Mar. 20, 1999
HOMESTEAD, Fla. (AP) _ The CART FedEx Championship Series will have a pit stop contest this season, beginning with Sunday's Marlboro Grand Prix of Miami.
The Craftsman Pit Crew Challenge will use CART's Omega Timing & Scoring to compile cumulative time on pit stops, from each car's entry onto pit road until its exit. Scoring will be identical to the point system used to determine the PPG Cup champion, with the top 12 finishers in each race earning points.
The point totals will accumulate for the first 19 races, with the top four teams then competing in a head-to-head series during the weekend of the season-finale at Fontana, Calif., for a $50,000 first prize.
``Good pit stops have become more and more crucial,'' team owner and former driver Bobby Rahal said. ``A season-long competition like this recognizes the value of our crews and the work they do. This gives them even more incentive to save that fraction of a second that can be the difference between winning and losing.''
TV TIME: A commercial that never will be shown on American television was the hit of the weekend in the PacWest team compound.
The 2-minute ad for Hollywood cigarettes, made for Brazilian TV, features a PacWest Reynard being air-dropped from a cargo plane, then driving relentlessly across the Mojave Desert and an Alaskan glacier before finally landing on an American aircraft carrier at sea.
The car was driven by former Champ Car driver Dominick Dobson, who still works with the team in an advisory capacity.
It took 32 days to make the commercial, which was filmed on location. The carrier was leased from the government and that part of the video was shot in the Gulf of Mexico near Corpus Christi, Texas.
WORKPLACE LUXURY: PacWest, the team owned by wealthy Seattle businessman Bruce McCaw, has a new home away from home for the racetracks.
Featherlite has produced the largest unit in its history for the CART team. It's a 53-foot trailer that has 960 square feet inside. At the track, three tents, made in England, are used to create 4,000 square feet of hospitality space surrounding the trailer.
Inside are two luxurious meeting rooms and two work rooms complete with printers, copiers and fax machines. The unit comes with four satellite receivers and eight 20-inch televisions with built-in VCRs.
SPECIAL GUEST: Tony George, president of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and founder of the rival Indy Racing League, showed up Saturday as a guest of NASCAR president Bill France Jr., whose International Speedway Corp. is part owner of Miami-Homestead Speedway.
``I'm trying this year to go to some of the racetracks where I've never been,'' George said. ``I'm here today, and tomorrow I'll be at Darlington (for a Winston Cup race).''
George walked the pits during CART's qualifying, chatting amiably with several people, and stuck around to watch the NASCAR sanctioned truck race on the 1 1/2-mile oval.
FATHER FIGURE: Cristiano da Matta, last year's Indy Lights champion, will make his CART debut Sunday, starting fifth in the 27-car field.
If Da Matta, a 25-year-old Brazilian, winds up a star in the Champ Car series, his father can take a lot of credit for good blood lines and for being an excellent role model.
Tony da Matta is a 15-time Brazilian Touring Car champion.
``It's funny,'' his son said. ``Everybody in my country knows my father and I am not so well known for my racing.''