CHAMPCAR/CART: Series Happenings, 3/29/00

FedEx CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES HAPPENINGS Notes and Quotes from Championship Auto Racing Teams, March 29, 2000 Team Rahal driver Max Papis came into the 2000 FedEx Championship Series season regarded as a championship contender, and his victory in...

FedEx CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES HAPPENINGS Notes and Quotes from Championship Auto Racing Teams, March 29, 2000

Team Rahal driver Max Papis came into the 2000 FedEx Championship Series season regarded as a championship contender, and his victory in the Sunday's season-opening Marlboro Grand Prix of Miami Presented by Toyota only added to those predictions.

It might be worthwhile, then, to see how many times in CART's 21-year history that a driver has won the season's first event on the way to the championship. The eventual champion has won the opener on six previous occasions, beginning with Johnny Rutherford in 1980.

Others who have turned the trick include Rick Mears (1982), Mario Andretti (1984), Nigel Mansell (1993), Jacques Villeneuve (1995) and Jimmy Vasser (1996). Mansell's and Vasser's victories were the first of their CART careers, as was Papis'.

Papis victory also gave Team Rahal its first championship lead since 1995, when current team owner Bobby Rahal held the advantage following two events. He trailed Villeneuve after a third-place finish in the opener at Miami, then took the lead with a runner-up effort in Australia, two points ahead of PacWest Racing driver Mauricio Gugelmin.

While confident, Papis knows there's still plenty of work to do.

"I still feel like Michael [Andretti] is the favorite," Papis said Tuesday during the CART weekly teleconference. "Michael is very experienced and he has ... a tremendous background. He knows what he's doing out there. But Sunday, we showed that we are there, too. Sunday was proof that we believed in ourselves and we could make it happen. And definitely, my goal right now is to not stop winning races."

* FRANCHITTI SCORES

Team KOOL Green driver Dario Franchitti performed admirably in his return to competition from a fractured pelvis and brain contusions sustained in a Feb. 9 accident during CART Spring Training at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard) moved up steadily from his 22nd qualifying position to finish 11th and collect a pair of championship points. "It was a pretty long day out there," he said. "The KOOL car was good on its own, but bad in traffic. It was frustrating, but it was good to get the mileage. I think it will help us going into Nazareth [for the April 9 Bosch Spark Plug Grand Prix Presented by Toyota], having tested really good there. We'll look for a better result there. I felt fine, except for a small bump when they dropped the car off the air jacks and it bottomed out pretty hard. I leaned heavily on the area of my injury and I felt it. After that, though, it wasn't a problem and I'm feeling fine."

* VASSER MATCHES TOYOTA'S BEST-EVER FINISH

Target/Chip Ganassi Racing driver Jimmy Vasser (Target Toyota Lola) in his first start since the team's switch from Honda to Toyota power, matched Toyota's best-ever FedEx Championship Series finish by taking fourth place Sunday. PPI Motorsports driver Cristiano da Matta had established the mark at Nazareth Speedway last year. Vasser also recorded his fourth top-four finish in five career appearances at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The others were a victory in 1996, third in '97 and fourth last year.

* CARPENTIER EXTENDS STREAK

Player's Forsythe Racing Team driver Patrick Carpentier finished fifth Sunday, a career-best result at Homestead-Miami Speedway which allowed him to extend his scoring streak at the venue to four events. Carpentier (Player's Forsythe Racing Team Ford Reynard) also finished ninth in his 1997 FedEx Championship Series debut, 11th in '98 and seventh last year.

* A RARE ZERO

Newman/Haas Racing driver Michael Andretti's (Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Lola) 22nd-place finish marked only the first time in five career appearances at Homestead-Miami Speedway that he has gone scoreless. Andretti finished ninth in 1996, scored back-to-back victories in 1997 and '98 and was runner-up last year.

* FedEx CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES LEADERS

FedEx Championship Series points, earnings and Manufacturer's Championship leaders heading into the April 9 Bosch Spark Plug Grand Prix Presented by Toyota at Nazareth Speedway:

Points

1.  Max Papis, Team Rahal                               20
2.  Roberto Moreno, Patrick Racing                      16
3.  Paul Tracy, Team KOOL Green                         14
4.  Jimmy Vasser, Target/Chip Ganassi Racing            12
5.  Patrick Carpentier, Player's Forsythe Racing        10

Earnings

1.  Max Papis, Team Rahal                               $100,000
2.  Roberto Moreno, Patrick Racing                      $60,000
3.  Paul Tracy, Team KOOL Green                         $50,000
4.  Jimmy Vasser, Target/Chip Ganassi Racing            $35,000
5.  Patrick Carpentier, Player's Forsythe Racing        $30,000

Manufacturer's Championship

Ford Cosworth XF        20
Honda Turbo V6          16
Toyota RV8E             12
Mercedes-Benz IC108F     3                      

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Jacques Villeneuve , Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Max Papis , Roberto Moreno , Bobby Rahal , Patrick Carpentier , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Mauricio Gugelmin , Nigel Mansell , Mario Andretti , Rick Mears , Chip Ganassi , Cristiano da Matta , Johnny Rutherford
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing