile.


JIM AUST, Toyota vice president of motorsports: "Milwaukee was somewhat disappointing, but it was just the first race in a stretch of six races in seven weeks. It's crucial that we not only maintain our current levels, but also to keep improving. We've had a lot of success on the road courses this season, so we're optimistic heading into Laguna Seca. Qualifying will be at a premium over the next few races."

SCOTT DIXON, No. 44 Target Toyota: "I'm pretty happy about how my first weekend with the Target Ganassi team went, although it would have been nice to get on the podium. I've always run well at Laguna Seca, and I think the team will be very strong there. Our No. 44 should get stronger as we continue to get to know each other inside the team, and hopefully we can take that next step this weekend at Laguna."

CRISTIANO DA MATTA, No. 6 Chevron Toyota: "We are heading to a couple of tracks (Laguna Seca and Portland) where we are strong in testing, so we can hopefully make up some ground in the points race there. We were the fastest in every session of Sneak Preview at Laguna Seca in February."


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Series IndyCar
Drivers Bruno Junqueira , Christian Fittipaldi , Scott Dixon , Kenny Brack , Jon Fogarty , Michael Valiante , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Roger Yasukawa , Chip Ganassi , Cristiano da Matta
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing