Indianapolis -- Target Chip Ganassi Racing, 2000 Indy 500 champions and four-time CART FedEx Series champions, today announced it will return to Indianapolis in May to defend its title. Team Target rookies Bruno Junqueira and Nicolas Minassian are eager for the opportunity to duplicate former team driver Juan Montoya's impressive accomplishment -- taking the checkered flag in his first-ever race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
"Last year, Team Target found out how much time and effort it takes to field a competitive team at the Indy 500, but we also found out what a great feeling it is when that hard work pays off with a win," said team owner Chip Ganassi. "We look forward to giving Bruno, Nicolas, our sponsors and the entire team the chance to experience one of America's greatest sporting events. We realize that it's difficult to come in here with rookies and win the race, but it can be done, and, like every other team, our goal is to win the race."
In 2000, Target Chip Ganassi Racing returned to the Indianapolis 500 for the first time in five years, fielding cars for former CART FedEx Series champions Jimmy Vasser and Juan Montoya. Both drivers led portions of the race, and Montoya claimed the checkered flag, setting an Indy 500 rookie record by leading 167 of the 200 laps.
Junqueira, last year's European Formula 3000 champion, is confident Team Target can pick up in Indianapolis where it left off in 2000. "This team is very good at setting goals and working hard to make the goals come true," said Junqueira, a Brazilian, who earned four victories en route to his 2000 title. "Since I was about seven years old, winning the Indy 500 has been a goal for me. Now that Team Target has given me this opportunity, I will make the most of it. There's a lot of great competition and experienced teams at Indy, but I wouldn't trade teams even if I could. It will be a great race and a highlight of my career no matter how we do."
Junqueira's rookie teammate, Nicolas Minassian, is equally excited about the chance to participate in the "greatest spectacle in racing." "When I came to Team Target, in the back of my mind I was very happy about the possibility of racing at Indy, but I didn't allow myself to get too excited in case the team didn't return," said Minassian, runner-up to Junqueira in the 2000 F3000 Series. "Now that we are definitely returning to Indy, I can say what I really feel. It is an honor for me to represent Team Target and France in this great event. This race has a lot of tradition, and I hope to help build another tradition here with a second championship for Target Chip Ganassi Racing."
According to Mike Hull, the team's managing director, last year's Indy 500 experience will make Team Target even more competitive at the May 27 race.
"We learned a lot while testing, qualifying and racing at Indy in 2000, and we'll certainly put that knowledge to use this year," Hull said. "Bruno and Nicolas will drive the same package Juan and Jimmy used, a G-Force chassis and the Oldsmobile Aurora engine, so we'll have some continuity there. Steve Gough will serve as our Indy 500 project manager, Barry Wanser will be Bruno's chief mechanic and Simon Hodson will be Nicolas' chief mechanic. We plan to test at Indy in March and April, and both drivers will participate in the Rookie Orientation program to prepare for the official practice."
In addition to last year's Indy 500 championship, Target Chip Ganassi Racing has claimed four CART FedEx Series titles with drivers Vasser (1996), Alex Zanardi (1997 and 1998) and Montoya (2000). Minassian and Junqueira make their FedEx Series debut on March 11 at the Monterrey Grand Prix in Monterrey, Mexico.
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