Editorial

And the 2001 CART Champion will be......

 by Mark Cipolloni
March 5, 2001

Go to our forums to discuss this article

It is so hard to pick who the champion will be this year, you might be better off picking a name from a hat.  The numerous changes that were made this off-season in CART has made our job nearly impossible.  How do you top last years championship battle that ended in a points battle with five drivers in contention for the crown going into the final race.  To say CART is competitive is an understatement.

Each year since it’s inception the CART series has become more competitive than the previous one. Now in its 23rd year, CART has become perhaps the most difficult driving championship to win. With its mix of road, street and oval circuits, this grueling 20-race series demands more raw driver versatility than any other. A stable rules package, well financed teams, the right mixture of technology, and some 20 drivers capable of winning, means the CART FedEx championship is once again up for grabs.

To win the CART championship, it isn’t good enough to be fast on only certain types of circuits. The champion must be versatile enough to score well on all three types – ovals, streets and road courses. On ovals the driver must know how to work traffic, work the draft (Handford Device), brave the high speeds, and know how to setup the car to remain neutral as the track changes. On street circuits the driver must contend with bumps, walls all around creating a tunnel-like effect, heavy braking and acceleration, lots of gear changes, avoiding contact with other cars, occasional rain, limited opportunities to pass, and no place to relax. On natural terrain road courses the driver must contend with elevation changes, a wide variety of fast and slow turns – some off-camber, heavy braking, acceleration and shifting, and occasional rain.

While predicting a champion is as scientific as forecasting next weeks weather, we once again polish the dust off our crystal ball to predict this years champion. The start of the 2001 season is just a few short days away. In 7-1/2 months and 21 races later, we will know who prevailed as the new CART Champion. Sit back and enjoy what should be the most competitive and entertaining CART season in history (we said that the last two years as well).

Rank Driver Package Odds
1

Helio Castro-Neves
Brazil
Age - 25


Marlboro Team Penske  #3
3:2
Comments: Helio broke into the winners column in 2000 with 3 wins.  If he can step it up one notch, and lady luck stays on his side, he will be CART Champ in 2001, but will Indy distract from  their effort?
Strength:
Fast on ovals and road courses.  Was quickest just about everywhere during the off-season.
Weakness: Possibly a bit emotional.  Will the pressure of a title chase get to him?
2 Tie

Dario Franchitti
Scotland
Age - 27


Team KOOL Green  #27
2:1
Comments: Dario and Team Kool Green are ready for a championship.  But we said that last year and just about everything went wrong.
Strength:
Road & Street Courses
Weakness: Ovals, but he has oval-meister Andretti to help with setups
2 Tie

Gil de Ferran
Brazil
Age - 34

 
Marlboro Team Penske  #1
2:1
Comments: The defending champion has the package to do it again in 2001, but the competition will be even tougher.
Strength:
Cool under pressure
Weakness: Will off-season crashes make him a little gun-shy?
4

Michael Andretti
USA
Age - 38

 
Team Motorola  #39
3:1
Comments: Still the fastest driver on the ovals, he now has 'The Package' and a strong team behind him
Strength:
Always goes 10/10ths
Weakness: Will he be able to get along with teammate Tracy for an entire season?
5 Tie

Paul Tracy
Canada
Age 32


Team KOOL Green  #26
4:1
Comments: Still mighty quick, and he matured a lot last season.  Can he keep his brain in gear through the long grueling 20-race series to be champion?
Strength:
Like his new teammate, Andretti, always goes 10/10ths
Weakness: His brain fades are becoming less frequent.  Can he gel with Andretti?
5 Tie

Kenny Brack
Sweden
Age - 35

 
Team Rahal  #8
4:1
Comments: Kenny opened a lot of eyes in 2000 Rookie season.  He adapted to the new circuit quickly and was able to outshine his more experienced teammate.
Strength:
He showed speed on every type of circuit in 2000
Weakness: Will the team come to grips with their Lola chassis fast enough?
7 Tie

Bruno Junqueira
Brazil
Age - ??


Target / Chip Ganassi Racing  #4
5:1
Comments: Can he follow in the footsteps of fellow F3000 Champion Juan Montoya and set the world on fire?
Strength:
Road Courses
Weakness: He has yet to prove himself on ovals in race conditions.  Does not know all the circuits yet.
7 Tie

Cristiano da Matta
Brazil
Age - 24


Newman Haas Racing  #6
5:1
Comments: Cristiano shows he had the speed, winning in Chicago in 2000.  Now he has the more experienced Newman Haas team behind him.  
Strength:
Fast
Weakness: Will he and the team gel immediately?
8

Christian Fittipaldi
Brazil
Age - 30


Newman/Haas Racing #11
6:1
Comments: Brilliant in the wet and good on road courses, can he match the speed of his younger teammate?
Strength:
Road & Street courses, especially in the wet.  He's now 100% healthy.
Weakness: Recently married, will the fire still burn in his belly?
9

Adrian Fernandez
Mexico
Age - 35


Fernandez Racing  #
51
8:1
Comments: He now owns his own team along with ex-Ganassi Team Manager Tom Anderson, who will manage the operations.
Strength:
Fast/large ovals.  Was in contention for the title right to the end in 2000.
Weakness: New team.  Missed a lot of off-season testing.
10 Tie

Nicolas Minassian
France
Age - 30


Target / Chip Ganassi Racing  #12
10:1
Comments: He battled Junqueira right down to the wire for the 2000 F3000 crown.  Now they are teammates.  Will they push each other to the front in 2001?  We hear he's sly as a Fox and another Jean Alesi.  Watch out for this guy.
Strength:
His team & his desire
Weakness: Does not know all the circuits.  Not quite as quick as his teammate in off-season testing.
10 Tie

Alex Zanardi
Italy
Age - 35


Mo Nunn Racing  #66
10:1
Comments: He left CART two years ago as king of the hill.  There's no doubt he's still fast, but is he as fast as when he left?
Strength:
He's back with Mo Nunn and the familiar Reynard/Honda package
Weakness: Team is still relatively new, but can he regain his old form?  A win early will boost his morale.
10 Tie

Jimmy Vasser
USA
Age - 35


Patrick Racing  #40
10:1
Comments: Jimmy bounced back with a win in 2000 at Houston.  Let go by Ganassi, we think he has a score to settle.
Strength:
Experience.  Should gel well with Moreno, and he has experience with the Toyota engine
Weakness: New to Patrick Racing, plus his car still lacks a major sponsor.
10 Tie

Roberto Moreno
Brazil
Age - 41


Patrick Racing  #20
15:1
Comments: Roberto proved last year that he is fast, getting his first win in Cleveland.  But at 41 years old, can he stay fast forever?  He surprised us last year, and may do so again in 2001.
Strength:
Experience
Weakness: Age
14 Tie

Alexandre Tagliani
Canada
Age -28


Players Forsythe  #33
20:1
Comments: He's fast, but can he avoid the mistakes that cost him in 2001?.
Strength:
He's fast and he now has Tony Cicale to calm him down
Weakness: Can the team gain the consistency they need to run for the championship? 
14 Tie

Tony Kanaan
Brazil
Age - 26


Mo Nunn Racing  #55
20:1
Comments: Last year he was set back by an injury in Detroit.  
Strength:
Mo Nunn and now he has a Honda engine instead of the Mercedes
Weakness: Team still has yet to prove they can win, and expanding to a 2-car team may prove hard at first
16 Tie

Max Papis
Italy
Age - 31


Team Rahal  #7
25:1
Comments: Papis got his first win in Miami last year, but after that everything went wrong
Strength:
Exuberance
Weakness: Can he come to grips with the Lola chassis and emerge from the shadow of his teammate?
16 Tie

Tora Takagi
Japan
Age - 27


Walker Racing  #
5
25:1
Comments: A real unknown, we think Tora might be the big surprise in 2000.  Fast in pre-season testing on the road courses.
Strength:
Road Courses.  Nakano and Tora will push each other for top Japan honors in the Honda vs. Toyota battle.
Weakness: Ovals in race conditions, and Walker Team has not exactly been on fire in recent years
18 Tie

Shinji Nakano
Japan
Age - 30


Fernandez Racing  #
52
30:1
Comments: So far in off-season testing, Shinji seems to have stepped up his game for 2001.  He now has one year under his belt in CART and may be another surprise in 2001
Strength:
Road courses
Weakness: Short ovals and team is still brand new
18 Tie

Patrick Carpentier
Canada
Age - 29


Players Forsythe  #32
30:1
Comments: Has proven fast on ovals, but can he win consistently on road courses and beat his quick teammate
Strength:
Ovals
Weakness: Road courses.  Inconsistency
20

Scott Dixon
New Zealand
Age - 20
Rookie


PacWest Racing Group #18
40:1
Comments: This is one fast Rookie.  His test times in the off-season proved he belongs in Champ Cars
Strength:
Cool customer.  Fast.
Weakness: Has team found their way back?
21 Tie

Mauricio Gugelmin
Brazil
Age - 38

 
PacWest Racing Group #17
50:1
Comments: Some say Big Mo may decide to hang it up after 2001.  Will this be his last hurrah?
Strength:
Still a Good qualifier
Weakness: Has team found their way back?  May be overshadowed by fast rookie
21 Tie

Oriol Servia
Spain
Age - 26


Sigma Motorsports  #22
50:1
Comments: Servia was plenty quick in 2001 and we have a funny suspicion this team is going to turn some heads.
Strength:
Fast and aggressive
Weakness: New team.  Full sponsorship may not be in place
23 Tie

Bryan Herta
USA
Age - 30


Zakspeed Forsythe Racing  #77
100:1
Comments: Bryan sat out most of 2000, but when he ran he was quick. 
Strength:
Experience and the synergy with the Zakspeed Forsythe Team
Weakness: Team has yet to announce a sponsor and his teammate, Tiemann, may not run due to lack of money.
23 Tie

Michel Jourdain Jr.
Mexico
Age - 24


Herdez/ Bettenhausen Motorsports  #16
100:1
Comments: Jourdain has the best equipment and engineer behind him he has ever had.  We expect a number of top ten finishes this year.  Showed signs of potential last year
Strength:
Hard charger, now has powerful Ford engine behind him.
Weakness: Desperately needs a teammate to share setup data
25 Tie

Max Wilson
Spain
Age - 27


Arciero Brooke Racing  #25
100:1
Comments: Max has been relatively fast in off-season testing considering he has the Phoenix powerplant.
Strength:
Out to prove he can get the job done.  Quick.
Weakness: Experience, Phoenix engine, new team
25 Tie

Michael Krumm
Germany
Age - 30


Coyne Racing/Team PRG  #19
100:1
Comments: Michael Krumm is a big unknown in the CART community.  With essentially no off-season testing, he has a big learning curve ahead of him.
Strength: Has proven fast in F3000
Weakness:
Experience, Coyne/PRG alliance just formed.
27

Luiz Garcia Jr.
Spain
Age - 29


Coyne Racing/ Team PRG  #21
100:1
Comments: A dismal 2000 season, usually well off the pace, perhaps with Coyne machinery and the Ford engine, Luiz can show he has the right stuff
Strength:
Now has a Ford engine behind him
Weakness: Coyne/PRG alliance just formed
28

Marcel Tiemann
USA
Age - 26


Zakspeed Forsythe Racing  #78
200:1
Comments: As we go to press, it was doubtful this sponsorship will be there for Tiemann to run a full season
Strength:
Road courses
Weakness: Ovals and lack of sponsorship
29

All the Rest

Various >200:1
Better luck next year

The author can be contacted at markc@autoracing1.com

Go to our forums to discuss this article

Author

Others by Mark

And the 2001 CART Champion will be....

The HANS Device saved my fathers life

Soft walls or soft cars?

Safety- It's going to take more than just magic to fix

CART vs. IRL, Hatfields vs. McCoys

DRIVEN is CART's best chance to become mainstream

Is CART's problem really a lack of American's?

CART vs. NASCAR - TV Coverage

Perhaps CART need look no further than NASCAR to understand that the Bubbas' rule auto racing

Book review - Autocourse 2000/2001

Do heroes make a sport, or does a sport make heroes?

To-Do-List, for CART's new President

 Lawsuits, Will Greg Moore's final legacy to racing be more than one of "spirit"? 

Tire Warmers, an idea whose time has come

Branding CART and their race cars

Will CART's next leader be a corporate visionary?

Addressing CART's TV issues

CART, do you know who you are?

Will CART miss this boat too, - Destined to forever race in the shadows of NASCAR?

Lights to IRL Specs - Why the new Indy Lights cars should meet IRL specs

Soft Walls - drivers take a stand while you still can

Sigma team - ready to do combat in CART

CART Fan Forum - Highlights from CART's very first Fan Forum

Warren Hughes - A name to remember

CART restarts - NASCAR Style

Mario Andretti Tribute - America's Driver of the Century

Shift w/o Lift - How it works

Aerodynamics - CART's chance to make progressive changes

CART's HP dilemma

Soft Walls - Finally, a safer wall system

Buddy Rice deserves a shot at Champ Cars

Choices, Choices, we rate possible new CART venues

CART must avoid Detroit's politics

10 ways for CART to invest $100 million

Montoya and Ganassi do CART proud at Indy

Welcome to AutoRacing1.com

A year of progress shapes Rockingham

A solution for CART's franchise dilemma

Lausitzring nears completion, fighting hard to win CART date

Paul Tracy keeps his Kool, wins LBGP for 2nd time

What is an American driver?

Warming up at Nazareth

172 mph in a Champ Car is the ultimate adrenaline rush

Standing Start Rules proposed standing start rules for CART

Standing Starts are they right for CART

Visit the Nascartop50

Our ranking out of 750 NASCAR websites since joining on 7/3/00

Convert this page to
another language

e-mail us:
contacts@autoracing1.com

Back to the top

AutoRacing1 is an independent internet online publication and is not affiliated with, sponsored by, or endorsed by CART Inc., NASCAR, FIA,  FedEx, Winston, or any other series sponsor. This material may not be published, broadcast, or redistributed without permission.
User agreement & disclaimer

Copyright 1999 - 2001, AutoRacing1, Inc., Hamilton, NJ