DETROIT (July 11, 2000) - The FedEx Championship Series season has produced eight different winners in its first nine events - just two shy of the series single-season record of 10 different winners established last year - and the season has not...
DETROIT (July 11, 2000) - The FedEx Championship Series season has produced eight different winners in its first nine events - just two shy of the series single-season record of 10 different winners established last year - and the season has not even reached its halfway point.
Now, heading into Round 10 of the 20-race season, Sunday's Molson Indy at Toronto's Exhibition Place (3 p.m. ET, one-hour tape delay, ESPN), that diversity is further exemplified by the fact that five former Toronto race winners are on this weekend's entry list. Among the other 19 active FedEx Championship Series race venues, only Laguna Seca Raceway could make a similar claim.
And while there are five former winners on the 1.755-mile temporary street circuit at Exhibition Place in this weekend's field, one of those is a five-time winner at Toronto. That would be Michael Andretti (Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Lola) of Newman/Haas Racing, whose Toronto resume includes victories in 1989, '91, '92, '94 and '95. Andretti, who has finished fifth or better in 10 of 13 career starts at Toronto, stands second in the championship with 68 points, 22 behind leader Roberto Moreno (Visteon Ford Reynard) of Patrick Racing, who has 90 points after earning his first career pole and win at Cleveland.
Though Andretti has not won at Toronto since '95, three of the past four Molson Indy winners will join him in the field. Adrian Fernandez (Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing Ford Reynard) of Patrick Racing recorded his first career FedEx Championship Series victory at Toronto in 1996 and has scored championship points in four of his past five starts at the venue. Included is an outstanding effort last year when he drove to a sixth-place finish from the 23rd spot on the grid.
A year following Fernandez' triumph, Mark Blundell (Motorola PacWest Mercedes) led 93 of 95 laps at Toronto en route to the second victory of his career. Blundell will be making his first appearance at Toronto since 1998 after missing last year's event while recovering from a small fracture of the seventh cervical vertebra sustained in a testing accident at Gateway International Raceway.
Rounding out the list of the most recent winners at Exhibition Place is Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard) of Team KOOL Green, who led all 95 laps en route to a dominant victory last year. Franchitti is also a two-time pole-sitter at Toronto (1997, '98) and holds the track qualifying record of 105.694 miles per hour (58.618 seconds), established in 1997.
Franchitti's Team KOOL Green teammate, Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) is the fifth former Toronto winner in this year's field. A native Canadian, he drove to victory in 1993, and owns six top-10 finishes in eight career starts at Toronto, including a runner-up effort to Franchitti last year.
Moreno, in his seventh FedEx Championship Series season and his first with Patrick Racing, has established career milestones in abundance en route to his championship lead. He comes to Toronto off his first career pole position and victory at Cleveland, which allowed him to extend a one-point lead (68-67) over Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) entering the event to 22 over Andretti, who moved ahead of de Ferran and into second in the title race, at its conclusion.
Moreno's 90 championship points are a career single-season high as are his four podium finishes - second at Homestead and Portland and third at Japan, in addition to his victory at Cleveland.
This year for the first time in FedEx Championship Series history, all cars ride on Firestone Firehawks, the Official Tire of CART.
The Molson Indy begins a stretch of three consecutive weekends of FedEx Championship Series action. The series continues with the Michigan 500 Presented by Toyota, July 21-23, at Michigan Speedway in Brooklyn, Mich., followed by the Target Grand Prix Presented by Energizer, July 28-30, at Chicago Motor Speedway in Cicero, Ill.
* Roberto Moreno (Visteon Ford Reynard) of Patrick Racing arrives in Toronto off the first pole position and victory, respectively, of his FedEx Championship Series career at Cleveland two weeks ago. Moreno scored a maximum 22-point sweep for winning from the pole and leading the most race laps (91) and extended his championship points lead to 90-68 over second-place Michael Andretti (Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Lola) of Newman/Haas Racing. Moreno, in his seventh year in the FedEx Championship Series and his first with Patrick Racing, has finished among the top-10 drivers in seven of nine starts this season, with podium performances of second at Homestead and Portland and third at Japan, in addition to his victory at Cleveland.
* Michael Andretti has finished among the top-10 in six of his past seven FedEx Championship Series starts and among the top-six drivers in five of the past six, beginning with his CART career-leading 39th victory at Japan. He owns back-to-back fourth-place finishes at Portland and Cleveland and has moved into second place in the championship with 68 points, 22 behind leader Roberto Moreno.
* Rookie Kenny Brack (Shell Ford Reynard) of Team Rahal has finished fifth or better in five of his past six FedEx Championship Series starts, highlighted by a career-best second at Cleveland two weeks ago. Also included are finishes of third at Nazareth, fourth at Milwaukee, fifth at Japan and sixth at Portland. He has moved into fourth place in the championship with 63 points, and has more than doubled the point total (31) of his closest pursuer, Oriol Servia (Telefonica Toyota Reynard) of PPI Motorsports, in the chase for the Jim Trueman Rookie of the Year Award.
* Patrick Carpentier (Player's Forsythe Racing Team Ford Reynard) of Player's Forsythe Racing has scored championship points in five of six FedEx Championship Series starts to date and has finished fifth or better in four of those. The run includes a season-best result of third at Milwaukee as well as fifth-place efforts at Homestead, Detroit and Cleveland. Despite missing three events - a third of the season to date - with a small fracture of the left wrist sustained in an April accident at his Las Vegas home, Carpentier currently stands 10th in the championship with 47 points.
* Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske has scored championship points in seven of his nine FedEx Championship Series starts this season, and is the season's only two-time winner, with victories at Nazareth and Portland. He also owns pole positions at Homestead and Long Beach, outside poles at Portland and Cleveland, and stands third in the championship with 67 points.
* Cristiano da Matta (Pioneer/MCI WorldCom Toyota Reynard) of PPI Motorsports recorded the first podium finish of his two-year FedEx Championship Series career by finishing third at Cleveland. He has finished fifth or better in four of his last seven starts, including fourth at Rio de Janeiro and Japan and fifth at Portland. Da Matta also recorded the fastest lap speed of the two-day CART Open Test at Chicago Motor Speedway last weekend, turning a lap of 161.934 miles per hour (22.876 seconds) on the one-mile oval.
* Adrian Fernandez (Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing Ford Reynard) of Patrick Racing has scored championship points in six of his last seven starts, beginning with a victory at Rio de Janeiro.
* Mauricio Gugelmin (Nextel PacWest Mercedes) of the PacWest Racing Group qualified third at Cleveland, his best qualifying effort on a road or street course since winning the pole at Road America in 1997. He went on to finish 10th, scoring championship points for the third time in his past five starts, including a season-best runner-up effort at Nazareth.
* Michael Andretti is a five-time winner at Toronto (1989, '91, '92, '94 and '95) and has finished fifth or better in 10 of 13 career starts at the venue. He led all 103 laps en route to his back-to-back victories in 1991 and '92 and has led a total of 414 laps on the streets of Toronto. In addition to his five wins, he also owns podium finishes of second in 1990 and '98, and third in '88. He won the pole in 1991 and has qualified among the top-10 drivers for all 13 appearances at the venue.
* Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard) of Team KOOL Green is the defending Molson Indy champion, having led all 95 laps from the outside pole position and making him one of two FedEx Championship Series drivers to lead every lap of an event en route to victory last year (Bryan Herta was the other at Laguna Seca). He is a two-time pole-sitter at Toronto (1997, '98) and owns the track qualifying record of 105.694 miles per hour (58.618 seconds), established in 1997.
* Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) of Team KOOL Green owns six top-10 finishes in eight career starts at Toronto, topped by a victory from the outside pole in 1993. He also recorded a runner-up finish to Team KOOL Green teammate Dario Franchitti last year.
* Adrian Fernandez earned his first career FedEx Championship Series victory at Toronto in 1996 and has finished among the top-10 drivers in four of his past five starts at the venue, including seventh in 1995, ninth in '98 and sixth last year.
* Christian Fittipaldi (Big Kmart/Route 66 Ford Lola) of Newman/Haas Racing has scored championship points in four of five career appearances at Toronto, topped by a podium result of third, last year. The run also includes finishes of ninth in 1995, seventh in '96 and 11th in '97.
* Jimmy Vasser (Target Toyota Lola) has scored championship points in six of eight career appearances at Toronto, with a best finish of third in 1998. Other points-paying results include 12th in 1992, 11th in '93, eighth in '96, seventh in '97 and eighth last year.
* Roberto Moreno's victory at Cleveland allowed Ford to end a streak that had seen Honda-powered drivers record 16 consecutive victories on temporary street circuits, dating to the start of the 1998 FedEx Championship Series season. Ford also extended its Manufacturer's Championship lead to 158-138 over Honda.
* Honda has won the past two FedEx Championship Series events contested at Toronto's Exhibition Place, with victories from Alex Zanardi in 1998 and Dario Franchitti last year. Honda also owns a streak of four consecutive poles at the venue, from Andre Ribeiro (1996), Franchitti (1997, '98) and Gil de Ferran last year.
* Firestone has amassed a streak of 23 consecutive victories on CART temporary street courses. That includes every temporary circuit race in 1997, '98, '99 and 2000, with this year the first that Firestone faces no tire competition.
* With eight different winners in nine events, the upcoming voting for the five-driver midseason CART All-Star Team will be intriguing. The Molson Indy marks the midway point of the FedEx Championship Series season, and balloting for the midseason CART All-Star Team will begin immediately following the event. The results will be announced the weekend of the Target Grand Prix Presented by Energizer, set for July 28-30 at Chicago Motor Speedway. The midseason CART All-Star Team, which gives drivers, media and fans an indication of who is on target for the season-ending team, is voted upon by current FedEx Championship Series drivers, selected media, select celebrity voters - including Grammy Award-winning musician Lenny Kravitz - and fans. This will mark the first time fans will be able to vote for the team and they can do so on www.cart.com , the official website of the FedEx Championship Series. Last season, Juan Montoya, Michael Andretti, Dario Franchitti, Gil de Ferran and Helio Castroneves were chosen to the midseason CART All-Star Team. Of that group, Montoya, Andretti and Franchitti were later named to the inaugural 1999 CART All-Star Team, along with Max Papis and Paul Tracy. Montoya was the leading votegetter for the midseason and '99 team, the latter accomplishment earning him the Mario Andretti Trophy.
* Two-time FedEx Championship Series champion Alex Zanardi was back behind the wheel of a Champ Car last weekend as he completed two days of testing in the Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Mercedes Reynard at Sebring International Raceway. Zanardi completed 246 miles during the two-day test, which took place at the invitation of Mo Nunn Racing team co-owner Morris Nunn, who served as Zanardi's engineer during his FedEx Championship Series seasons of 1997 and '98. Zanardi stepped in for regular Mo Nunn Racing driver Tony Kanaan, who continues to recover from a broken left forearm and four cracked ribs sustained in a June 17 qualifying accident at Detroit. Bryan Herta, coming off a ninth-place finish in Cleveland, will make his third consecutive start in the Mo Nunn Racing entry at Toronto. "It was good to drive the car again, to take some of the rust out of my muscles," Zanardi said following the test. I really enjoyed it. I'm glad that we made some progress in different areas, and Morris was happy because he thought he wanted to get my feedback, and it was good. For me., I was going to come to Toronto anyway this weekend, to see some friends and to think about the possibility of, who knows, driving next year. That's not a secret. Then, Morris called and said 'We've got a two-day test at Sebring.' Since Tony couldn't drive, and they had this test available, they said they'd rather have Alex in the car than anybody else. In three years, Morris and I had gotten to know each other so very well ... We speak a language that is basically identical, and it's allowed us to get some good results. After I've been out of everything for basically eight months, to come back for me was particularly exciting. From my point of view, it was certainly a lot of fun to do it." Added Nunn: "As Alex said, he came over here as a favor to help us confirm data that we've been gathering so far this season so we could evaluate where we are. He helped us a lot in two solid days of testing, and we accomplished our goals satisfactorily. It was great to have his feedback. We always worked well together and that seems to still be the case. It was nice to see him and spend time with him, as always."
* On Friday, July 14, the Discovery Channel will air a piece during its "Discovery News" broadcast focusing on the concepts of race-car technology being applied to consumer cars to make them more fuel-efficient. Check your local listings for broadcast times in your area.
* Qualifying for the Molson Indy will air 6:30 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN2. "CART 2Day" airs 11 a.m. ET Sunday on ESPN2, with ESPN's one-hour tape-delayed race broadcast scheduled to begin 3 p.m. ET Sunday. The race will also air live on the CART Radio Network and on CART's official website at www.cart.com .