CHAMPCAR/CART: Cleveland: PKV Racing preview

INDIANAPOLIS (June 28, 2004) -- PKV Racing pilot and 1996 Series Champion Jimmy Vasser ( ...

INDIANAPOLIS (June 28, 2004) -- PKV Racing pilot and 1996 Series Champion Jimmy Vasser (#12 Gulfstream Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) is scheduled make his 188th consecutive Champ Car start this Saturday afternoon when the Green Flag drops on the U.S. Bank Presents the Champ Car Grand Prix of Cleveland, Round 5 of the Champ Car World Series. Vasser, known for being one of the most durable drivers in the paddock over an impressive 13-year Champ Car career, is rapidly closing in on former Champ Car competitor Al Unser Jr., who is perched atop the Most Consecutive Starts list with 192. The Champ Car ironman will be searching for his first win this weekend at Burke Lakefront Airport-- the one-of-a-kind 2.106-mile airport runway circuit where he holds the track qualifying mark.

In Cal Ripken Jr.-like fashion, Vasser is scheduled to pass Unser Jr. with consecutive start number 193 later this season in Round 10 at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, Quebec Canada. Cleveland will mark his 188th straight start, with the current streak dating back to his 22nd career start at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca (1993). Vasser's first Champ Car start was recorded in Surfers Paradise, Australia in 1992.

The Las Vegas resident has a penchant for speed on the lakefront layout in Cleveland, having authored two poles (1996, '98) and setting a track qualifying mark in 1998 that still stands at 56.417 seconds (134.385 mph). But in 11 career appearances, Vasser's mantle still has a spot open for the Cleveland trophy, after recording two top fives and six top 10s, with a best finish of third coming in the 1995 event.

The California native is also scheduled to move into fifth position on the Champ Car Career Starts List [Modern Era, 1979- Present] with his 209th career start in Cleveland, and comes to the North Coast 11th in the championship hunt with 52 markers.

"Cleveland has always been a great track for the fans, and a favorite of the drivers," said Vasser. "Fans can see the entire track from the grandstand, which is a great amenity for a temporary circuit. PKV Racing has been making some significant gains as far as performance goes, and I'm optimistic because the team is continually getting better. We're looking forward to improving on the results we've had so far this season in Cleveland."

Vasser's much-touted racing resume includes a $3,071,500 (US) championship run in 1996, Series Runner-Up honors in 1998 and winning the fastest race in Champ Car history in 2002 at California Speedway (197.995 mph). In addition to capturing 10 wins, eight pole positions and 30 podiums, he is one of just seven drivers to earn more than $11 million in a Champ Car career. Now in his 13th season, Vasser ranks in the top-20 in almost every statistical category, while having helped mold the careers of former teammates and Champ Car titlists Alex Zanardi (1997-'98) and Juan Pablo Montoya (1999) along the way.

Last round, in consecutive start number 187, Vasser finished eighth in Portland--complimented by his PKV Racing counterpart Roberto Gonzalez (#21 NII Holdings, Inc. Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) coming home 10th for a solid weekend on the Pacific Northwest circuit.

Gonzalez will be making his first foray on the Burke Airport runways, coming to the shores of Lake Erie 14th in points with 40 and holding down the third spot in the Champ Car Rookie-of-the-Year Award standings.

"I've always wanted to race here at Cleveland," said Gonzalez. "It's a special place to me because I watched this race for years, hoping to one day race here. It's a very unique circuit with wide straights and lots of passing opportunities. You can use many lines and the fans get a great view of the action. The PKV team is getting better every race. Our guys seem to get better every weekend and I can't thank them enough for the effort so far. I think we showed in Portland that we are capable of running toward the front after Jimmy and I paced the Saturday practice session, and we qualified sixth overall on Friday. We are focused on moving up the grid, and we hope to make some big strides in Cleveland."

Watch Vasser and Gonzalez this weekend Live on HDNet July 3rd (5:00 pm ET), or on Spike TV July 4th (4:00 pm ET/PT, tape-delayed) in Round 5 of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered By Ford, the U.S. Bank Presents the Champ Car Grand Prix of Cleveland.

About PKV Racing
Founded in January 2003, Indianapolis-based PKV Racing fields a two-car effort in the Champ Car World Series for American open wheel star Jimmy Vasser (#12 Gulfstream Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Mexican rookie Roberto Gonzalez (#21 NII Holdings, Inc. Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone). The second-year team is owned by successful venture capitalists Kevin Kalkhoven and Dan Pettit, along with 1996 Series Champion Vasser, and is managed by veteran Champ Car team manager Russell Cameron.

For more information please visit www.pkvracing.com, www.nextel.com.mx or www.gulfstream.com.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya