CHAMPCAR/CART: Toyota Chicago fast facts

<pre> TOYOTA motorsports CART FedEx Championship Series Fast Facts Target Grand Prix Of Chicago Presented By Energizer Date: July 29, 2001 Broadcast: ABC, 4:00 p.m. ET (Live) Race Length: ...

<pre> TOYOTA motorsports CART FedEx Championship Series Fast Facts

Target Grand Prix Of Chicago Presented By Energizer

Date: July 29, 2001 Broadcast: ABC, 4:00 p.m. ET (Live) Race Length: 225 laps for 231.525 miles Track Length: 1.029-mile oval 2000 Winner: Cristiano da Matta Toyota's Best Finish: 1st, Cristiano da Matta, 2000 Toyota's Best Qualifying: 1st, Juan Montoya, 2000 Track Speed Records: Qualifying: 2000, Juan Montoya (167.567 mph) Race: 1999, Juan Montoya (122.236mph)

Manufacturer's Championship: 1. Honda 174 2. Toyota 154 3. Ford 151 </pre> What to look for at Chicago:

LEADING THE FIELD - After being taken out on the first lap of his first race with Target Chip Ganassi Racing, Memo Gidley evidently has decided that if you lead the race, you're much more unlikely to get caught up in others incidents -- or maybe he's just decided to take the best opportunity and make the most of it by running up front.

Either way, in the three races since Portland, Gidley has led an amazing 49 percent more laps than any other driver in CART competition. In fact, the personable Californian has led more laps in the last three races than any other two-car team in the field, except for Team Rahal, where Kenny Brack and Max Papis have combined to lead just 15 more than Gidley. Individually, Gidley's total of 124 laps led in the past three races far surpasses the totals of his closest rivals - Papis (83), Brack (56) and Gil de Ferran (49). For the season, Gidley ranks fourth overall in laps led, despite competing in only four of 10 events. Even more impressive is that before joining the Target Toyota team, he had led only one lap in his CART career - during a pit cycling at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach a year ago.

DA MATTA LOOKS TO REPEAT AT CHICAGO - Cristiano da Matta returns to the site of his first Champ Car victory this weekend at Chicago Motor Speedway for the Target Grand Prix presented by Energizer. A year ago, da Matta battled with fellow Toyota driver Juan Montoya before taking the lead for good on Lap 175 and leading the final 51 laps in his Toyota Reynard for his first FedEx Series win.

This weekend, da Matta will look to repeat that victory and drive out of Chicago with the CART points lead. The 1998 Indy Lights champ enters the weekend in fifth-place overall - just 17 points of the series lead that he held through the season's first three races. Da Matta arrives in Chicago after a fourth-place finish at Michigan a week ago, where he overcame a broken air jack that cost him more than 10 seconds per pit stop and forced him to make up a lap on his way to climbing as high as second in the last five laps. He also registered the second-fastest race lap in the event.

SHORT OVAL SUCCESS - Toyota heads into this weekend's event at the 1.029-mile Chicago Motor Speedway oval having won four of the last five CART short oval races. Beginning with Milwaukee in 2000, Toyota powered cars won at Milwaukee '00 (Juan Montoya), Chicago '00 (Cristiano da Matta), Gateway '00 (Juan Montoya) and Nazareth '01 (Scott Dixon). The only event short track that a Toyota hasn't won at was Milwaukee this past June when Scott Dixon placed third.

SWEET HOME CHICAGO - While Chicago may feel like home for Cristiano da Matta, it is home for the rest of the Newman/Haas Racing team, which is based in nearby Lincolnshire, Ill. A year ago, the team placed second in Chicago. This season, they'll be looking for their first hometown win with the defending champion da Matta joining Christian Fittipaldi. Overall, the team is second in FedEx Championship history with 59 wins, including one by da Matta at Monterrey, Mexico, to open the 2001 campaign.

LUCKY 21? - Scott Dixon enters his first full race weekend as a 21-year-old after celebrating his 21st birthday last Sunday. If 21 is any luckier for him than 20 has been this year, last year's Indy Lights champion may end up as the youngest champion in CART history at season's end.

Much of Dixon's good fortune has come on the short ovals in his first Champ Car season. In his first two short track races, the New Zealander was on the podium each time with a first at Nazareth and a third at Milwaukee. Including the larger oval tracks at Motegi and Michigan, Dixon has finished in the top-10 at each of the four CART oval events this season.

Dixon, who became the youngest winner in major open-wheel racing history (20 years, 9 months) at Nazareth earlier this season, now has registered six top-10 finishes in his last eight races. In addition, three of those have been top-five results. His strong run has him placed him seventh in the FedEx Championship Series points chase, just 10 points out of fifth and 27 behind the leader with 10 races remaining in the 2001 campaign. Despite his rookie status, Dixon leads the series in laps completed.

IN THE POINTS - Roberto Moreno has certainly ridden the CART roller coaster this year. Early in the year, he struggled while adjusting to new equipment, but he showed he was on the right track with back-to-back podium finishes at Detroit and Portland. He then lost a shot at victory at Cleveland when another driver spun in front of him and forced Moreno into the tires. Yet, despite his ups and downs, Moreno has finished in the points in eight of 10 races this year - the most of any CART driver this season.

Quotes:

Jim Aust, Toyota vice president of motorsports: "Chicago is truly a unique event. It features the excitement and activity of a downtown street race at a state-of-the-art oval racing facility. We're confident heading into the weekend. The Target Ganassi and Newman/Haas teams have been the teams to beat in Chicago and, of course, it was a Toyota that powered Cristiano to victory last year."

-Toyota Motorsports-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Gil de Ferran , Memo Gidley , Max Papis , Roberto Moreno , Christian Fittipaldi , Scott Dixon , Kenny Brack , Chip Ganassi , Cristiano da Matta
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing