CHAMPCAR/CART: Portland: Toyota Motorsports preview

What to look for at Portland: TOYOTA LOOKS FOR SIXTH WIN IN LAST EIGHT CART RACES - Coming off a victory this past weekend in Monterey, Calif., Toyota will be looking to register its sixth win in the last eight Champ Car events at the G.I. Joe's...

What to look for at Portland:

TOYOTA LOOKS FOR SIXTH WIN IN LAST EIGHT CART RACES - Coming off a victory this past weekend in Monterey, Calif., Toyota will be looking to register its sixth win in the last eight Champ Car events at the G.I. Joe's 200 in Portland this weekend. During the recent Toyota streak, Cristiano da Matta has won three of the last four road-course events, while Bruno Junqueira and da Matta earned victories on the ovals at Motegi, Japan, and Fontana, Calif., respectively. The early season strong showing has given Toyota an 11-point lead in the CART Manufacturer's Championship.

THE REIGNING ROAD CHAMP - When it comes to CART road courses this season, Newman/Haas Racing has been the undisputed king. Led by series points leader Cristiano da Matta, the team has two victories and four podium finishes at the season's first three road course events, including a one-two finish at the most recent race in Monterey, Calif. Da Matta earned both wins and has led an amazing 164 of 262 (62%) road-course laps this season. The 1998 Indy Lights champ won in Monterrey, Mexico, and Laguna Seca, and he led 30 of the first 31 laps at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach before a collision with another car in the pits on Lap 32 effectively ended his chance for victory. While da Matta has received most of the attention, teammate Christian Fittipaldi has quietly moved up to third in the CART point standings on the strength of podium finishes at Mexico (third) and Laguna Seca (second).

AND THE RISING CONTENDER - While the Newman/Haas Toyotas have been the fastest cars on the road courses dating back to pre-season testing, the Target Toyotas of Kenny Br0x00e4ck, Bruno Junqueira and Scott Dixon have been steadily closing the gap. Br0x00e4ck and Junqueira have improved in each of the three road-course events. Dixon joined the Target team at Milwaukee earlier this month, and the threesome has registered three top-10 finishes in each of the past two events, including placing all three cars in the top six at Laguna Seca, where Br0x00e4ck and Junqueira earned third and fourth-place finishes. If the improvement continues, the Target team may hit the bull's-eye in Portland.

TOYOTA DRIVERS MAKING THEIR POINT - Four Toyota-powered drivers head to Portland in the top six in the FedEx Championship Series point standings. Cristiano da Matta has regained the points lead he enjoyed early in the season, while teammate Christian Fittipaldi has climbed to third. Motegi winner Bruno Junqueira has risen to fourth - the highest point position to date for the second-year Champ Car driver. He sits two spots ahead of teammate Kenny Br0x00e4ck in sixth. In addition, the third Target entry of Scott Dixon has moved up to 11th after registering back-to-back sixth-place finishes in his first two races with the team.

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT - While Toyota-powered cars have been dominant during the road-course races this season (two wins, a second, two thirds, and two fourths in three races), the tone has been set in practice. To date, Toyota drivers have been the fastest in eight of nine road-course practices this season.

FULLY QUALIFIED - Toyota drivers Bruno Junqueira, Cristiano da Matta and Kenny Br0x00e4ck continue to rank as the three top qualifiers in the FedEx Championship Series this season. Junqueira leads the series with an average start of 3.8, followed by da Matta (4.7) and Br0x00e4ck (6.4).

Through five 2002 races, Junqueira and da Matta are the only drivers to have qualified in the top 10 in each race. Junqueira has earned one pole and four top-five starting positions combined with a seventh at Mexico. Da Matta has one pole and three top-fives, and his lowest start was eighth at Motegi.

YOUNG GUNS SHOOTING FOR TOYOTA ATLANTIC TITLE - With four first-time winners in the season's first four races, the Toyota Atlantic Championship is a wide-open shoot-out entering Portland this weekend. Ryan Hunter-Reay was the most recent winner at Laguna Seca and arrives in the Rose City having won the pole for each of the last three events. Also expected to be in the hunt are series points leader Michael Valiante, Mexico winner Jon Fogarty and Hunter-Reay's Hylton teammate Roger Yasukawa, who won on the oval at Milwaukee earlier this month.


JIM AUST, Toyota vice president of motorsports: "We had a fantastic race this past weekend at Laguna Seca with four Toyota-powered cars finishing in the top four spots. Now we need to build on the momentum of that effort. We've had a very strong road course package this year so that should bode well for Portland, where we finished second and third last season."

KENNY BRACK, No. 12 Target Toyota: "We've made some big improvements on the road courses since Spring Training. Team Target has been working very hard and we're getting closer. I think that our finish at Laguna Seca is a good starting point for winning at Portland."


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Series IndyCar
Drivers Bruno Junqueira , Christian Fittipaldi , Scott Dixon , Jon Fogarty , Michael Valiante , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Roger Yasukawa , Cristiano da Matta