CHAMPCAR/CART: Denver: Jimmy Vasser preview

Gulfstream Pilot Jimmy Vasser To Tie Al Unser Jr's Champ Car Iron Man Mark with 192nd Consecutive Start in Denver Grand Prix INDIANAPOLIS (August 10, 2004) -- When the bell rings to start Round 9 of the Champ Car World Series in this weekend's...

Gulfstream Pilot Jimmy Vasser To Tie Al Unser Jr's Champ Car Iron Man Mark with 192nd Consecutive Start in Denver Grand Prix

INDIANAPOLIS (August 10, 2004) -- When the bell rings to start Round 9 of the Champ Car World Series in this weekend's Centrix Financial Grand Prix of Denver, it will mark 1996 Champ Car World Series Champion Jimmy Vasser's (#12 Gulfstream Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) 192nd consecutive start in the series that boasts the most diverse championship in all of motorsport. History in the form of fellow series champion Al Unser Jr. will await the durable Vasser, as he is scheduled to pull alongside Unser for the series' all-time iron man mark.

In Cal Ripken Jr.-like fashion, Vasser has strung together a mind-boggling streak of 191 straight races over a spectacular 13-year Champ Car career. He would break the iron man record at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, Quebec Canada August 29th with consecutive start 193, and his current streak dates back to his 22nd career start at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca (1993), with his first Champ Car start coming in Surfers Paradise, Australia in 1992.

"It's not an accomplishment of tremendous skill -- it's just longevity," said Vasser, who stands seventh in the championship with 127 points. "Maybe I'm humble, but I think it's cool. It's an awful lot of races consecutively, but it doesn't feel like that. I still get antsy with anticipation the same way I always did. What it really says is that, knock on wood, I haven't had an injury along the way. Other guys could have had streaks, but they have had injuries. And [Paul] Tracy got disciplined and missed a race to end his streak."

Recently retired Unser Jr., who coincidentally won Champ Car's first two forays into Denver from 1990-91, made his run of consecutive green flags beginning in Atlanta in 1983, and ending with the 1995 Indianapolis 500.

The Canoga Park, Calif. native will also be making his 213th start behind the wheel of a 750hp thoroughbred Champ Car-- which stacks up fifth overall in series' history [Modern Era, 1979 -- Present], second only to fellow champion Paul Tracy (219) among active drivers.

In two previous trips to the Mile High City, Vasser finished 10th in 2002 after starting 11th, and ended up 11th after gridding 13th in last year's 106-lap dash around the Pepsi Center street course.

Vasser's much-touted racing resume includes a $3,071,500 (US) championship run in 1996, Series Runner-Up honors in 1998 and winning the fastest race in Champ Car history in 2002 at California Speedway (197.995 mph). In addition to capturing 10 wins, eight pole positions and 31 podiums, the Las Vegas resident is one of just seven drivers to earn more than $11 million in a Champ Car career. Now in his 13th season, Vasser ranks in the top-20 in almost every statistical category, while having helped mold the careers of former teammates and Champ Car titlists Alex Zanardi (1997-'98) and Juan Pablo Montoya (1999) along the way.

PKV Racing's Champ Car Rookie-of-the-Year contender Roberto Gonzalez (#21 Nextel Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) stands third in the battle of the first-year pilots with 78 championship markers. The 28-year-old Mexican driver is third overall in the championship in laps completed with 790 out of a possible 811 orbits, and is focused on steering his Nextel-sponsored PKV Lola up the grid for this weekend's 90-lap Denver street fight.

"I'm looking forward to getting Road America behind us," said Gonzalez. "I'm confident that we'll have a better car for Denver due to the fact that we found something in our shock program over the past few races. From what I understand, balance and setup are really key here in getting the power down on this street circuit. They have made some changes to the track which will hopefully make for better passing opportunities. Several of our Nextel executives will be in town for the race, so hopefully the time I'm spending at the shop this week working with my engineers will translate into positive results. We've been pretty consistent over the past few races, but we need to really focus on qualifying better. I believe we can get a top-10 result and we'll go after it this weekend.

"I'd also like to congratulate Jimmy Vasser on his record-tying start in Denver. I have all the respect in the world for him, and it's an honor to have him as a teammate. Achieving this great milestone in his career is just another incentive to get a good finish for the team and all our guys."

Watch Vasser and Gonzalez this Sunday, August 15th on Spike TV (4:00 pm ET/PT) or HDNet (2:30 pm ET, Live) as they compete on the recently expanded 1.657-mile temporary street circuit in downtown Denver, Colo. in Round 9 of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered By Ford.

About PKV Racing

Founded in January 2003, Indianapolis-based PKV Racing fields a two-car effort in the Champ Car World Series for American open wheel star Jimmy Vasser (#12 Gulfstream Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Mexican rookie Roberto Gonzalez (#21 Nextel Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone). The second-year team is owned by successful venture capitalists Kevin Kalkhoven and Dan Pettit, along with 1996 Series Champion Vasser, and is managed by veteran Champ Car team manager Russell Cameron.

For more information please visit www.pkvracing.com, www.nextel.com.mx or www.gulfstream.com.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya