CHAMPCAR/CART: Zanardi Chases Unser Record

Zanardi Chases Unser's Record Al Unser Jr. holds the record for consecutive victories. (July 15, 1998) -- FedEx Championship Series leader Alex Zanardi gets a second chance at a rare Championship Auto Racing Teams record when ...

Zanardi Chases Unser's Record Al Unser Jr. holds the record for consecutive victories.

(July 15, 1998) -- FedEx Championship Series leader Alex Zanardi gets a second chance at a rare Championship Auto Racing Teams record when he chases his fourth consecutive victory at Sunday's Molson Indy (3 p.m. ET, tape delay, ABC-TV) on the streets of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Zanardi (Target Reynard Honda) has earned consecutive victories at Detroit, Portland and Cleveland, respectively, and is attempting to tie the CART record for successive wins (4) established by Al Unser Jr. (Marlboro Penske Mercedes) in 1990. Zanardi and Unser Jr. are the only two drivers in CART history to record two separate streaks of three or more victories. Unser Jr. has done it three times, in 1990 and twice in 1994.

Zanardi scored consecutive victories at Michigan Speedway, Mid-Ohio and Road America en route to the series championship last year before Mauricio Gugelmin (Hollywood PacWest Mercedes) ended the skein with a win at Vancouver.

As a result of his recent dominance, Zanardi is comfortably in command in his bid to repeat as FedEx Championship Series title winner. Through 10 of 19 events, he holds a 58-point lead (154-96) over Greg Moore (Player's/Indeck Reynard Mercedes) in championship points.

Jimmy Vasser (Target Reynard Honda), Zanardi's Target/Chip Ganassi Racing teammate, stands third with 92 points. Zanardi and Vasser have combined to win the past five FedEx Championship Series events, the most since Unser Jr. helped Marlboro Team Penske win seven in a row in 1994.

Zanardi owns runner-up finishes in both previous appearances at Toronto, in 1996 and '97. He has scored five of his 13 career victories - which tie him with Paul Tracy (KOOL Reynard Honda) for eighth place on the CART career list - on temporary street circuits.

While Zanardi has dominated the FedEx Championship Series for the past two seasons, the dominant performer of the decade at Toronto has been Michael Andretti (Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Swift Ford). Andretti has earned five of his CART-record 37 career victories at the venue, including four in as many starts in 1991, '92, '94 and '95. Andretti did not compete in the series in '93.

Included in those victories were back-to-back performances in 1991 and '92 in which Andretti led all 103 race laps. All told he has led 401 laps in his career at Toronto, and has led at least one lap in seven different events.

Andretti is one of six previous Toronto winners in this weekend's field. The others are Bobby Rahal (Miller Lite Reynard Ford), who won the inaugural CART event held at Toronto in 1986; Unser Jr., who won in 1988 and '90; Tracy, who won in '93; Adrian Fernandez (Tecate/Quaker State/Labatt Reynard Ford), who claimed his first CART career victory in '96, and Mark Blundell (Motorola PacWest Mercedes), who delivered a dominant performance in leading 93 of 95 laps en route to victory last year.

Blundell and PacWest Racing Group teammate Gugelmin will be looking for their third FedEx Championship Series victory in a row in Canada following their sweep at Toronto and Vancouver last year.

Two of the more impressive drivers of late this season have been Dario Franchitti (KOOL Reynard Honda) and Scott Pruett (Visteon Reynard Ford). Franchitti scored his second podium finish of the season with a third-place effort at Cleveland last week and has finished fourth or better in three of the past four events. He won his first career pole position at Toronto last year as a rookie. Pruett, fourth at Cleveland, boasts five consecutive top-10 finishes and has improved to eighth in the championship, with 56 points.

Rahal comes in on a streak of seven consecutive points-paying finishes, his most since scoring in the final eight events of the 1993 season. Gil de Ferran (Valvoline/Cummins Special Reynard Honda), sixth at Cleveland, looks to regain the consistency which allowed him to score in 14 of 17 events en route to runner-up honors in last year's championship.

Patrick Carpentier (Player's/Indeck Reynard Mercedes) has finished a career-best ninth in each of the past two road course events. Bryan Herta (Shell Reynard Ford) owns eight consecutive top-10 starts on road or street courses and has won four pole positions in that span.

Christian Fittipaldi (Kmart Swift Ford) led 21 laps at Cleveland, his first since leading two at Cleveland last year. Andre Ribeiro (Marlboro Penske Mercedes) won his first career road-course pole at Toronto in 1996 and finished third there last year, his most recent podium effort.

Max Papis (MCI Reynard Toyota) has scored PPG Cup points with his past two finishes, the first back-to-back scoring performances of his three-year career. Robby Gordon (Panasonic Duskin/MCI Reynard Toyota) is a previous pole winner at Toronto, in 1994.

Richie Hearn (Budweiser/Ralphs Swift Ford) seeks his fifth top-10 finish of the season at Toronto while Tony Kanaan (LCI Reynard Honda) looks to add to his Rookie of the Year point total. Kanaan currently leads Helio Castro-Neves (Alumax Aluminum Reynard Mercedes), 39-29, in the rookie points race. JJ Lehto (Hogan Motor Leasing, Inc. Reynard Mercedes) and Alex Barron (Castrol-Degree Reynard Toyota) look to improve on their rookie point totals of seven and one, respectively.

PJ Jones (Castrol-Degree Reynard Toyota) scored his best finish of the season, 11th at Long Beach, on a temporary street circuit, the same type of venue as Toronto. Michel Jourdain Jr. (Herdez/Viva Mexico! Reynard Ford), Arnd Meier (Hasseroder/J.A.G. Lola Ford) and Gualter Salles (SmithKline Beecham Reynard Ford) make their second CART career appearances at Toronto. Salles is making his first appearance in the series since finishing 20th at Rio de Janeiro.

Qualifying for the Molson Indy will air 2 a.m. ET Sunday on ESPN2. "CART 2Day" airs 2:30 p.m. ET Sunday on ESPN2, one-half hour prior to ABC's race broadcast.

Following the Molson Indy, the FedEx Championship Series continues with its third event in as many weeks, the U.S. 500 Presented by Toyota, Sunday, July 26 from Michigan Speedway.

Source: CART Online

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Gualter Salles , Robby Gordon , Al Unser Jr. , Jimmy Vasser , Max Papis , Adrian Fernandez , Bobby Rahal , Patrick Carpentier , Christian Fittipaldi , Paul Tracy , Alex Zanardi , Tony Kanaan , Bryan Herta , Scott Pruett , Mark Blundell , Richie Hearn , Alex Barron , Chip Ganassi , Andre Ribeiro , Greg Moore , Michel Jourdain , JJ Lehto
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing