Zanardi Extends Points Lead With Detroit Victory Detroit, MI (June 7, 1998) -- Alex Zanardi used a dominant performance to extend his FedEx Championship Series lead Sunday when he drove to his 11th career victory in...
Zanardi Extends Points Lead With Detroit Victory
Detroit, MI (June 7, 1998) -- Alex Zanardi used a dominant performance to extend his FedEx Championship Series lead Sunday when he drove to his 11th career victory in the ITT Automotive Detroit Grand Prix before a crowd of 64,458 on The Raceway at Belle Isle.
Zanardi (Target Reynard Honda), defending series champion, led the final 50 of 72 laps and averaged a race-record 100.052 miles per hour en route to his series-high third victory of the season. He finished 6.624 seconds ahead of Adrian Fernandez (Tecate/Quaker State/Labatt Reynard Ford), who recorded his third podium finish of the season and his best effort since a victory at Japan.
Gil de Ferran (Valvoline/Cummins Special Reynard Honda) finished third for the third consecutive year at Detroit as he matched his season-best performance that was established at Japan.
Zanardi became the first driver this season to surpass the 100-point mark in the PPG Cup points standings. He extended his lead to 113-96 lead over Greg Moore (Player's/Indeck Reynard Mercedes), who finished fifth Sunday, after entering the weekend with a seven-point advantage. Target/Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Jimmy Vasser (Target Reynard Honda) stands third with 80 points following a sixth-place finish while Fernandez is fourth with 75, already a career-high point total for a FedEx Championship Series season.
Moore, the polesitter, was strong from the outset and appeared primed to defend his race title after leading the opening 22 laps. Moore, however, pitted under green on Lap 23 and surrendered the lead to his closest pursuer, Zanardi. Zanardi would not relinquish that lead for the remainder of the race. The result was his 12th podium finish in his past 15 starts, dating to a victory from the pole at Cleveland last year, and his third victory in the past five street or road course events.
"I decided that instead of trying to make a move on Greg [on the track], I would try to run longer than him," Zanardi said. "When Greg pitted, we knew we had the fuel to go for another two laps, so I pushed very hard and tried to do my two fastest laps. It worked out. I was able to pit and get out about four seconds in front. The point is to make no mistakes and drive to the checkered flag, and that's what we did. I'm obviously very happy."
Zanardi made light contact with the outside wall in Turn 14 early in the morning warmup, necessitating repairs to his left rear wheel prior to the race.
"My day didn't start very well," said Zanardi, who revived the tradition of crowd-pleasing "doughnuts," which had been absent since last year's win at Road America, as part of Sunday's victory celebration. "This morning for the warmup we made a lot of changes to the car from yesterday. On my second flying lap, I ran out of talent and hit the wall and that was it for the warmup. I decided that for the race we would keep this setup, and that turned out to be the right call."
Fernandez secured second place on Lap 45, and maintained it for the remainder of the race. He pitted in sixth on Lap 44 and picked up four spots following his exit to emerge in his eventual finishing position. It was his third podium finish of the season, matching his career total in five previous years in the series, and his sixth top-nine effort in eight starts this year.
"The pace was too strong, a little too strong at the beginning for my car," he said. "I think our [Firestone] tires held up good, especially at the end of the race. Our second pit stop was very good. That is when my guys did an outstanding job of putting me ahead of Greg Moore into second place. You couldn't rest at any time out there. It was a very strong race from start to finish."
De Ferran also credited excellent pit work for his best finish since taking third at Japan and his sixth podium effort in the past nine road or street course events, dating to last year at Detroit. His overall time for the two pit stops was the best among all teams.
"All the credit for the podium finish has to go to my team," he said. "Every time I came into the pits, I came out one or two positions ahead of where I went in. I never drove so hard in my life. At the end, I was trying to pressure Adrian into a little mistake, but he drove very well and I never had enough to get by him."
Dario Franchitti (KOOL Reynard Honda) finished fourth for his second consecutive finish in that position. The top six finishers: Zanardi (Italy), Fernandez (Mexico), de Ferran (Brazil), Franchitti (Scotland), Moore (Canada) and Vasser (United States) represented six different countries.
Zanardi's victory gave Firestone its seventh consecutive FedEx Championship Series triumph, and its 18th in the last 19 events dating to Moore's win last year at The Milwaukee Mile. It also was the third in a row for Honda.
The ITT Automotive Detroit Grand Prix will receive an encore performance 1 p.m. ET Monday on ESPN and will re-air 4 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN2.
The FedEx Championship Series continues June 21 with the Budweiser/G.I. Joe's 200 Presented by Texaco/Havoline from Portland International Raceway in Portland, Ore.
Source: CART Online
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