Fort Worth, Texas -- Target Chip Ganassi Racing rookie drivers Bruno Junqueira and Nicolas Minassian will search deep in the heart of Texas for their first Champ Car checkered flag Sunday at the inaugural Firestone Firehawk 600 in Fort ...
Fort Worth, Texas -- Target Chip Ganassi Racing rookie drivers Bruno Junqueira and Nicolas Minassian will search deep in the heart of Texas for their first Champ Car checkered flag Sunday at the inaugural Firestone Firehawk 600 in Fort Worth.
Texas Motor Speedway's 1.5-mile oval, with its high-banked corners, will provide a challenge for all drivers, and especially for the Team Target duo, which makes its oval debut. Despite the tricky track and the drivers' lack of oval experience, both Junqueira and Minassian are confident they have a chance to christen victory circle.
Team Target heads to Texas Motor Speedway with momentum on their side, following a strong showing on the streets of Long Beach. Junqueira charged through the field from his 28th starting position to place ninth, tallying the highest number of cars passed since former team driver Alex Zanardi charged from 26th to fourth at Rio in 1997. Minassian also moved forward in the field at Long Beach, climbing from 14th to eighth.
Junqueira, last year's Formula 3000 champion, is eager for his Champ Car education to continue on Sunday with his first oval race.
"We've done a lot of off-season testing on oval tracks," Junqueira said. "Our test at Las Vegas gave our engineers a lot of good information that will translate over to this track. I feel very comfortable on the ovals so far, but I've never raced on an oval with other cars. I'm going to have to learn how the car will be with other cars on the track. The practice sessions will be the place for me to find out about that. It's going to be a long race, and it will be important to stay out of trouble during the first half of it. If we can do that, I think we'll have a good chance to win on Sunday."
Junqueira's teammate, Minassian, is also looking forward to his third Champ Car challenge.
"This is going to be a very exciting race for the fans," Minassian said.
"But I'm not so sure how exciting it will be for the drivers. With 28 cars racing side-by-side at over 220 miles per hour, it will be a little nerve-wracking for me. I'm looking forward to the challenge. I've never raced on a track like this before, but I'm confident our team will give me all of the information I need to succeed. I've seen pictures of Texas Motor Speedway and it looks like a beautiful place. It will be even more beautiful if I can win the race." Team Target managing director Mike Hull believes his team is prepared for Texas Motor Speedway's 24-degree banks.
"This is a very challenging track from an engineering standpoint," Hull said. "We'll be able to use most of the information we acquired at the winter test in Las Vegas. This track, however, has a higher banking and will produce faster speeds than Las Vegas. We have some of the best engineers in the business and I'm confident they will find a fast set-up for our cars. I'm also confident that Team Target has the ability to challenge for a win on Sunday afternoon."
The Firestone Firehawk 600 airs live on ESPN, with the green flag set to wave at 3 p.m. EST.
<pre> Fast Facts:
* The Texas 600 marks the third CART FedEx Series event for Team Target rookie drivers Bruno Junqueira and Nicolas Minassian. Junquiera placed 9th at Long Beach and 22nd at Monterrey, Mexico. Minassian finished eighth at Long Beach and 11th at Monterrey.
* Minassian has earned points (among the top 12 finishers) in his first two CART races.
* Junqueira stormed from 28th to finish ninth in the Grand Prix of Long Beach.
* 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 92 CART FedEx Series events from 1996 through 2000.
* Team Target has claimed four CART FedEx Series championships (1996-1999).
* Former Team Target driver Juan Montoya won the 2000 Indianapolis 500, his first-ever race at the famed oval. Team Target announced on March 5 it would return to Indianapolis in 2001 to defend its title.
* Team Target drivers have claimed 31 of the 94 pole positions since 1996.
* For the fifth consecutive season, Target Chip Ganassi Racing will raise 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.