CHAMPCAR/CART: Toyota Rockingham fast facts

TOYOTA motorsports 2001 CART FedEX Championship Series ROCKINGHAM 500 Date: Sept. 22, 2001 Broadcast: ESPN, 7:30 a.m. ET (Live) Race Length: TBA Track Length: 1.5-mile oval Inaugural Event Manufacturer's Championship: 1....

TOYOTA motorsports
2001 CART FedEX Championship Series
ROCKINGHAM 500

Date: Sept. 22, 2001
Broadcast: ESPN, 7:30 a.m. ET (Live)
Race Length: TBA
Track Length: 1.5-mile oval
Inaugural Event

Manufacturer's Championship: 1. Honda 257 2. Ford 224 3. Toyota 222

What to look for at Rockingham:

OVAL SUCCESS HELPS DIXON CLIMB TO FIFTH - Rookie Scott Dixon (Nextel Powerware Panasonic Toyota) has climbed up to fifth-place overall with a ninth-place finish in Germany. What made Dixon's run even more impressive was that after having all of Thursday's practice rained out, he then missed Friday's only session due to stomach cramps. Hence, he drove to a top-10 finish with only the morning warm-up under his belt at the new EuroSpeedway.

Of course, success on the oval tracks has come quickly for the 21-year-old New Zealander. He has now finished in the top-10 in each of the six oval events this season. Included among those finishes was his first CART victory at Nazareth in May, when he became the youngest winner in major open-wheel racing history at 20 years, nine months. In addition, he placed on the podium with a third-place finish at Milwaukee and was fourth at Chicago. Dixon has now registered more points (50) in the six oval races this season than any other driver in the series except points leader Kenny Brack.

FINISHES WHAT HE STARTS - Consistency is generally the biggest obstacle a young driver faces when entering the CART ranks, but Scott Dixon has shown the consistency that most veteran drivers could only dream about.

That consistent performance is no greater expressed than on the oval tracks where the PacWest Toyota driver has completed an amazing 1,275 of 1,280 (99.6 percent) this season. Overall, Dixon leads the series in laps completed with 1,963 out of 2,009 (97.7 percent) through 15 races.

DIXON STRETCHES ROOKIE LEAD - In addition to climbing into fifth-place overall in the FedEx Championship Series points race, Scott Dixon has stretched his Jim Trueman Rookie of the Year points lead to 36 points (86-50) over fellow Toyota pilot Bruno Junqueira (Target Toyota). A third Toyota driver, Tora Takagi, currently sits third among first-year drivers.

TAKAGI MOVING UP - Tora Takagi (Pioneer Toyota) has experienced the difficulties many first-year drivers do in stepping up to the Champ Car ranks - made even more difficult with the testing limits he's faced as he moves to a series where he's never raced on any of the circuits. Recently, though, the 2000 Japanese Formula 3000 champion has started to show the promise that many expected of him when his move to the Champ Car ranks was announced.

Ironically, it's been the oval tracks where Takagi has been the most impressive, including a career-best sixth this past weekend in Germany. During the race, he led his first Champ Car lap and ran in the top-three for a number of laps. It appeared as if the rookie was on his way to his first CART podium finish when a late-race yellow came out. At the time, he was running sixth, but second among drivers that were surely able to finish the race without an additional pit stop. Takagi's strong showing was even more inspired considering that after running a strong 11th in Friday's practice, he was forced to start 26th when it was determined that the starting grid would be decided by points.

The sixth-place finish marked Takagi's second consecutive top-10 after placing seventh at Vancouver. It's his third top-10 finish of the season. In addition, the Walker Racing driver also earned a third-place starting position at Michigan.

BRITISH BACKGROUND - A number of the current Toyota-powered drivers have previously raced in the United Kingdom. Mauricio Gugelmin (Nextel Toyota), Cristiano da Matta (Texaco/Havoline/Kmart Toyota) and Roberto Moreno (Visteon Toyota) all campaigned in the British Formula 3 Championship with Gugelmin winning the series title in 1985. Each of those three, along with Christian Fittipaldi (Kmart Toyota) and Bruno Junqueira also raced in the European-dominated FIA Formula 3000 series - with Moreno (1988), Fittipaldi (1991) and Junqueira (2000) all capturing F3000 championships. In addition, Gugelmin, Fittipaldi, Moreno and Tora Takagi all competed in England during stints in Formula One, while Junqueira served as a test driver for the Williams F1 team.

BELL MAKES STRONG START - Yet, another Toyota-powered rookie turned heads at The American Memorial in Germany. Current Indy Lights points leader Townsend Bell made a strong showing in his Champ Car debut with a 13th- place lead-lap finish. Had the Visteon Toyota driver not had a problem in overshooting his pit, he very likely would have earned a points-paying finish in his first Champ Car ride. With the grid being set by points, Bell was forced to start last in 27th and gained 14 positions during the race. Bell is scheduled to make his second start this weekend at Rockingham before returning to the Indy Lights ranks in hopes of clinching the title after a second-place finish a year ago.

QUOTES:

Jim Aust, Toyota vice president of motorsports: "It's been a very trying week for everyone in the CART family and throughout the world. Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the victims of last Tuesday's tragedy and their families, as well as with Alex Zanardi and his family. Hopefully, we can register a strong showing at Rockingham and bring everyone back to the U.S. on a high-note."

-TM-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Bruno Junqueira , Roberto Moreno , Scott Dixon , Alex Zanardi , Mauricio Gugelmin , Tora Takagi , Cristiano da Matta
Teams Williams