Hometown Hero Gonzalez a Career-Best Ninth in Monterrey; Vasser Dropped to 12th After Last Lap Incident MONTERREY, Mexico (May 23, 2004) -- Monterrey native son Roberto Gonzalez ( ...
Hometown Hero Gonzalez a Career-Best Ninth in Monterrey; Vasser Dropped to 12th After Last Lap Incident
MONTERREY, Mexico (May 23, 2004) -- Monterrey native son Roberto Gonzalez (#21 Nextel Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) overcame two on-track incidents during a South of the Border scorcher to place an impressive ninth in today's Tecate/Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix at Fundidora Park. Teammate Jimmy Vasser (#12 Gulfstream Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) was also betting on a top-10 result, but a last lap incident with the only other former series champion in the field left him stranded and stalled as the checkereds flew on Lap 72.
After starting a career-best 12th, Gonzalez was involved in the action early when he was caught up in a Lap 17, two-car tangle. Mario Haberfeld and Nelson Philippe had contact and Gonzalez was forced off course after coming through the wake of the melee. The young Mexican powered on, even after another incident involving the machine of fellow countrymen Rodolfo Lavin, and drove home to a career-best finish of ninth.
"It was a very difficult start to the race for us," said Gonzalez. "I was fighting the car a little, and I got caught up in an incident and went off course to avoid contact. From there I was just pushing really hard and fighting for position. Lavin got into me when he got to the inside, and that sent me off course again. I pushed and pushed from there and continued to reduce the gap. At the end of the race, the others made mistakes, which we fully took advantage of. Our goal in Monterrey was a top-10 result and we got it. Thanks to everyone including the team and my sponsor Nextel. Today was a great day in my hometown."
Vasser's day was quite the opposite of his PKV stablemate, as the 10-time Champ Car racewinner started strong in eighth, overtook Patrick Carpentier on the first lap for seventh and ran as high as fifth position on the trying 2.104-mile permanent road course layout. As the day wore on with 100-plus degree trackside temperatures, Vasser ran consistent in eighth position until the race's final circuit, when he was a victim of an incident with Paul Tracy who was holding on for seventh in the final corner.
"PT completely screwed up," said Vasser. "Last lap, last turn. He just can't give it up. He should be the one out, not me."
Gonzalez picks up 13 valuable championship markers (ninth in points) in his quest for 2004 Champ Car Rookie-of-the-Year honors, while Vasser settles with nine (14th in points) as the PKV Racing duo leaves Monterrey and begins preparation for the series' next stop under the lights at The Milwaukee Mile, June 5th.