Cleveland, OH (July 12, 1998) - Alex Zanardi won today's Medic Drug Grand Prix of Cleveland becoming the first person to post consecutive wins in the seventeen year history of the race. This was Zanardi's fifth win of the season and his third in a...
Cleveland, OH (July 12, 1998) - Alex Zanardi won today's Medic Drug Grand Prix of Cleveland becoming the first person to post consecutive wins in the seventeen year history of the race. This was Zanardi's fifth win of the season and his third in a row, after wins at Detroit and Portland. The Target Chip Ganassi Team has won the last five CART races in a row.
Jimmy Vasser started on the pole with Team KOOL Green driver Dario Franchitti alongside. As the leaders entered turn one, several cars went to the inside of Franchitti, blocking his reference point. "I couldn't see the corner markers, so I braked early," Franchitti said. Zanardi and Tracy moved around Franchitti to take second and third.
The two pairs of Target and KOOL cars started to pull away from the field when Greg Moore caused a full course caution for a spin in turn eight. Moore collected Castro-Neves, Jourdain, Jr., and Lehto. All four drivers were uninjured but the cars were too heavily damaged to continue.
The restart came on lap eleven. Vasser, who had been experiencing gearbox problems and had to shift manually, was passed for the lead by his teammate. Tracy and Franchitti also passed Vasser dropping him from first to fourth.
Zanardi led the race until lap 68 when a full course caution brought the leaders into the pits for their final stop. Christian Fittipaldi, the only driver in the top ten to remain on the track, inherited the lead. Problems with his radio prevented Fittipaldi from taking advantage of the yellow flag. "The radio didn't work at parts of the circuit. When they called me over the radio to pit the second the yellow came out, I was at a bad part of the track just before the pit entrance where the radio didn't work." Fittipaldi said. "I got to the front straight and everyone had jumped into the pits. Then we decided that the best thing to do was to hold the lead and gamble for a yellow so we could pit.
The gamble didn't payoff. Fittipaldi pitted on lap 89 handing the lead back to Zanardi. Waiting until the last possible lap to pit cost the team more than expected. "I eventually pitted with so little fuel that the car stalled once I got to the pits," Fittipaldi said. "The additional time probably cost us a sixth place". Fittipaldi returned to the race in 13th place but finished seventh.
Zanardi's Honda engine proved to be more fuel efficient than the Ford of second place finisher, Michael Andretti. For the last thirty laps, Andretti's crew were on the radio telling him to slow down to conserve fuel. "I had to run a second off the pace," Andretti said. "I think if we had qualified up towards the front, things might have been different". Andretti started seventh.
Although Andretti had to conserve fuel towards the end of the race, he was able to hold off Franchitti's late race challenge for second. Franchitti admitted that he had not been fast through the chicane and couldn't pass Michael when they arrived at the hairpin.
Zanardi finished eight seconds ahead of Michael Andretti but no one left the packed grandstands during the waning laps. Everyone knew that doughnuts were to be served. Zanardi set the Target car into a series of spins, vanishing into a thick cloud of tire smoke. He reappeared a few seconds later, zipping into victory lane as the crowd roared its approval.
When asked later if the doughnuts were for him or the fans, Zanardi said, "First, because it's fun. Second, because people ask me to do it."
He thought for a moment about how ridiculous his victory celebration might seem, he smiled and added "So, I have an excuse, people ask me to do it."