Wild Day in Elkhart Lake Results in Vasser's Sixth Straight Top 10 Finish; Gonzalez 16th in First Trip to Road America ELKHART LAKE, Wis. (August 8, 2004) -- With a third place starting position locked in, and having topped the speed charts in...
Wild Day in Elkhart Lake Results in Vasser's Sixth Straight Top 10 Finish; Gonzalez 16th in First Trip to Road America
ELKHART LAKE, Wis. (August 8, 2004) -- With a third place starting position locked in, and having topped the speed charts in morning warm up, PKV Racing's Jimmy Vasser (#12 Gulfstream Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) knew it was his best chance of the 2004 Champ Car season to drive into Victory Lane. But a wild start that saw numerous offs and changes in position left the 1996 Champ Car titlewinner sidelined in the Turn 12 gravel trap, helplessly awaiting the Champ Car Safety Team's arrival as his named spiraled down the scoring sheets. However, Vasser's PKV Racing squad made six pit stops and helped the California native climb out of the timing cellar, where he was able to record an eighth place finish today at Road America. PKV Racing's rookie pilot Roberto Gonzalez (#21 Nextel Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) started 14th and finished 16th in his first trip to the monstrous 4.048-mile circuit.
After being spun around on the first lap, contact took out Vasser's ability to communicate with his PKV crew, which made pit stops, fuel and race strategy difficult to say the least. Through it all, the 13-year Champ Car veteran was able to rip off the second fastest lap of the race when he turned a 1:45.510 (138.118 mph) on Lap 25 of the time-shortened 48 Lap event-- even in a sand-soaked and fairly damaged machine.
"That was a wild, wild, wild race. I can tell you that," said Vasser, who stands seventh in points with 127. "Bruno [Junqueira] passed me on the start and then I passed him back in the first few turns. I think we went from third, to second, to third and then back to fourth all in the first lap. On top of that, I almost crashed twice before getting spun around in Turn 12. The PKV guys really did a good job today. They were busy, that's for sure. But to get an eighth-place run out of the Gulfstream car and hold our position in the points today isn't terrible, with all things considered."
Road America also marked consecutive start number 191 for the durable Vasser, which sets him up to tie the all-time mark of 192 straight Green Flags held by Al Unser Jr. next weekend in Denver, and overtake the former Champ Car titlist with number 193 at the Molson Indy Montreal, August 29th.
Gonzalez' first journey to Elkhart Lake is most likely one he'll like to forget, but the Mexican rookie finished the race despite a trip into the sand trap that translated into mechanical gremlins late in the event.
"It was a nightmare of a race," said Gonzalez. "[Mario] Haberfeld slowed at the start and I was forced to check up, which allowed two or three cars by me. I was fighting my way from there until the rear end locked up and I spun out. I'm still not sure if it was a result of contact or not. So we ended up in the gravel, which resulted in a pop off valve issue that we later had to come in and change. It was a tough day for me for sure, but we'll keep going and hopefully have better luck in Denver next weekend."
Next up for PKV Racing is the 1.657-mile street course located in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains in downtown Denver, Colo., August 15th (Spike TV, 4:00 pm ET/PT) for Round 9 of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered By Ford, the Centrix Financial Grand Prix of Denver.