CHAMPCAR/CART: Toyota Racing Fontana preview

<pre> Date: Oct. 29, 2000 Broadcast: ESPN, 2:30 p.m. ET Race Length: 200 laps for 507.250 miles Track Length: 2.029-mile superspeedway 1999 Winner: Adrian ...

<pre> Date: Oct. 29, 2000 Broadcast: ESPN, 2:30 p.m. ET Race Length: 200 laps for 507.250 miles Track Length: 2.029-mile superspeedway 1999 Winner: Adrian Fernandez Toyota's Best Finish: 9th, Robby Gordon, 1998 Toyota's Best Qualifying: 1st, Scott Pruett, 1999 Track Speed Records: Qualifying: 1997, M. Gugelmin, 240.942 mph Race: 1999, A. Fernandez, 171.666 mph

Manufacturer Points: Ford 314; Honda 298; Toyota 272; Mercedes Benz 72

Two million will be up for grabs at the season-ending Marlboro 500 Presented by Toyota. For the third consecutive season, the race winner will take a one million dollar first prize. In addition, five drivers (Gil de Ferran, Adrian Fernandez, Paul Tracy, Kenny Brack and Roberto Moreno) are still in the hunt for the FedEx Championship series title and the one million that goes along with it.

Toyota will be looking to become the first manufacturer to win five consecutive oval races since the series expanded to include at least three (and now four) major automobile manufacturers in 1996. To date, Costa Mesa, Calif.-designed and built Toyota engines have won the last four oval races at Milwaukee, Michigan, Chicago and St. Louis.

Juan Montoya has earned three of those four victories (Milwaukee, Michigan and St. Louis), while Cristiano da Matta took the fourth win at Chicago. In addition, Montoya was firmly in control of the two oval races previous to Milwaukee. At Nazareth, he led every green flag lap up to Lap 118 when he ran over debris from another car's accident. He also led 172 of the first 175 laps at Motegi only to fall victim to a fluke pit accident, when an air jack hose wrapped around, and basically unplugged, his turbo boost inlet with only 26 laps remaining.

When Juan Montoya climbs into his Target Toyota Sunday, he'll be looking to become the first driver since CART began in 1979 to win three 500 mile races in one season and just the second open-wheel driver in history. Montoya has already earned wins in the Indianapolis 500 and the Michigan 500 Presented by Toyota. If he wins at Fontana, he'll join Al Unser Sr., as the only two open-wheel drivers to complete a triple crown sweep in one season.

The 25-year-old Montoya brings a stellar 500-mile race record into the event. In four races to date, he has two victories, a second (missing the win by .034 seconds), and a fourth.

Entering his final champ car race, Juan Montoya can arguably be called the greatest oval driver of modern-day open-wheel racing history. The 1999 CART champion has seven oval wins in just 18 oval events. Even more impressively, Montoya has seven pole positions and has averaged an amazing 2.6 starting position in his last 16 oval track races while using three different variety of cars. In addition, Montoya has led an astounding 15 of the last 16 oval track races he's run. The only time that Montoya hasn't led during that span was this season at Rio where he retired due to a gearbox problem while running second.

Jimmy Vasser has been on a roll in the last six races beginning with Road America. He has six consecutive top-eight finishes including a win, a third and a fifth. During that time frame, Vasser has scored 63 championship points, the most of any driver in the series. The former Toyota Atlantic ace has qualified in the top five at each of the last three races (second at Gateway, third at Houston and fifth at Australia).

The trip to Fontana also bodes well for the 1996 CART champ, as he has won three superspeedway pole positions in the past five years, as well as two 500-mile races including a victory at Fontana in 1998. Vasser's won two of the four races where a million dollars has been awarded to the winner as it will this weekend.

With just days remaining before the Nov. 2 presidential election, polling has stepped center stage, but for Toyota poles have been the rule of the day on oval tracks all year. Toyota-powered cars have started from the pole in five of the last six oval races dating back to the season's fourth race at Motegi.

Juan Montoya has placed his Target Toyota at the point position for events at Motegi, Nazareth, Milwaukee, Chicago and the most recent oval race at St. Louis, where teammate Jimmy Vasser made it an all-Toyota front row. Montoya also was on the pole road course events at Detroit and Australia.

Jim Aust, Toyota vice president of motorsports: "We've had a good, almost great, season this year. I don't think that anyone would argue that with just a little bit of luck this season, Juan would have easily wrapped up the championship by now. If we can't get a championship, though, winning both 500-mile races would be the next best thing. There's no greater test or more tremendous single accomplishment in open-wheel racing - proving both speed and reliability."

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Robby Gordon , Gil de Ferran , Jimmy Vasser , Adrian Fernandez , Roberto Moreno , Paul Tracy , Kenny Brack , Scott Pruett , Al Unser Sr. , Cristiano da Matta
Teams Toyota Racing