>From IndyCar media relations
Jimmy Vasser Dominant In Victory At IndyCar Australia
SURFERS PARADISE, Australia (March 31) - Jimmy Vasser of Target/Chip Ganassi Racing parlayed a dominant display into his second triumph in the PPG Indy Car World Series, winning Sunday's IndyCar Australia from the pole before nearly 85,000 spectators lining the streets of Surfers Paradise.
Vasser, piloting the Target/Chip Ganassi Reynard Honda, led 60 of the 65 laps on the IndyCar Australia's 2.794-mile temporary street circuit as he became the first driver to win an IndyCar event from the pole since Andre Ribeiro at New Hampshire last August. The feat earned him a $75,000 bonus as part of the Marlboro Pole Award program.
The victory was the second in three starts for Vasser, who also won the season-opening Marlboro Grand Prix of Miami. His weekend sweep of the PPG Cup points for the pole (1), most laps led (1) and triumph (20) gave him the series lead with 47.
It marked the first road-course victory for Honda engines and Firestone tires, which gave the combination a victory sweep of the first three events in the 1996 PPG Indy Car World Series.
"That was the most beautiful race car I have ever had. It ran like clockwork all day,'' Vasser said. "I owe this win to the team. Honda put the power behind me and Firestone did a great job with tires. I'm very happy to have the best combination. It made my job easy."
Vasser also was buoyed a strong performance by the Target/Chip Ganassi pit crew, which overcame a fuel overflow problem. The difficulty did not allow Vasser's car to get a full tank in his first two pit stops and necessitated an extra pit stop. After pitting during a green on Lap 36, Vasser dove back into the pits four laps later during a caution period for his third and final stop.
"I'm not sure what happened on the first stop,'' Vasser said. "When the green came out after the pit stops, I started pulling away from Scott and I thought, 'Hey, I'm really hooked up.' I didn't know I was on half tanks."
Scott Pruett (Firestone-Patrick Racing Lola Ford) was the only driver who was able to overtake Vasser at any point during the race. He led five laps, but lost the lead on Lap 42 during a caution period. Pruett experienced radio problems and did not pit with the leaders, including Vasser. He was forced to take another lap before pitting and when he exited he had lost his track position.
Pruett was able to hang on to second place, finishing 7.748 seconds behind Vasser, for his third consecutive top-four showing this season. He is second in the PPG Cup points with 42.
"We had a great car all weekend long," Pruett said. "The Ford was giving up a little power to the Honda and we were giving up some fuel mileage, so I had to start back-pedaling about 12 laps to 13 laps into the race. So we were disappointed about that. The crew are the ones who really worked hard."
Rookie Greg Moore (Player's Ltd./Indeck Reynard Mercedes) had his best season finish by grabbing the final podium position, which also gave Firestone a sweep of the top positions. Moore, who surpassed his previous best of seventh at the season opener, used the showing to gain the lead in the Rookie of the Year standings.
His 20 points gives him a six-point lead over Alex Zanardi (Target Reynard Honda), who did not earn any points after finishing 21st because of transmission problems.
"I had never been here before, so what I really wanted was to finish in the top 10,'' Moore said. "I couldn't be more happy."
Mauricio Gugelmin (Hollywood Reynard Ford) finished fourth at the IndyCar Australia for the second consecutive year and Christian Fittipaldi (Kmart Budweiser Lola Ford) had his third consecutive top-six finish of the season to move into third in the PPG Cup race.
Stefan Johansson (Alumax Aluminum Reynard Mercedes), rookie Eddie Lawson (Delco Electronics Lola Mercedes) and Hiro Matsushita (Panasonic/Duskin Lola Ford) also had notable efforts to finish among the top-10 that also included Andre Ribeiro (8th, LCI International Lola Honda) and Al Unser Jr. (9th, Marlboro Penske Mercedes).
Johansson finished sixth after starting 20th for his first top-10 performance of the season. Lawson and Matsushita made up the most ground out of the 25-car field, improving 15 slots from their qualifying position. Lawson finished a season-best seventh and Matsushita charged from last in the field to 10th for his best showing since Indianapolis last season.
Also gaining points were Gil de Ferran (Pennzoil Special Reynard Honda), who was 11th, and Roberto Moreno (The Data Control/Mi-Jack Lola Ford), who was 12th.
Vasser had a winning average speed of 90.218 miles per hour in a race that had six cautions for 14 laps.
Vasser's victory helped the United States to the Nation's Cup lead. The U.S. leads with 56 points, Brazil is second with 48 and Canada is third with 20. In the Manufacturer's Championship, Honda (60) maintained its lead over Ford (44) and Mercedes (40). Reynard leads the Constructor's Championship with 52 points and is followed by Lola (48) and Penske (25).
The IndyCar Australia will be aired by ABC-TV on Sunday, March 31, beginning at 2 p.m. The event will be rebroadcast by ESPN on Tuesday, April 2, beginning at 1 p.m.
The PPG Indy Car World Series returns stateside for its Round 4 event, the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 14.