Gonzalez a Career-Best Finish of Seventh; Vasser Battles Back From First Turn Melee To Finish Fifth in Cleveland CLEVELAND, Ohio. (July 3, 2004) -- PKV Racing pilot and 2004 Champ Car Rookie-of-the-Year candidate Roberto Gonzalez ( ...
Gonzalez a Career-Best Finish of Seventh; Vasser Battles Back From First Turn Melee To Finish Fifth in Cleveland
CLEVELAND, Ohio. (July 3, 2004) -- PKV Racing pilot and 2004 Champ Car Rookie-of-the-Year candidate Roberto Gonzalez (#21 NII Holdings, Inc. Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) parlayed a 14th place starting spot into a best career finish of seventh today just off the shores of Lake Erie in his first-ever trip to Cleveland's Burke Lakefront Airport. Gonzalez' teammate Jimmy Vasser (#12 Gulfstream Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) started 10th, fell all the way back to 16th, then the 1996 Series Champion made a charge back through the field to finish fifth.
Gonzalez was impressive on the demanding 2.106-mile airport runway layout, turning in his second straight top-10 finish of the season after a 10th at Portland; but he knew there was more to be had in his first visit to the North Coast.
"The most important thing is that we once again met our goal of finishing in the top 10," said Gonzalez, who moved from 14th to 13th the championship hunt with 57 points. "This is our best result yet, but it could have been better. On the third restart I spun because I got in some dirty air from the car in front of me. I also lost a position on the last stop because I was trying to get the car in the proper gear. So with all things considered, we could have run as high as sixth. I'm so pleased with the progress the PKV team is making, and my guys did a fantastic job for me today. The Bridgestone tires were outstanding as well. The durability really showed on this demanding circuit."
Vasser was forced to go wide in Cleveland's notorious first turn to avoid contact that would ultimately eliminate the front row starters. The two-time Cleveland polewinner and current track record holder would persevere, using lessons learned from 11 previous starts at Burke Lakefront to salvage a top-five finish.
"I'm obviously a little disappointed that we basically went back to dead last in the first turn," said Vasser, who moved from 11th to ninth in points with 73 markers. "The Gulfstream car was pretty strong and we did the best we could today. Tagliani and Servia were in front of me on a different fuel strategy, so we were pretty much a steady fifth for the majority of the race. I'm proud of my guys for the great stops we had today and am glad we were able to continue to move forward as a team."
Vasser and Gonzalez will head to the streets of festive Toronto, Ontario Canada for next weekend's Round 6 Molson Indy Toronto at Exhibition Place. Catch the PKV Racing squad in action on the 1.755-mile street circuit July 11th on Spike TV (4:00 pm ET/PT) and HD Net (Live, 1:00 pm ET).