LINCOLNSHIRE, 111. (March 16,2000) --- While most teams are touting "exciting new" changes in drivers, crew, equipment or expansion of some sort, Newman Haas Racing finds comfort in stability and as little change as possible for the 2000 CART...
LINCOLNSHIRE, 111. (March 16,2000) --- While most teams are touting "exciting new" changes in drivers, crew, equipment or expansion of some sort, Newman Haas Racing finds comfort in stability and as little change as possible for the 2000 CART FedEx Championship Series season.
Other than a return to the chassis manufacturer that brought the team all three of their championships, Big Kmart/Route 66 driver Christian Fittipaldi is quick to point out that Newman/Haas Racing is the same competitive team that has won 55 races and 61 poles since first competing in 1983.
"Probably the most dramatic change with the team this year is our paint scheme," said Fittipaldi, winner of his first CART victory and pole in 1999. "Sure we have changed our chassis to Lola for 2000 but the team views it as more of a homecoming than working with a complete stranger. This will be the 15th year of 18 for the team to be running a Lola chassis and ninth with Ford. We have one year worth of data on Firestone and now everyone will be racing on them, which will make a difference. The crew is the same but everyone is working together very well, even better than last season. For the past few years, we have been starting the season with a very steep learning curve due to a new relationship with Swift or Firestone. This year, we are far ahead of where we have been the last few seasons and it has really allowed us to focus on making our car fast and reliable. All of the elements are in place and things look very good for 2000."
Over the years, Newman/Haas Racing has always been known as a tight-knit group. A move over the winter further solidified that theory. Some teams bring in new personnel to head up their racing programs but Newman/Haas Racing promoted the longest standing employee, John Tzouanakis, to the post in the winter. This transition has been an easy one for Tzouanakis, who has been with the team since it opened its doors in the winter of 1982 when he was only 22 years old. Most recently he worked in the capacity of assistant team manager, a job that will now be handled by Kenny Siwieck who begins his 12th season with the team.
"It's John's (Tzouanakis) first year as team manager but not much has changed," said Michael Andretti, who drives the Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline car and has been with the team since 1989. "John has been with the team for every race that we have ever run so that experience is invaluable. Overall, the team has a wealth of talent and experience, from the mechanics to the engineers and management. Any time you can promote from within helps the stability and morale of any organization. We have a few people in new positions but basically it is the same faces and the same team that has been competitive from race to race."
On the engineering side, Peter Gibbons begins his ninth season as race engineer for Andretti while Todd Bowland begins his seventh season at the team and second as Fittipaldi's race engineer after helping the personable Brazilian score his first win and pole in 1999. Brian Lisles begins his 12th season with the team and second as Senior Engineer. On the mechanical side, Don Hoevel begins his 15th season with the team and second as Andretti's chief mechanic while Kevin Chambers begins his eighth season with the team and third as chief mechanic for Fittipaldi.
Stability is also key in the area of sponsorship- The Kmart Corporation begins its 12th season of involvement with the team and Texaco/Havoline begins their 11th. To help celebrate the new millennium, the sponsors have implemented colorful new paint schemes for Andretti and Fittipaldi's Ford-Cosworth Lola's.
This tight knit group hopes that their dedication and determination will be rewarded with a fourth championship for Newman/Haas Racing, whether it is a second one for Andretti or first CART championship for Fittipaidi. Either way, count on CART's second most successful team to be in the hunt for the championship
The CART FedEx Championship Series season begins on March 26 (10 days and counting) with the Marlboro Grand Prix of Miami at the Homestead-Miami Speedway. Andretti won back-to-back events in 1997 and 1998 and finished second to Greg Moore in 1999. Fittipaldi finished in the top-six in two of the three events held at the track and suffered a mechanical problem in the other.