CHAMPCAR/CART: Cleveland preview

MARLBORO RACING NEWS -- THE OFFICIAL INDYCAR NEWS SERVICE ========================================================= PREVIEW OF THE BUDWEISER GRAND PRIX OF CLEVELAND ------------------------------------------------ RACE FACTS: THE ...

MARLBORO RACING NEWS -- THE OFFICIAL INDYCAR NEWS SERVICE =========================================================

PREVIEW OF THE BUDWEISER GRAND PRIX OF CLEVELAND ------------------------------------------------

RACE FACTS:

THE BUDWEISER GRAND PRIX OF CLEVELAND PRESENTED BY DAIRY MART is event number eight of the 16-race 1994 PPG Indy Car World Series. This 85-lap event covers 201.37 miles on this 2.369-mile, 10-turn temporary circuit.

THE TRACK is laid out on the runways and taxiways of Burke Lakefront Airport, an active FAA-controlled facility when it's not hosting the PPG Cup Series. The track, which sits on the shores of Lake Erie, is the fastest temporary circuit on the schedule.

TRACK RECORDS: Qualifying (one lap/2.369 miles) -- Paul Tracy; July 10, 1993; 59.168 sec.; 144.139 mph. Race (85 laps/201.37 miles) -- Emerson Fittipaldi; July 9, 1992; 1 hr., 30 min., 38.527 sec.; 133.292 mph.

DEFENDING CHAMPION is Paul Tracy, who scored one of his five 1993 wins and one of two poles here last year. Tracy hopes to repeat the feat in order to win the IMG Quick Million. To win the Quick Million, a driver must win at Detroit, win at Cleveland, score a pole at either event, and set a new race record time at one of the races.

RACE TIME is 1:30 p.m. EDT, Sunday, July 10. Broadcast airs live (1:30-3:30 p.m.) on ABC Sports and the Kmart IndyCar Radio Network.

BLOOMFIELD HILLS, Mich. (June 28, 1994) -- After seven rounds of this year's PPG Indy Car World Series, the championship battle is focused on Marlboro Team Penske drivers Al Unser Jr. and Emerson Fittipaldi. Going into this year's Budweiser Grand Prix of Cleveland, Unser leads teammate Fittipaldi by 19 points in the race to the PPG Cup title. Unser has four wins and one second-place finish to his credit, while Fittipaldi has one win and four runner-up results. Unser also has two pole positions and has led the most laps in four races for six bonus points. Fittipaldi has led most laps in two races, but has yet to take a pole this year.

Last year's Budweiser Grand Prix of Cleveland was won by Paul Tracy who is currently ranked sixth in points. Tracy has one win to his credit this year, setting a new course record in Detroit. The young Canadian also finished third behind his teammates in Milwaukee and Portland and has been on the podium in the last three races.

"The team is doing a fantastic job, and we're all looking forward to racing again in Cleveland," said Tracy. "I believe that this year's car is even better than last year's, and the results we've been fortunate enough to earn so far this year prove it. The car is fast and predictable, and I think we're going to be competitive at every racetrack.

"I had a good race at Cleveland last year, and can only hope to equal that result this time around. But the name of the game is to bring the car home in as many races as possible. That's the most important thing. First you've got to do that. Then you can think about winning. There are no team orders with Marlboro Team Penske, and that means that if anyone has a chance to win when it counts at the end of the race, we'll go for it."

Unser Jr. hasn't won in Cleveland since 1985, but based on recent results he will be the man to beat this year. He's led more laps -- 417 of 931 run so far this year -- than anyone else and is the only driver to have won more than once at this point in the season.

"Yes it's true. Things are going very well," agreed Unser. "We have a tremendous team effort going with Marlboro Team Penske, and it's showing in the results. We've got a great car thanks to Nigel Bennett and the design and engineering staff at Penske Cars in England. We've got a great team here in the USA with guys like team manager Chuck Sprague and my chief mechanic Richard Buck. We've also got a great group of engineers on the race team, inlcuding my engineer Terry Satchell."

Can Unser and the team keep the ball rolling in Cleveland? "We'll be trying our hardest, I can tell you that," said 32-year old Al Jr. "Cleveland is a tough track. It's fast and bumpy and you've got to get everything right to be competitive there. We've got a great car and competitive horsepower so we should be able to run with anyone.

"This PPG Cup championship is a tough series, and you can't ever count anyone out. Nigel Mansell is a tremendous competitor, and the Ford engine has very good horsepower, so you know he'll be tough to beat there. He hasn't won a race this year, so he's hungry to win. Then you've got guys like Robby Gordon who's running really strong at every racetrack."

Gordon is currently third in points behind Unser and Fittipaldi. Driving Walker Racing's Valvoline-Cummins Lola Ford, the 25-year old Californian has been on the podium two times this year. At Portland last week, Gordon beat Mansell into fourth place with a daring move coming off the last turn. This is Gordon's third year in Indy cars and he's closing in on winning his first PPG Cup race.

"The Valvoline-Cummins team is doing a great job and I'm feeling good about our chances in Cleveland," said Gordon. "I like the track in Cleveland and it might be that the bumps will help even things out a little with the Penskes. They've got a great car and a heck of a team, but we're doing all we can to race with them. It's great to be so well up in the points at this time of year, and we're just going to keep working at it, dogging them, keeping them honest. With a little bit of luck we can win a race or two this year."

Defending PPG Cup champion Mansell led the opening laps of last year's Budweiser Grand Prix of Cleveland and finished third after a furious late-race battle with Fittipaldi. Mansell is also hoping for some good luck in Cleveland.

"Emerson and I had a great race last year," said Mansell. "That was a really enjoyable battle, passing back and forth, both of us running as hard as we could, but fair and totally professional. Those are the kind of races you remember.

"Of course, it's going to be tough to beat the Penskes this year. They've got a great car and team and three of the best drivers in the business all working together very professionally. We'll be giving it our best shot, as always, but it's going to be tough to beat those guys. They've really got their act together."

-End-

-- David S. Reininger * Herndon, Virginia USA * "I never take chances." reininge@cap.gwu.edu * -Wilbur Shaw chasin' races *

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