IRL: Chicagoland: Toyota Motorsports preview

ONE TITLE IN HAND, ONE TO GO After officially clinching the IRL IndyCar Series Engine Manufacturer's Championship at the last race in Nazareth, Toyota is now focused on powering a driver to the 2003 IndyCar Series championship. With three races...

ONE TITLE IN HAND, ONE TO GO

After officially clinching the IRL IndyCar Series Engine Manufacturer's Championship at the last race in Nazareth, Toyota is now focused on powering a driver to the 2003 IndyCar Series championship. With three races remaining including Chicago, Toyota-powered drivers occupy three of the top four places in the points race.

Marlboro Team Penske teammates Helio Castroneves and Gil de Ferran are first and second, while Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon is fourth. Castroneves currently holds a 25- point lead over de Ferran, a 32-point lead over third-place Tony Kanaan, and a 42-point lead over Dixon.

NO TALK OF SLUMPS ANYMORE

As the dog days of summer started to set in, talk of a "slump" was becoming common-place among journalists when discussing two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves. While the "Spiderman" had gone 20 races without a win-inspired "fence climb," many overlooked his seven runner-up finishes and 13 top- five finishes in those 20 events. Following wins at Gateway and Nazareth (as well as six top- fives in the last seven races), he has moved into the largest lead in the championship race seen in some time. For the season, Castroneves' consistency has been unmatched with eight top-three finishes among 10 top-10 finishes in 13 races.

A TALE OF TWO SEASONS

If it is possible to lead a series in wins, poles and laps led and still be star-crossed, then Scott Dixon is your man. The 23-year-old has been the dominant driver in the IndyCar Series this year, yet he still sits fourth in points. Dixon has three victories, five pole positions (just one shy of the IndyCar Series single-season record) and has led 677 laps almost 300 more than the next highest driver, Helio Castroneves. However, finishing results have proven to be feast or famine for the third-year Toyota driver. He has finished 13th or lower on five occasions to match his five top-two finishes, four of which he was leading when sidelined. It is not a stretch to suggest that he could easily have seven or eight wins this season.

TOYOTA SEEKS 11th WIN OF THE SEASON AT CHICAGO

After 10 wins in the first 13 events of the 2003 campaign, Toyota will be looking for its 11th win of the season at this weekend's Delphi Indy 300 at Chicagoland Speedway. The 10 victories this season match Toyota's 10 wins in 2002 en route to the CART Manufacturer's Championship. A victory this weekend would establish a new single-season high for Toyota in open-wheel racing. Overall, the manufacturer has won 20 of the 32 open-wheel races it has run over the past two seasons.

GIAFFONE RETURNS

Felipe Giaffone is scheduled to return to the Mo Nunn Racing Hollywood Toyota seat this weekend at Chicago. The Brazilian was injured earlier this season at Kansas. He will reclaim his piloting duties from Alex Barron, who served as a substitute for Giaffone beginning at Nashville in July. Giaffone was solidly in the top 10 before being injured. He registered a pair of third-place finishes, at Phoenix and Motegi, earlier this season.

"QUOTES"

Jim Aust, Toyota vice president of Motorsports:

"Toyota established five goals for our first season in the IndyCar Series, and we've now accomplished four of the five: winning our first race, winning at Motegi, winning the Indianapolis 500, and winning the Manufacturer's Championship. We've had a little time to celebrate our Manufacturer's Championship and now it's time to get back to work toward helping a Toyota-powered driver win the 2003 Driver's Championship."

Toyota IndyCar Series Driver Line-Up and Position Entering Chicago

Car Driver Car (Chassis) Season Points Standing (Victories)
No. 3 Helio Castronves Marlboro Toyota (Dallara) 1st (2 Gateway, Nazareth)
No. 6 Gil de Ferran Marlboro Toyota (Dallara) 2nd (2 Indianapolis 500, Nashville)
No. 9 Scott Dixon Target Toyota (Panoz/G-Force) 4th (3 Miami, Pikes Peak, Richmond)
No. 31 Al Unser, Jr. Corteco Toyota (Dallara) 6th (1 Texas)
No. 8 Scott Sharp Delphi Toyota (Dallara) 8th (1 Motegi)
No. 10 Tomas Scheckter Target Toyota (Panoz/G-Force) 9th
No. 12 Tora Takagi Pioneer Toyota (Dallara) 10th
No. 14 A.J. Foyt IV Conseco Toyota (Dallara) 19th
No. 21 Felipe Giaffone Hollywood Toyota (Panoz/G-Force) 21st

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Felipe Giaffone , Scott Sharp , Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , A.J. Foyt IV , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Tora Takagi , Al Unser Sr. , Chip Ganassi , Mo Nunn
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing