CHAMPCAR/CART: Target Ganassi Michigan preview

BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Following the first 10 races of the Championship Auto Racing Teams CART FedEx Series, Team Target driver Juan Montoya's average starting position is third. However, his average finishing position is 14th. The defending...

BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Following the first 10 races of the Championship Auto Racing Teams CART FedEx Series, Team Target driver Juan Montoya's average starting position is third. However, his average finishing position is 14th.

The defending CART champ has qualified no worse than eighth this season and has tallied four pole positions. If Montoya's finishing position matched his location on the starting grid in each race this year, he would be ranked first with 159 points, more than 70 points ahead of the competition.

Montoya is looking at the second half of the year like a new season, in which he hopes his qualifying brilliance leads to improved race results.

"It's been great to be starting so many races toward the front of the field, but at the same time, it's been frustrating to not take advantage of our starting spot," Montoya said. "A bunch of little problems and some bad luck have been preventing us from reaching the podium recently. Team Target will bounce back and we'll challenge for the points lead before this season's through. These last 10 races are a new season for me, and I plan to finish the races as close as possible to where I've been starting them."

Montoya came within inches of claiming last year's Michigan 500, his first race on the Michigan Speedway two-mile oval. Tony Kanaan captured the checkered flag as Montoya finished second, one of his nine podium appearances in 1999.

"Last year's race was amazing -- I can still see the image of the checkered flag waving with Tony [Kanaan] just ahead of me," Montoya said. "Even though I didn't win, it's one of my favorite memories from my rookie season. After a couple of street races, this two-mile oval will be a bit of an adjustment, but I've had some success on big ovals already this year, so I'm very excited for this race."

Montoya isn't the only Team Target driver to taste success on the oval in Brooklyn, Mich. Jimmy Vasser won the inaugural Michigan 500 from the pole and earned the pole position in 1999.

"I think Michigan was my last pole position, so it will be nice to get back there where we've had some success, and maybe it will carry over into this year's race," Vasser said. "Even with a few car problems, we've been able to score some much-needed points in the last few races, and I'm confident the Toyota-Lola will be up for 500 miles this weekend and we can gain some more ground on the points leaders."

With two straight top 10 finishes (eighth in Cleveland and ninth in Toronto), Vasser believes the field is within striking distance and the championship is still up for grabs.

"It doesn't take long for someone to pull away or for someone to make up a lot of ground," Vasser said. "All it takes is for a driver to get hot and put together a few good races. With 10 races left, the title is anyone's for the taking, so I would love to jump right back into this with another win at Michigan Speedway."

Fast Facts:

What: Michigan 500, Presented by Toyota, round 11 of the 20-race CART FedEx Championship Series. When: Sunday, July 23. Local start time: 1:30 p.m. Eastern. Broadcast: 1:30 p.m. Eastern on ABC-TV. Qualifying - Saturday, July 22. Practice - Friday, July 21. Where: The two-mile oval at Michigan Speedway in Brooklyn, Mich. History: Juan Montoya started third and finished second in 1999. Jimmy Vasser started on the pole and finished ninth last year.

Team Target's Jimmy Vasser has qualified no worse than fourth in his four Michigan 500 races. He captured the pole in 1996 and in 1999.

Vasser won the inaugural Michigan 500 in 1996. Former Team Target driver Alex Zanardi won the race in 1997.

Team Target's Juan Montoya has started on the pole in four races Team Target's Jimmy Vasser ranks sixth in the CART point standings with 63 points. He trails leader Roberto Moreno by 27 points. Montoya ranks ninth with 54 points.

Montoya has started fifth or better in 21 of his 30 CART races.

Montoya is seeking his third victory of the season. The defending CART champ won the Indianapolis 500 on May 28 and the Miller Lite 225 on June 5.

Target Chip Ganassi Racing is pursuing an unprecedented fifth straight CART FedEx Series championship. Montoya is the defending CART champion. Vasser won the title in 1996. Alex Zanardi won the title for Team Target in 1997 and 1998.

Vasser has finished in the top 10 in 14 of his last 20 CART races, dating back to the 1999 race in Toronto. He has finished fifth or better in eight of his last 19 races.

Montoya has earned eight of the 20 bonus championship points available to date for either winning the pole position or leading the most laps. He has swept the pole and laps-led points at Japan, Nazareth, Milwaukee and Detroit.

Including the Indy 500, Team Target has 32 victories in its last 82 starts.

Either Montoya or Vasser has finished on the podium in 12 of the past 30 races.

Team Target drivers have 57 podium finishes in the last 82 races.

Target Chip Ganassi Racing is again donating money to Target House at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis. Target House is a comfortable place for the families of St. Jude patients to stay while their children receive treatments. The team will donate $5,000 for each race win, $1,000 for each pole position and $25 for each lap led. During the 1997 season, the team raised $46,275 for Target House. Target matched the donation and awarded St. Jude Hospital a $100,000 check. In 1998, Team Target's success on the track resulted in a $71,875 donation to St. Jude. In 1999, the team raised $68,250 for Target House, which opened May 17, 1999. Founded by the late entertainer Danny Thomas, St. Jude is the largest center in the U.S. for the treatment and research of pediatric cancer and other catastrophic childhood diseases. Following Toronto, Team Target's season total is $22,775.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Jimmy Vasser , Roberto Moreno , Alex Zanardi , Tony Kanaan , Chip Ganassi
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing