LINCOLNSHIRE, Ill. (May 30, 2001) --- Milwaukee is no stranger to Champ car competition as it has been a routine stop on the schedule since the 1930s. Maintaining tradition, the Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) FedEx Championship Series will...
LINCOLNSHIRE, Ill. (May 30, 2001) --- Milwaukee is no stranger to Champ car competition as it has been a routine stop on the schedule since the 1930s. Maintaining tradition, the Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) FedEx Championship Series will take to the legendary Milwaukee Mile this weekend for Round 6 of the 21-race series for the Miller Lite 225.
Revered as their home track, Newman/Haas Racing looks to capitalize on their "home court" advantage at the track. Newman/Haas driver Christian Fittipaldi, piloting the No. 11 Kmart Toyota-Lola, said, "We (Champ cars) have been going to Milwaukee for a lot of years - I don't know - 50, 60, 70 years, and to me it's like racing at Elkhart Lake (Wisc.) because the track is so close to the race shop. Winning in Milwaukee or Elkhart Lake is like winning the home race for the team."
Based out of Lincolnshire, Ill., the Newman/Haas Racing headquarters is approximately 40 minutes away from the Milwaukee Mile oval, making it convenient for the entire team to be present at the event. "Doing well in Milwaukee is very important to us because we have many people from the team coming to this race and we just have to do the best we can," Fittipaldi said.
"The guys that are shop-based that don't travel to all of the races get to actually see a race in person and hopefully get to see the payoff for all of their effort."
Not only is the location of the venue vital to the Newman/Haas Racing Team, but the logistics behind the event are important as well. The Milwaukee Mile, housed at the Wisconsin State Fairgrounds, is home to many civic events, however when it comes to racing attractions, Newman/Haas co-owner, Carl Haas, is the promoter and overseer. Fittipaldi said, "The Milwaukee Mile is a nice little track and I hope we do well there for Carl and the team. Before Chicago Motor Speedway opened two years ago, the team considered the Milwaukee Mile their home race since 1983. It's about the same distance to both places so the team has two home races now."
Adding to the competitive edge, Newman/Haas Racing has had a successful stint at The Milwaukee Mile since its creation in 1983. Owned by Haas and actor Paul Newman, the team has six wins and one pole at the track. This year, Newman/Haas Racing looks to use their "home town" advantage towards continued success as drivers Fittipaldi and Cristiano da Matta take to the oval.
Fittipaldi has four top-10 finishes at Milwaukee in just as many starts. His most recent CART victory also came on an oval track when he drove to victory in the 2000 season-ending Marlboro 500, just five races ago. Sunday's race will be Fittipaldi's fifth start in Milwaukee where his best finish was sixth place in 1996 and best start was third in the same year. Fittipaldi is currently 9th in the CART championship standings after a fifth place finish in Nazareth and a fourth place finish in Japan. He has scored championship points (top-12) in 18 of his past 19 FedEx Championship Series starts on ovals.
Fittipaldi said, "I think that the Milwaukee race is going to be like our race in Nazareth, but a little different because passing is a little bit more accessible here whereas it is almost impossible in Nazareth. Even if you do not do well in qualifying in Milwaukee, I think you can still have a great race if you have a good racecar. Of course we don't want to rely on that so we are going to work hard to improve our qualifying performance. After finishing fifth in Nazareth and fourth in Japan, we have the momentum going and plan to continue that momentum this weekend in Milwaukee."
Behind the wheel of the No. 6 Texaco/Havoline/Kmart Toyota-Lola, da Matta looks to regain the CART FedEx Championship points lead with a strong finish at the Milwaukee Mile. After a victory in Mexico, a second place finish in Long Beach, and a 10th place in Nazareth, da Matta was leading the CART Championship heading into the following event in Japan but he failed to score points after he was taken out of the race on the first lap by another car.
Currently tied for third in the CART point standings, da Matta hopes to match his best finish on a one-mile oval of first place, which he earned en route to his first of two CART victories in the 2000 race in Chicago. Sunday will mark only his third start in a Champ car race in Milwaukee. His highest Champ car finish at Milwaukee was seventh place in 1999 and his highest overall finish at Milwaukee is fourth place, which he earned in the 1997 Indy Lights race before moving up to Champ cars.
"I think Newman/Haas has always had a good car set-up for the Milwaukee Mile over the years and I am looking forward to the race this year," da Matta said. "We've been struggling a little on the ovals so far in qualifying but the car is good in the race which is the most important time, but I think we should be OK this weekend. I think it's a nice one-mile oval and a very nice track for racing. It's not the race track I have the most fun driving around by myself, but at race time it's a lot of fun because there are so many options for passing, you can run two lines. It's really different from any other one-mile oval so I like the track. The race is the most fun part of the weekend because it's tight and difficult and I think it's challenging and it makes it fun for us. We will just have to give our best effort to get back on top of things in Milwaukee."
Newman/Haas Racing's engine manufacturer, Toyota, and chassis builder, Lola, both have added significance in this year's race at Milwaukee as well.
Toyota scored its first win in its five-year FedEx Championship Series history at The Milwaukee Mile last year. Since that race Toyota chalked up victories in the past three CART events held on one-mile ovals, including da Matta's victory at Chicago last year. Lola will be seeking its 100th CART victory this Sunday since its first victory came from former Newman/Haas driver and racing icon, Mario Andretti at Road America in 1983. Newman/Haas would like to bring the manufacturer its 100th victory as well.
Qualifying for the Miller Lite 200 will air 4:30 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN2.
CART 2Day airs at 11 a.m. ET Sunday on ESPN2, while ABC-TV's live race broadcast begins at 4 p.m. ET on Sunday, June 3.