Career Launching Pad Revisited For Vasser; Gonzalez Will Make First Start On Driver-Favorite Elkhart Lake Circuit INDIANAPOLIS (August 2, 2004) -- This weekend's 23rd annual Grand Prix of Road America is significant to 1996 Champ Car World ...
Career Launching Pad Revisited For Vasser; Gonzalez Will Make First Start On Driver-Favorite Elkhart Lake Circuit
INDIANAPOLIS (August 2, 2004) -- This weekend's 23rd annual Grand Prix of Road America is significant to 1996 Champ Car World Series driver's champion Jimmy Vasser (#12 Gulfstream Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), but not simply because the circuit boasts a monstrous 4.084-mile ribbon of pavement through the Wisconsin countryside or the fact that Elkhart Lake comes to mind most often when Champ Car drivers are queried about their favorite venue. Rather, Vasser's attachment to the circuit stems from a time well before he'd strapped himself into the cockpit of a 750hp turbocharged Champ Car, when the Canoga Park, Calif. native was looking to break through into the top open wheel racing series in North America.
"Road America is without a doubt one of the finest racetracks in the world," said Vasser, who stands seventh in the championship with 112 points. "As a driver, we all look forward to racing there every year. I've had a lot of great races in Elkhart Lake, but the one that stands out the most to me happened early in my career. In 1990, I won a Formula Atlantic race from pole when they had a 40-car field that year. So that race brings back some great memories, because it really helped launch my Champ Car career."
The Grand Prix of Road America is also a noteworthy stop on Vasser's 2004 Champ Car tour of duty, as Round 8 will mark consecutive start number 191 for the durable driver, pulling him within just one start of Al Unser Jr., who holds the all-time Champ Car iron man mark with 192. Vasser is scheduled to break that record in Round 10 at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, Quebec Canada with start 193. 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.
Vasser's 10 career Road America starts have produced three top-fives and seven top-10s, complementing a podium finish of third in 1995. His experience will ensure that rookie teammate Roberto Gonzalez (#21 Nextel Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) has a wealth of knowledge before the Mexican pilot takes the track in Wisconsin this Friday. Gonzalez will be making his first start on the 14-turn Elkhart Lake circuit which boasts a number of corners steeped with elevation changes and varying degrees of difficulty.
"I'm very excited because I finally get to drive on a proper racetrack," said Gonzalez, who stands 14th in points with 73 in his first full Champ Car campaign. "Road America is pretty much like the European-style race tracks that I'm used to driving on-- fast corners, slow corners and deep braking areas, unlike the street circuits we've been on so far this season. PKV Racing had a very successful test there earlier in the year, so I think we have the potential to run really well this weekend."
Watch Vasser and Gonzalez this Sunday, August 8th on Spike TV (4:00 pm ET/PT) or HDNet (2:00 pm ET, Live) as they try to tame the 4.048-mile permanent road circuit in Elkhart Lake, Wis. in Round 8 of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered By Ford.