TEAM TARGET HEATING UP AS IT HEADS TO LAND OF THE RISING SUN Minassian and Junqueira eager to move up in CART point standings Motegi, Japan -- Target Chip Ganassi Racing rookie drivers Bruno Junqueira and Nicolas Minassian will participate in...
TEAM TARGET HEATING UP AS IT HEADS TO LAND OF THE RISING SUN Minassian and Junqueira eager to move up in CART point standings
Motegi, Japan -- Target Chip Ganassi Racing rookie drivers Bruno Junqueira and Nicolas Minassian will participate in their second-ever oval race this weekend, the Firestone Firehawk 500 on the 1.549-mile Twin Ring Motegi in Motegi, Japan. Last year, Team Target driver Juan Montoya dominated the race, leading 172 of the 201 laps.
Team Target has won two of the pole positions in the race's three-year history. Former team driver Jimmy Vasser claimed the award in the inaugural event in 1998 and teammate Juan Montoya captured the pole last year. Mike Hull, managing director for Team Target, is confident his young drivers have what it takes to continue the team's successful streak at Twin Ring Motegi.
"Bruno is coming off a nice effort in Nazareth and Nicolas is confident he's ready to put together a great oval race, too, so we're excited about Motegi," Hull said. "Twin Ring has been a good track for us. Our engineers have a good handle on it and they're prepared to have a fast set-up. The challenge for us is the short turnaround time between Indianapolis and the Japan race. We finish out at the speedway on Sunday evening, then we leave Monday morning for Motegi. We wouldn't be able to accomplish this without the team back at the shop. They were able to get the cars and equipment loaded onto the planes while the rest of the team was at Indianapolis Motor Speedway."
Team Target pilot Bruno Junqueira is anxious to climb back into the cockpit of his No. 4 Toyota/Lola after capturing the first pole of his short career. "I can't wait to get back in there and do it again," Junqueira said. "After winning the pole in Nazareth and having a seventh-place finish in the race, I'm excited to race on another oval. My background is in road racing, but I'm starting to like these ovals. The team has a great oval car and that makes it very easy for me to drive. I think we have a good chance of winning the race."
Junqueira's teammate Minassian is also ready to get back on the track. "It's going to be a busy couple of weeks for us," Minassian said. "But my focus is now on the race in Motegi. It's a very fast oval and I'm excited about racing there. It will take some time to learn the track, but I'm ready for the race. I am becoming very comfortable on the ovals. Nazareth was good experience, I learned a lot, but I know we can be even faster."
What: Firestone Firehawk 500 - Round four of the 21-race CART FedEx Championship Series.
When: Saturday, May 19. Broadcast: Midnight ET live on ESPN. Broadcast live on CART Radio Network affiliates. Coverage of practice, qualifying and the race is also live on CART.com. Qualifying - Friday, May 18. Practice - Thursday, May 17.
Where: The 1.549-mile oval in Motegi, Japan.
History: Team Target has won two of the last three pole positions at Twin Ring Motegi. Last year, Juan Montoya led 172 of the 201 laps en route to his 7th place finish.
* Team Target rookie driver Bruno Junqueira ranks 11th and teammate Nicolas Minassian ranks 13th in the 2001 CART FedEx Series.
* Junqueira claimed the first pole position of his young, three-race CART career on May 6 at Nazareth.
* Former Team Target driver Juan Montoya also captured his first CART pole position at the third event of his rookie season (the 1999 Grand Prix of Long Beach).
* Following the Firestone Firehawk 500 in Motegi, Junqueira and Minassian will focus on the Indy 500, for which they qualified 25th (Junqueira) and 27th (Minassian).
* Junqueira and Minassian replace Juan Montoya, the 1999 CART champion, and Jimmy Vasser, the 1996 CART champion.
* Junqueira claimed the 2000 European F3000 Series championship, earning four victories. Minassian was runner-up to his new teammate, claiming three checkered flags.
* Target Chip Ganassi Racing won 34 of the 93 CART FedEx Series events from 1996 through 2000.
* Team Target has claimed four CART FedEx Series championships (1996-1999).
* Team Target drivers have claimed 32 of the 95 pole positions since 1996.
* For the fifth consecutive season, Target Chip Ganassi Racing is raisinge money for Target House at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital by donating $5,000 for victory, $1,000 for each pole position and $25 for each lap led. The team has donated more than $230,000 since 1997. Junqueira's Nazareth pole resulted in the first $1,000 donation to Target House.