CHAMPCAR/CART: Cleveland Race Report

Zanardi Wins Again Cleveland, OH (July 12, 1998) --Alex Zanardi, the FedEx Championship Series points leader, became the first repeat winner in the 17-year history of the Medic Drug Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by Star...

Zanardi Wins Again

Cleveland, OH (July 12, 1998) --Alex Zanardi, the FedEx Championship Series points leader, became the first repeat winner in the 17-year history of the Medic Drug Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by Star Bank on Sunday as he posted an 8.422-second victory over Michael Andretti before 70,268 fans at Burke Lakefront Airport.

Zanardi (Target Reynard Honda) earned his third victory in a row and series-high fifth of the season. It was also the 13th in his three-year career, tying him with Paul Tracy for eighth place on the CART all-time win list. He extended his FedEx Championship Series points lead over Greg Moore (Player's/Indeck Reynard Mercedes) to 155-96 entering next Sunday's Molson Indy at Exhibition Place in Toronto.

The victory was the fifth in a row for Target/Chip Ganassi Racing, a streak which began with Zanardi's win at St. Louis on Memorial Day weekend. Teammate Jimmy Vasser (Target Reynard Honda) followed a week later with a win at Milwaukee before Zanardi started his current three-race winning streak with victories at Detroit and Portland, respectively.

Zanardi became only the second driver in CART history to record two separate streaks of three victories or more. He scored his first three-race winning streak (Michigan Speedway, Mid-Ohio and Road America) last season. Al Unser Jr. is the only other driver in CART history with multiple streaks of three consecutive victories, on three separate occasions.

The victory was the 14th podium finish in Zanardi's past 17 starts, dating to last year's win at Cleveland. Nine victories are included in that stretch. Zanardi was dominant in the triumph, leading a race-high 68 of the 100 laps on the 2.106-mile temporary circuit. He regained the lead with 11 laps remaining after Christian Fittipaldi (Kmart Swift Ford), who pitted out of sequence from the leaders earlier, was forced to make a final stop for fuel and relinquish the point to Zanardi.

Andretti (Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Swift Ford) finished second for his third podium finish of the season. His other podiums were a victory at Homestead and runner-up effort at Gateway. It was his fifth podium performance at Cleveland and his best at the venue since finishing second in 1992.

Dario Franchitti (KOOL Reynard Honda) finished third to give him top-four performances in three of the past four FedEx Championship Series events. It was his second career podium, topped only by a runner-up showing at Long Beach earlier this season.

Scott Pruett (Visteon Reynard Ford) finished fourth for his fifth consecutive top-10 performance. Patrick Racing teammate Adrian Fernandez (Tecate/Quaker State/Labatt Reynard Ford) finished fifth for his fifth top-five showing of the season.

What They're Saying:

ALEX ZANARDI, Target Reynard Honda: "It certainly was easier than last year [when he won after falling as far back as 22nd]. The fact that it finally ended up being an economy run to the checkered flag definitely worked in our favor.. We obviously had a great car and I have to thank everybody on the Target/Chip Ganassi Racing team. We certainly had top-notch equipment. I think the race would have ended differently if the yellow [caution] flag had come out maybe five laps from the end. Michael [Andretti] could have made it exciting, but I'm obviously glad it wasn't an exciting finish. The race is always unpredictable, you never know whether the faster car is going to end up winning or whether circumstances that occurred today are going to result in somebody else winning. My main concentration is going to be on winning some more races and possibly the championship. I think that the best way to advertise myself is to continue to win races."

MICHAEL ANDRETTI, Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Swift Ford: "We had a pretty good race. I think track position hurt a little bit. By the time we got to the front, Alex had that little bit of an advantage. The biggest thing we gave away was track position. Qualifying was the key. I thought we could have made it exciting at the end. I was hollering at the guys about saving fuel. For about the last 30 laps I had to run about a second off the pace and that was really frustrating. All I was really worried about was keeping Dario [Franchitt] behind me. It was nice to be able to show we had a good car on a road course."

DARIO FRANCHITTI, KOOL Reynard Honda: "My start [from the third position] was abysmal. We got lost on the track. I came into Turn One and there were some cars on the inside of the track and I lost track of the markers. I braked early rather than late. After that, I just concentrated on picking up speed. We were in a fuel-saving mode for a few laps, and about 10 laps from the end, they told me I didn't have to worry about fuel anymore, so I tried to go after Michael [Andretti]. There were two places on the track where I could have passed him, but I wasn't quick enough through either of those areas. It's a good result for Team KOOL Green, another podium. Somebody needs to stop this guy [Zanardi]. Now we want to move up to the top step."

What's Noteworthy:

With Sunday's victory by Alex Zanardi (Target Reynard Honda), Target/Chip Ganassi Racing topped the million-dollar mark in FedEx Championship Series earnings this season. Zanardi leads the series with $690,000 in winnings while teammate Jimmy Vasser (Target Reynard Honda) is second with $391,750. Together they have won $1,081,750, bringing their combined total since the start of the 1996 season to $8,791,250.

Zanardi's triumph allowed Italy to trim four more points off the United States' lead in the Nation's Cup standings. The U.S., leading 148-134 entering Sunday's race, now leads Italy, 165-155. All of Italy's Nation's Cup points have been scored by Zanardi.. Michael Andretti (Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Swift Ford) finished second to lead the U.S. contingent Sunday.

Sunday's victory was the fifth in a row for Honda and its seventh in the past eight FedEx Championship Series events. It was the ninth in a row for Firestone and its 20th in the past 21 events.

Alex Zanardi moved into 10th-place on the CART career laps led list Sunday, passing Al Unser (1,282) and Bobby Unser (1,298), respectively. Zanardi, who led a race-high 68 of the 100 laps, finished the day with 1,332 laps led. Next in line is Tom Sneva (1,447). By taking the lead on Lap 12, Zanardi also extended an impressive performance record which has seen him lead at least one lap in 19 of 24 career FedEx Championship Series career starts on road or street circuits.

Andretti's runner-up performance marked his best showing on a road or street circuit since his second-place finish at Detroit last year.

Christian Fittipaldi (Kmart Swift Ford) took the lead on Lap 68, marking the first time he had led a FedEx Championship Series event since leading two laps at Cleveland last year. He finished with 21 laps led, the most since leading 64 at Detroit in 1996.

Paul Tracy (KOOL Reynard Honda), who is on probation, was issued a 10-second stop-and-wait penalty on Lap 42 for unjustifiable risk as a result of contact in the pit lane on Lap 27 which caused Al Unser Jr. (Marlboro Penske Mercedes) to spin. Unser Jr., running second at the time, dropped to 20th on Lap 28 after re-entering the race. Tracy was running fourth when he pitted to receive the penalty, and emerged in 19th place, where he finished. CART Chief Steward Wally Dallenbach said that Tracy's stop-and-wait penalty was sufficient and no further action was taken afterward.

Bobby Rahal (Miller Lite Reynard Ford) finished eighth in his final appearance as a driver at Burke Lakefront Airport, site of his first career victory in 1982, in the first CART event ever contested at Cleveland. "We were unlucky today," he said. "The car wasn't too bad for most of the race. It's disappointing because I wanted to do well at Cleveland since I won the first race here in 1982 and we have a lot of fans here. I want to thank the people of Cleveland for their support and hospitality over the years and we look forward to seeing the fans at Mid-Ohio next month."

When Jimmy Vasser (Target Reynard Honda) led the first 11 laps, it marked the first time he had led on a road or street course since last year's victory at Laguna Seca Raceway. Vasser had led 204 laps, all on ovals, entering Sunday's event.

The Marlboro Pole Award rollover bonus went unclaimed for the 16th consecutive event Sunday, meaning that the potential Marlboro Pole Award payout at next week's Molson Indy Toronto is a record $280,000, including $270,000 in rollover funds. The Molson Indy will mark more than one year since the bonus, which grows at a rate of $15,000 per event until a victory from the pole is recorded, was last claimed by Zanardi at Cleveland.

Al Unser Jr. (Marlboro Penske Mercedes) and Michael Andretti (Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Swift Ford) spent their Saturday evening getting a taste of the North Coast music scene. Unser Jr. participated in a guitar/helmet exchange with John Fogerty, founding member of Creedence Clearwater Revival, during a free concert at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Andretti, meanwhile, was a guest of Janet Jackson during her concert at the Gund Arena. Andretti, wife Leslie and father Mario visited Jackson backstage before the concert.

What's On Tap:

The Medic Drug Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by Star Bank will receive an encore performance 1 p.m. ET Monday on ESPN. It will re-air 3:30 a.m. ET Tuesday on ESPN2.

What's Next:

The FedEx Championship Series continues next Sunday, July 19, with the Molson Indy from Exhibition Place in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Source: CART Online

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Wally Dallenbach , Al Unser Jr. , Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Adrian Fernandez , Bobby Rahal , Christian Fittipaldi , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Alex Zanardi , Scott Pruett , Bobby Unser , Tom Sneva , Chip Ganassi , Al Unser
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing , Chip Ganassi Racing