CHAMPCAR/CART: NHR aims for fourth consecutive win

NHR aims for fourth consecutive win (not included Newman's recent win). Newman/Haas Racing hopes to score its fourth consecutive victory at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach CART Fedex Series race - a record for the series' most successful ...

NHR aims for fourth consecutive win (not included Newman's recent win).

Newman/Haas Racing hopes to score its fourth consecutive victory at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach CART Fedex Series race - a record for the series' most successful active team.

LONG BEACH, Calif. (April 8, 2002) --- Newman/Haas Racing drivers Cristiano da Matta and Christian Fittipaldi are hitting the track this weekend at the popular Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, each with hopes of securing a victory and bringing the team its fourth consecutive win in the series - a first for Newman/Haas Racing. A win by either driver would break or match records for the team or CART.

After winning the final two CART FedEx series events in 2001 (Australia and Fontana), da Matta drove his No. 6 Havoline Toyota-Lola-Bridgestone to victory in the Tecate Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix season-opening round of 2002 and became the first driver to win three consecutive races since Juan Montoya accomplished the feat in 1999. If he drives his Chevron-sponsored car (new for Long Beach) to victory this weekend, da Matta would be in a three-way tie with Al Unser Jr. (1990) and Alex Zanardi (1998) for the most consecutive wins in CART at four. In their 20 seasons, the most consecutive wins by Newman/Haas Racing drivers is three, which has been accomplished twice (Michael Andretti - 1991; da Matta - 2001/2002).

Da Matta has already proven that he has diverse talent with wins on all four types of tracks in the series. A record 286,610 fans, including a race day crowd of 110,187 witnessed da Matta's exciting win at the last street race the series competed in - the Honda Indy 300 in October 2001 in Surfer's Paradise, Queensland, Australia. With a second place finish in the 2001 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, da Matta plans to move up one spot on the podium this weekend.

"I think it's fun to go to a place that it's not only a big race, but it's a big event, too," said 28-year old da Matta when asked about the Toyota Grand Prix. "There are a lot of people there and a lot of things going on - not only the race - but a total event with a concert and other things. Of course, the race for us is what matters, but the atmosphere around the whole event is great. It's just a fun place to be. The races I won in Mexico (2001 and 2002) and in Australia (2001) were huge 'party-like' events and winning them was even more special because of that. A win in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach would be another huge victory!"

Newman/Haas Racing was created in the winter of 1982 based on a common interest in the sport by Carl A. Haas and Paul Newman, former and current racecar drivers (respectively). In fact, Newman kept the momentum going since Monterrey, Mexico after driving to victory in the SCCA GT-1 race at Road Atlanta on Sunday, March 31. Not only was the win cause for celebration, but Newman also accomplished the feat in true "Fittipaldi style" when he drove to victory in the rain - something that no doubt impressed Christian Fittipaldi, known in racing circles as "The Rainmeister."

Fittipaldi, driver of the No. 11 Eli Lilly Toyota-Lola-Bridgestone, plans to carry the momentum built by not only his teammate and team owner but also from his third place finish in last month's season-opening race in Mexico to the 1.968-mile street course in Long Beach this weekend. Like da Matta, Fittipaldi wants to win the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach as well as bring the team their fourth consecutive victory for the first time in their 20 year history in CART.

"I had a very good test in Sebring (Fla.) about two weeks ago to prepare for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach," said Fittipaldi, who ran the fastest lap in qualifying in Mexico although it was disallowed due to a penalty. "We were very competitive in Mexico and ran well in the test at Sebring in so I definitely feel confident about the race. We will be strong in Long Beach. It would be good to win a race again not only for myself and the Eli Lilly team but to also be able to bring Newman/Haas their fourth consecutive victory."

Last year in Long Beach, Fittipaldi looked to have the advantage on race morning when he set the fastest lap time in the pre-race warm-up. As with many of his events here, he did not make it to the checkered flag and retired in 24th place due to an installation mistake on his racecar. This year at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, Christian Fittipaldi hopes to beat his highest finish of fifth place, which was in 1999.

"It was a big frustration not to finish the race last year, especially because the car was running well," said Fittipaldi. "The car was very good the morning of the race but we only lasted for half of the race. We are due for a good finish in Long Beach."

The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach is considered by many, including da Matta and Fittipaldi, to be the most popular race in the CART FedEx Championship series. "I think one reason that the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach is such a great event is the tradition," said da Matta. "The race has been on the schedule for a long time. I think there is a lot of promotion for the race and I think promotion is the key. As with any other event, you need good promotion, and they really know how to do it. It is the only race where all the drivers have to arrive in town on Wednesday because we have a lot of events. There is a build-up of drama until we get to the race time. We have many things going on."

Fittipaldi added, "As for the event, it is one of the best all season. It is a really important one for us to win because Toyota not only sponsors the race but the racing part of the company has their headquarters there."

The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach will be televised LIVE on Fox network beginning at 3:30 PM on Sunday, April 14. Speed Channel will televise Friday's qualifying session at 4:30 PM while the all-new CART Friday Night show will air from the 10th annual Racer party at 10:30 PM. Saturday's qualifying session will air at 4:30 PM. All times are Eastern. Check your local listings to confirm times.

Newman/Haas Racing, owned by actor/race car driver Paul Newman and racing entrepreneur Carl A. Haas, begins its 20th season and 318th event in Long Beach, Calif. as the most successful active competitor with 62 race wins and 63 pole positions in the CART FedEx Championship series. For more information, log on to www.newman-haas.com, www.texaco.com/racing or www.cart.com. The 2002 CART FedEx Championship Series 20-race schedule will be broadcast by new television partners, CBS and Fox Networks Group, including Speed Channel.

-NHR-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Al Unser Jr. , Michael Andretti , Christian Fittipaldi , Paul Newman , Cristiano da Matta