> From IndyCar media relations Zanardi Dominant In Miller 200 at Mid-Ohio LEXINGTON, Ohio (Aug. 11, 1996) -- Target/Chip Ganassi Racing rookie Alex Zanardi exhibited another dominant performance in winning from the pole for the second time...
> From IndyCar media relations
Zanardi Dominant In Miller 200 at Mid-Ohio
LEXINGTON, Ohio (Aug. 11, 1996) -- Target/Chip Ganassi Racing rookie Alex Zanardi exhibited another dominant performance in winning from the pole for the second time this season Sunday as he captured the Miller 200 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
Zanardi led all but four of the 83 laps in a Target Reynard Honda and survived two late caution periods to post a 1.914-second victory over his Target/Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Jimmy Vasser in Round 13 of the PPG Indy Car World Series season. Zanardi, who led 95 of 98 laps in his victory from pole at Portland in Round 9, earned a $60,000 rollover bonus from the Marlboro Pole Award program and a weekend total of $70,000 from the bonus fund. The effort pushed his season-long Marlboro Pole Award bonus money to $145,000.
The dynamic dual performance by the Target/Chip Ganassi Racing tandem was critical in their bids for the PPG Cup championship as Zanardi moved into legitimate contention and Vasser reestablished firmer control of the top slot. Zanardi, the Rookie of the Year points leader, vaulted from a tie for fifth place in the PPG Cup points to sole possession of third with 94. It was the fourth time in the past five races that Zanardi has finished among the top two and his triumph extended Honda's winning streak to five in a row.
"This is a very good win. It was more work than Portland because I had that 'red' car [Vasser] behind me the entire time," said Zanardi, who averaged 104.358 miles per hour in a race with three cautions for 10 laps. "If he tries a move, it is difficult to block your teammate. I'm very happy he could finish second and score a lot of points for the championship."
Vasser (Target Reynard Honda) came into the Miller 200 with a one-point advantage over Al Unser Jr. (Marlboro Penske Mercedes), but his runnerup finish padded his lead to 17 (128-111).The performance was Vasser's first podium appearance since winning the U.S. 500 on May 26, when he had held a season-high 36-point lead.
"I didn't have anything for Alex. He was a tick faster all the way around," Vasser said. "I drove a little conservatively to save fuel and make sure I got points for the championship. I've been up before in the points and then it was back down to one point, so it's good to be up by a few points again, although it is not enough. We still have to take them one race at a time. I won't start counting points until Vancouver."
Zanardi maintained a comfortable lead for the majority of the race on the 2.25-mile permanent road course and only relinquished it twice. Both occurred when he made scheduled pit stops, leaving the lead for Vasser, who would soon return it due to his ensuing pit stops.
Zanardi had nearly an 11-second lead when the first of two full-course cautions came out during the final 19 laps. The caution, on Lap 65 due to contact between rookies Mark Blundell (VISA/PacWest Reynard Ford) and Jan Magnussen (Marlboro Penske Mercedes), bunched the field and tightened the distance between the nine competitors on the lead lap.
Zanardi and Vasser were able to shake the rest of the field after the restart on Lap 70, but Zanardi was unable to put away his teammate. Vasser got a final opportunity at a restart surge when a caution was thrown on Lap 76 after Robby Gordon (Valvoline/Cummins/Craftsman Reynard Ford) and Hiro Matsushita (Panasonic/Duskin Lola Ford) went off course in separate incidents.
The field went green on Lap 81 and one lap later, Zanardi opened up a 2.08-second advantage over Vasser and 3.36 over Michael Andretti (Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Lola Ford), who was situated in third. Neither was able to threaten Zanardi on the final lap, but there was plenty of jockeying and action in the trailing points positions.
Rookie Greg Moore (Player's/Indeck Reynard Mercedes) and Andre Ribeiro (LCI International Lola Honda) made contact and shortly thereafter Unser Jr. and Parker Johnstone (Motorola Reynard Honda) touched and went off course. All but Unser Jr., who finished 13th, were able to survive the incidents and still manage to finish in the top-12 PPG Cup points positions.
Unser Jr., however, was not the only PPG Cup contender to leave Mid-Ohio pointless. Gil de Ferran (Pennzoil Special Reynard Honda) dropped from third to fifth in the PPG Cup points after contact on the opening lap sent him off course. He was able to return, but never challenged for a points position en route to a 17th-place finish.
Andretti joined Zanardi and Vasser on the podium after staving off Bryan Herta (Shell Reynard Mercedes) over the final laps for third place. It was his first podium visit since winning at Detroit on June 9 and fourth of the season. The other three appearances were all victories.
"We did everything we could to get third. We were first in the Ford class, though," said Andretti, who finished 3.404 seconds behind Zanardi. "I honestly thought we had a shot at the win before the race. I thought their tires [Zanardi and Vasser] would go away, but they didn't."
A pair of Ohio-based teams -- Team Rahal and Tasman Motorsports of Hilliard -- provided Buckeye fans with some excitement by landing four of the top eight positions. Team Rahal nabbed two among the top five as Herta took fourth and Bobby Rahal (Miller Reynard Mercedes) fifth. Herta's showing was his second-best of the season and extended his run of top-six finishes to four in a row. Rahal's performance was his best at Mid-Ohio since finishing third in 1991 and his seventh top-five showing at the track in 14 races.
Tasman Motorsports was paced by a sixth-place finish by Adrian Fernandez (Tecate Beer/Quaker State Lola Honda) and an eighth-place effort by Ribeiro. For Fernandez, it was his fourth top-six showing in the past six races and third in the last four. Ribeiro, despite the final-lap incident, finished on the lead lap and earned his seventh top-eight finish of the season.
Sandwiched between the Tasman teammates was Christian Fittipaldi (Kmart/Budweiser Lola Ford), who finished seventh. It marked the third time in the past four races that Fittipaldi has finished in that identical position.
Three out of the final four positions were secured by drivers who were involved in late-race accidents. Moore took ninth for his third top-10 finish in the last four events. Blundell earned his sixth consecutive finish in the points with a 10th-place effort. Johnstone took the 12th and final points spot for his best finish since a fifth at Portland.
Among that points grouping and incident-free was Stefan Johansson. Johansson (Alumax Aluminum Reynard Mercedes) followed up his season-best fifth-place finish at Michigan with an 11th-place effort.
A re-air of the Miller 200 will be shown by ESPN on Monday, Aug. 12, beginning at 3:30 p.m. ET. The PPG Indy Car World Series travels to its second consecutive permanent road course event Aug. 18 with the Texaco/Havoline 200 at Road America.