CHAMPCAR/CART: Motegi: Pre-event notebook

WHO'S HOT * Michael Andretti ( ...


* Michael Andretti (#39 Motorola Honda/Reynard/Bridgestone) of Team Motorola comes into the Bridgestone Potenza 500 fresh off a win in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Andretti, who collected his first career victory in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach in 1986-ended a 16-year drought at the venue and picked up his 42nd career victory. Andretti beat polesitter Jimmy Vasser of Team Rahal to the stripe by 0.466 seconds-the second closest margin of victory in Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach history behind Andretti's maiden 0.38-second win over Al Unser Jr. in 1986.

* Michel Jourdain Jr. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) of Team Rahal has finished in the top five in the opening two rounds of the 2002 CART FedEx Championship Series season. Included in the run are a fourth place finish in the 2002 season-opening Tecate Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix, and a fifth place performance in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. The early season success has resulted in a current tie for second place in the championship point standings with Michael Andretti, at 22. Both Andretti and Jourdain Jr. trail Cristiano da Matta, who has amassed 27 championship points. It is the highest Jourdain Jr. has been in the point standings at any point in his seven-year Champ Car career.

* With a third place finish in Round Two of the CART FedEx Championship Series in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, Max Papis (#22 Sigma Autosport Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) of Sigma Autosport scored the first-ever podium finish for Sigma Autosport. Papis is currently riding an eight-race streak in which he has scored championship points. Included in the run are a victory in the Honda Grand Prix of Monterey Featuring the Shell 300, and second place finishes in The American Memorial at EuroSpeedway Lausitz in Germany and The 500 Presented by Toyota at California Speedway, all of which came at the end of the 2001 CART FedEx Championship Series season.

* Jimmy Vasser (#8 Shell Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) of Team Rahal comes into the Bridgestone Potenza 500 at Twin Ring Motegi looking build on momentum attained in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. After a dismal 20th place finish in the Tecate Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix in Round 1, Vasser put his machine on the pole at Long Beach, and his performance during the race earned him a spot on the podium with a second place finish.


* Adrian Fernandez (#51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) of Fernandez Racing won the inaugural Champ Car race at Twin Ring Motegi in 1998 after starting on the outside of Row 1, and repeated the feat the following year, this time coming from fourth to take the checkered. In addition, he finished 10th in 2000 and 16th in 2001 at Motegi. Four of Fernandez's seven-career Champ Car wins have come on ovals, the other two coming at Rio de Janeiro (2000) and California (1999), and his only pole at the 2-mile oval at Michigan International Speedway in 1998.

* Kenny Brack (#12 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone) of Target Chip Ganassi Racing is the defending champion at Twin Ring Motegi. The Swede also established the race record in 2001 at 1:44.48.888 (178.113 mph), before the largest race-day crowd in the facility's history. The win was the first of a season-best four in 2001 for Brack, with the other three all coming on ovals (Milwaukee - from pole, Chicago and Germany). Brack continued his dominance on the ovals last season with poles at Texas, Michigan and England.

* Michael Andretti (#39 Motorola Honda/Reynard/Bridgestone) of Team Motorola is the only other winner in Japan along with Adrian Fernandez (1998 and'99) and Brack (2001). Andretti, after a one-day postponement for rain, conquered Twin Ring Motegi in 2000 after starting eighth, leading the final 26 of 201 laps. Andretti finished 14th (1998), fifth (1999) and 23rd (2001) in the three other races in Motegi.


* Ford-powered drivers are a perfect four of four in CART FedEx Championship Series competition at Twin Ring Motegi, getting victories every year the Champ Cars have raced in Japan. Winners that have benefited from the Ford power plants include Adrian Fernandez (1998 and '99), Michael Andretti (2000) and Kenny Brack (2001).

* Honda owns three pole positions in the CART FedEx Championship Series' four year history at Twin Ring Motegi. Jimmy Vasser delivered Honda the pole at Motegi in 1998, Gil de Ferran in 1999 and Helio Castroneves in 2001. Toyota scored the only other pole in 2000 with Juan Montoya.

* Lola Cars and Reynard Motorsport have each won two of the four CART FedEx Championship Series events at Twin Ring Motegi. Reynard produced chassis' for Adrian Fernandez in his repeat performances in 1998 and '99, and Lola won the past two events at Motegi with Michael Andretti (2000) and Kenny Brack (2001).


* Owner/driver Adrian Fernandez (#51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) has been elected as the new chairman of the Championship Drivers Association (CDA), taking over for the retired Mauricio Gugelmin. Fernandez will fill the office until December 30, 2004. Fernandez shares the CDA Board of Directors with Team Rahal driver Jimmy Vasser (#8 Shell Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and IRL driver Robbie Buhl. In his 23rd year with the organization, Jon R. Potter is the Executive Director and handles the day-to-day operation of CDA from its Indianapolis offices.

* Team Motorola and technical partner Team KOOL Green are hedging their bets in this weekend's Bridgestone Potenza 500, as Team Motorola will field Lola chassis for driver Michael Andretti (#39 Motorola/Honda/Lola), and Team KOOL Green has Paul Tracy (#26 KOOL Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) with a Lola as his primary car and a Reynard for a backup. TKG's Dario Franchitti (#27 KOOL Honda/Reynard/Bridgestone) will run a Reynard chassis throughout the weekend.

* The CART Fan Appreciation Activity on Friday, April 26 will feature an autograph session with all CART FedEx Championship Series drivers. The autograph session will take place behind the grandstands at Twin Ring Motegi from 4:45 p.m. - 5:15 p.m.


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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Robbie Buhl , Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Max Papis , Adrian Fernandez , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Mauricio Gugelmin , Kenny Brack , Cristiano da Matta , Michel Jourdain
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing