CHAMPCAR/CART: Team Target Portland Preview

PORTLAND -- Although Team Target driver Jimmy Vasser was hoping for a podium finish at last Sunday's Detroit Grand Prix, he was pleased to achieve one of his goals: gain on FedEx Series points leader Paul Tracy. Vasser heads to Portland just five...

PORTLAND -- Although Team Target driver Jimmy Vasser was hoping for a podium finish at last Sunday's Detroit Grand Prix, he was pleased to achieve one of his goals: gain on FedEx Series points leader Paul Tracy. Vasser heads to Portland just five points behind Tracy, who failed to earn a point in Detroit.

"It's still early in the season, but it's always nice to be up toward the top of the point standings," said Vasser, who has five top-10 finishes in 2000. "The only time it really matters that you're leading the point standings is after the final race of the year, but it's a good feeling to be out ahead, and that's where we hope to be after Portland."

Vasser, whose best finish in Portland is a second-place effort in 1995, is confident that his team can take over the No. 1 spot in the CART standings at some point this season.

"I don't have any control over what the other guys do out there on the track, but we've been able to score points pretty consistently this year, so I wouldn't be surprised to be leading in the points before too long. I haven't had a lot of success in Portland, but I've always liked the track, and the Toyota-Lola improves with each race. I'm expecting a great performance from Team Target this weekend."

Consistency has also been a trademark of Vasser's teammate Juan Montoya this year. The Colombian has still qualified no worse than third.

Montoya has started from the pole position in four consecutive races (Japan, Nazareth, Milwaukee and Detroit). However, the qualifying consistency has not extended to the races, where periodic mechanical problems have plagued the second-year CART star.

"I've been very pleased with the car this year, but some of the problems are just flukes and that's unfortunately a part of racing," said Montoya, the defending CART and Indy 500 champion. "We just have to keep on doing what has helped us perform so well, and the racing and the points will be fine."

Just 27 races into his CART career, Montoya has already earned 11 pole positions. By comparison, former Team Target star Alex Zanardi recorded 10 pole positions in his 51-race career with Target Chip Ganassi Racing.

"Qualifying has always been one of my strengths," Montoya said. "It's nice that you earn a point for a pole position in this series, but it's going to take more than that to win the championship. To have a shot at the title, we have to start scoring well in these races, beginning with Portland. Starting the race out in the front is good, but that's also where I'd like to finish the race. I came close to winning at Portland last year, so maybe this year it's my turn."

What: Freightliner/G.I. Joe's 200, round eight of the 20-race CART FedEx Championship Series.

When: Sunday, June 25. Local start time: 2 p.m. Pacific. Broadcast: 7-9:30 p.m. Eastern on ESPN2. Qualifying - Saturday, June 24. Practice -Friday, June 23

Where: The 1.96-mile permanent road course at Portland International Raceway.

History: Juan Montoya earned the pole and finished second in Portland in 1999. Jimmy Vasser started seventh and finished 12th last year.

Fast Facts:

Team Target's Juan Montoya has started on the pole in four consecutive races (Japan, Nazareth, Milwaukee and Detroit).

Team Target's Jimmy Vasser ranks second in the CART point standings with 54 points. He trails leader Paul Tracy by just five points. Montoya ranks sixth with 46 points.

Montoya has started third or better in 18 of his 27 CART races.

Montoya is seeking his third victory in the past four races. 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. Juan Montoya is the defending CART champion. Vasser won the title in 1996.

Vasser has finished in the top 10 in 12 of his last 17 CART races, dating back to the 1999 race in Toronto. He has finished fifth or better in eight of his last 16 races.

With Montoya's 58 laps led in Detroit, he moved into eighth place on the CART career laps-led list with 1,495. He leads the FedEx Series with 541 laps led this season, over 400 more than second-place Gil de Ferran.

Montoya has led at least the first 58 laps of each of the past four CART events. He led the first 132 at Japan, the first 76 at Nazareth and the first 94 at Milwaukee.

Montoya has earned eight of the 14 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.

In the seven CART races this year, Montoya's worst qualifying position was a third-place effort in Long Beach. In addition to his four poles, Montoya has started second twice (Miami and Rio). He also started second in the Indy 500.

Including the Indy 500, Team Target has 32 victories in its last 79 starts.

Either Montoya or Vasser has finished on the podium in 12 of the past 27 races.

Team Target drivers have 57 podium finishes in the last 79 races.

St. Jude 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. After the Detroit Grand Prix, Team Target's season total is $22,625.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Gil de Ferran , Jimmy Vasser , Paul Tracy , Alex Zanardi , Chip Ganassi
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing