CHAMPCAR/CART: Team Target looks for Laguna Seca magic

Monterey, Calif. -- Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver Jimmy Vasser isn't exactly sure what it is about Laguna Seca Raceway, but good things tend to happen to his team when it makes its annual trip to northern California for the Grand Prix...

Monterey, Calif. -- Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver Jimmy Vasser isn't exactly sure what it is about Laguna Seca Raceway, but good things tend to happen to his team when it makes its annual trip to northern California for the Grand Prix of Monterey. In 1996, former team driver Alex Zanardi claimed the checkered flag, while Vasser finished fourth, clinching Target Chip Ganassi Racing's first CART championship. In 1997, it was Vasser who was victorious at Laguna Seca, while Zanardi finished third and claimed the CART championship. The luck continued in 1998 when Zanardi placed second and Vasser finished fifth. Although the team's results in last year's Grand Prix of Monterey were unusual (Montoya placed eighth and Vasser finished 18th), Vasser is eager to return to Laguna Seca and is confident he will revisit the podium. "With all of our great races and memories at Laguna Seca, I get excited just thinking about racing there," said Vasser, who trails points leader Michael Andretti by 40 points with five races remaining. "Being from this area (Canoga Park, Calif.), I look forward to getting back here. Plus, it's where I clinched the championship a few years back (1996), so it definitely means a lot to me. Hopefully there's still some of that Laguna Seca luck left there for me and we can make a run at the checkered flag." Vasser has come close to several checkered flags in recent races, finishing in the top nine in five of the last seven races, including a fifth-place effort in Elkhart Lake and a sixth-place finish in Vancouver. "This is the time of year when you need consistency and points," Vasser said. "We're starting to click at the right time, so I wouldn't be surprised if this championship race tightens up very quickly. The car has impressed me these past few weeks. I'm expecting big things this weekend. The season isn't through yet." Vasser's teammate, Juan Montoya, has yet to experience the Monterey magic. In 1999, he battled back after qualifying 16th to finish eighth, but he expects big improvements this year. "I loved this track last year, so I was upset I didn't have a better race here," said Montoya, who is in search of his third CART victory. "We have a lot of good history in Monterey. I'd like to become a part of that, too." With a handful of races remaining and a streak of four straight DNFs, Montoya's optimism and desire are impressive. "It would be great to be heading to Laguna Seca with a chance to win the championship like Jimmy and Alex did, but that's not the case this year," said Montoya, who ranks 12th in the CART point standings with 77 points. "I love to come from behind and win races, so that's how this team is viewing the championship now. We are a few laps down and have a lot of ground to make up, but we're not giving up. What we need to do is finish races and get some points." Points, and maybe a little Monterey magic.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Alex Zanardi , Chip Ganassi
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing