Indianapolis -- Target Chip Ganassi Racing, last year's Indy 500 champions and four-time CART FedEx Series champions, announced today that NASCAR Winston Cup star Tony Stewart and 1996 CART champion Jimmy Vasser will attempt to win Team ...
Indianapolis -- Target Chip Ganassi Racing, last year's Indy 500 champions and four-time CART FedEx Series champions, announced today that NASCAR Winston Cup star Tony Stewart and 1996 CART champion Jimmy Vasser will attempt to win Team Target's second consecutive title at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 27.
"Tony and Jimmy are talented drivers who know their way around the Brickyard, and I'm confident they give Team Target a great chance to win back to back Indy 500 titles," said Target Racing owner Chip Ganassi, whose team returned to Indianapolis last year for the first time since 1995, claiming the checkered flag with former Team Target driver Juan Montoya. "Bruno (Junqueira) and Nicolas (Minassian) are great drivers and they'll get their chance to race at Indy, but they've lost some valuable experience - especially on ovals - with this year's two cancelled CART races (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Fort Worth, Texas).
"They've shown they can compete in the FedEx Series, and I know they'll challenge for our team's fifth CART championship. Winning the Indy 500 is also a goal this year, and I believe Tony and Jimmy give us the best shot at doing that."
Stewart, who won Saturday's Pontiac Excitement 400, claimed the pole position and top rookie award at the 1996 Indy 500. This year's event will mark the fifth Indy 500 for the 29-year-old, who races in NASCAR for the No. 20 Home Depot Pontiac for Joe Gibbs Racing.
"I knew that if I was going to race at Indy again that it would be with a talented team that would give me a great opportunity to win," said Stewart, who will also compete in NASCAR's Coca-Cola 600 on May 27.
"Driving in the Indy 500 for a top-notch organization like Target Racing is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I'm very appreciative of Home Depot and Joe Gibbs for giving me this chance. I grew up in Indianapolis, so winning this race was obviously one of my dreams. Team Target dominated here last year, and I'm planning to start up where they left off in 2000." Vasser, who drives in the CART series for Patrick Racing, led five laps during last year's Indy 500 and finished seventh. The 35-year-old is eager for his sixth Indy 500 and to partner with the team with which he raced from 1995-2000 and earned the 1996 CART FedEx Series championship.
"Returning to the Indy 500 last year was one of the highlights of my career, so it will feel great to drive for Team Target again and try to give them two in a row," said Vasser, who finished fourth at Indianapolis in 1994. "I've had some nice wins throughout my career, but winning at Indy has always been a goal, and I'm thrilled Chip, Target and Patrick Racing are giving me another chance to compete here."
According to Team Target managing director Mike Hull, fielding cars for Stewart and Vasser in the Indy 500 gives the team a good chance to achieve its top goals for 2001.
"We had two main objectives entering the season -- to win another CART championship and to win a second Indy 500," Hull said. "We found out last year how difficult it is to achieve both goals. In the 2001 CART series, we have two rookie drivers who have the talent to challenge for a FedEx Series title. Putting Jimmy and Tony in the Target cars for Indy gives Bruno and Nicolas more time to focus on learning the CART circuit, improving with each race and aiming for the team's fifth Champ Car title. And Jimmy and Tony are both very capable of winning at Indy."
Stewart will work with Team Target engineer Bill Pappas and drive the No. 33 G-Force/ Oldsmobile Aurora at the Indy 500. Vasser will drive the No. 44 Target car and reunite with engineer Julian Robertson, with whom he partnered from 1995-2000.