At last year's Nazareth CART event, Cristiano da Matta drove straight into the series record books. In just the third start of his rookie season, da Matta scored the best-ever finish in Toyota and team history by landing just shy of the podium in...
At last year's Nazareth CART event, Cristiano da Matta drove straight into the series record books. In just the third start of his rookie season, da Matta scored the best-ever finish in Toyota and team history by landing just shy of the podium in fourth place. Although nine-year CART veteran Jimmy Vasser (also driving a Toyota-powered Champ Car this season) tied the record in this year's Miami season-opener, the record still stands going into Round 2.
The 1999 Nazareth event also marked the second consecutive event at there in which PPI earned a best-finish record for Toyota -- driver Robby Gordon finished seventh in 1998 prior to da Matta's fourth-place showing there in 1999. It also represented a string of successes there for da Matta. In two years of Indy Lights competition, da Matta dominated the Nazareth oval. After driving to a win from third place in 1997 (and leading the last 18 laps), da Matta followed up with a pole-to-flag victory (having led all 100 laps) in 1998.
"It's pretty great to be a part of history for Toyota, and it's even better to be coming back to Nazareth with the record still there," da Matta said. " I'm looking forward to breaking the record myself, hopefully. We've got some tough competition this year, but I think we'll be able to set a few more records of our own before the season ends."
This year da Matta is off to a strong start. In the season opening race, da Matta battled an ill-handling car to finish 12th from a starting position of 23rd. He earned one point toward the championship is currently 12th in the championship standings, his highest CART points ranking to date. Da Matta and a Toyota-powered Jimmy Vasser combined their points (Vasser's 12 plus da Matta's one) to earn the first-ever points for Toyota (13 total) at Homestead.
A team effort helped da Matta move through the field at Homestead. The PPI Motorsports Pioneer crew performed lightning-quick pit stops in Miami -- fast enough to earn the fourth-fastest cumulative time (80.221 seconds) of all competing teams in the Craftsman Pit Crew Challenge. The Pioneer crew broke into the top four behind the crews for Paul Tracy (winners of last year's inaugural Challenge), Max Papis and Dario Franchitti. The top four teams at the close of the season will participate in a pit-stop shootout at the CART season finale in Fontana.
Before he arrives in Nazareth, da Matta will be making a stop to see Pioneer's "It's Loud In Here" 18-Wheeler Tour in Las Vegas. The tour, which features an 18-wheeler semi-truck mobile showroom painted to resemble the Pioneer Champ Car, will appear in CART and other motorsports event markets throughout the season. The rig houses an in-car theater and transports a Pioneer Champ Car to locations around the continental U.S.