Toyota Motorsports CART FedEX Championship Series Bridgestone Potenza 500 Date: April 27, 2002 Broadcast: SPEED, 12:30 p.m. ET (Tape) Race Length: 201 laps for 311.349 miles Track Length: 1.548-mile oval 2001 Winner: Kenny Brack Toyota's Best ...
CART FedEX Championship Series
Bridgestone Potenza 500
Date: April 27, 2002
Broadcast: SPEED, 12:30 p.m. ET (Tape)
Race Length: 201 laps for 311.349 miles
Track Length: 1.548-mile oval
2001 Winner: Kenny Brack
Toyota's Best Finish: 4th - Christian Fittipaldi (2001)
Toyota's Best Qualifying: 1st - Juan Montoya (2000)
Track Speed Records:
Qualifying: 1999, Gil De Ferran, (219.000 mph)
Race: 2001, Kenny Brack (178.113 mph)
Manufacturer's Championship: 1. Honda - 38 2. Toyota - 33 3. Ford - 29
WHAT TO LOOK FOR AT MOTEGI:
BRACK LOOKS TO CONTINUE OVAL DOMINANCE AT SITE OF FIRST WIN - Fond memories will accompany Kenny Brack (Target Toyota) to Motegi as he looks to maintain his status as the FedEx Championship Series' top oval-track driver at the first oval event of the 2002 campaign. Brack dominated last year's Motegi event - winning the pole and leading 75 laps, including the last 52 - on his way to his first CART victory.
The 1999 Indianapolis 500 winner went on to earn three more oval victories during the 2001 season, winning at Milwaukee, Chicago and Germany. In the process, he became the first CART driver to win four oval races in a season since Nigel Mansell won four on his way to the 1993 CART title with Newman/Haas. Brack and Mansell joined Bobby Unser (1979) and Johnny Rutherford (1980) as the only drivers in CART history to win as many as four oval events in a single season.
DA MATTA LEADS DRIVERS RACE - For the second consecutive year, Cristiano da Matta (Havoline Toyota) will take the CART Driver's Championship lead to Motegi. The long-time Toyota pilot won the season-opener at Monterrey, and he appeared to be on his way to a dominating victory at the Toyota Grand Prix Long Beach when he lost 16 places after another driver initiated contact with da Matta as the Brazilian was leaving the pits on Lap 32. Up until that point, da Matta had led 30 of the first 31 laps, and he recovered to finish eighth. Da Matta currently holds a five-point lead over Michael Andretti and Michel Jourdain.
Two other Toyota-powered drivers also rank in the top 10 in points after two races. Da Matta's Newman/Haas teammate, Christian Fittipaldi (Eli Lilly Toyota), is seventh in points, while Kenny Brack is eighth on the strength of a fourth-place finish at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
DA MATTA PACES SERIES IN -- In addition to his championship points lead, Cristiano da Matta also leads the CART FedEx Championship Series in laps led (82) and laps completed (175 - tied with four others). He also owns the highest average starting position (3.5).
CART'S MOST RECENT CART OVAL WINNER - After seeing his three-race overall win streak snapped at Long Beach, Cristiano da Matta will head to Japan as CART's most recent oval track winner. The Havoline-sponsored driver was victorious at the season-ending California 500 Presented by Toyota at the California Speedway last November. The victory was da Matta's second on an oval. He earned his first career CART victory on the one-mile Chicago oval in 1999. Da Matta joins Michael Andretti, Jimmy Vasser and Adrian Fernandez as the only current Champ Car drivers to have won races on each type of CART circuit (permanent road course, street circuit, short oval and super speedway).
TOYOTA DRIVERS ON OVALS - If past driver success is an indicator of future accomplishment, then Toyota is placed well for a victory at Motegi. The current group of eight Toyota drivers won six of eight CART oval events last season (Scott Dixon - Nazareth; Kenny Brack - Motegi, Milwaukee, Chicago and Germany; Cristiano da Matta - Fontana). Going back to 2000, current Toyota-powered drivers have won seven of the last nine CART oval races. That accomplishment becomes even greater considering that only one other driver in the field (Patrick Carpentier) at the upcoming Motegi event has been victorious in any of the last 14 CART oval races.
TOYOTA ATLANTIC UPDATE - On the strength of victories in the first two races of the season, American Jon Fogarty and 22-year-old Canadian Michael Valiante have surged to the top of the Toyota Atlantic Championship point standings. Fogarty currently holds a slim 35-32 edge over Valiante, with young American Rocky Moran Jr. in third-place. The series resumes on June 2 at The Milwaukee Mile.
Jim Aust, Toyota vice president of motorsports: "Motegi is obviously a big race for Toyota, but I think it's also an important race for all of the CART teams and manufacturers in order to gain some momentum going into a five-week lay-off before the next race at Milwaukee (Miller Lite 250, June 2). It's nice to know that we have the defending champion in Kenny with a team like Target Chip Ganassi Racing, which ran extremely well there in 2000. Kenny established himself as one of the top oval track drivers in CART last year, while Cristiano da Matta, Christian Fittipaldi and Scott Dixon all have proven they can win oval races as well. As many expected, the FedEx Championship Series is proving extremely competitive this year, but we're confident in our chances heading into Motegi."
Scott Dixon, #7 PWR Toyota: "Racing at Motegi as a rookie last year was a great experience. The fans enjoy motor racing and it really adds to your motivation. The Toyota has been very strong and consistent on ovals, so I'm confident we'll produce some good results. I was disappointed with the Long Beach outcome, but not discouraged. The team has been working very hard along with Toyota and Lola - we just have to keep at it in hopes to make up some ground and bring home points."