CHAMPCAR/CART: Las Vegas: PKV Racing race report



LAS VEGAS, NEVADA -- SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 25, 2005 -- Round #11 -- 2005 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford season -- PKV Racing's Jimmy Vasser finished a season high third last night in the Champ Car Hurricane Relief 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in Las Vegas, Nevada. Teammate Cristiano da Matta placed 12th.

Vasser qualified the #12 Gulfstream/PKV Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone entry, third, his second best starting position of the season behind a pole in Milwaukee. In racing to his first podium performance of the season and first since September 11, 2004 in Toronto the talented and determined veteran and former champion had to employ all his racing skill and knowledge to overcome an early incident with Oriol Servia and Paul Tracy. On the fifth lap of the contest Vasser, while running in third place, found himself in the middle of a "sandwich" between Seriva on the inside and Tracy on the outside. Suddenly Vasser's car began to wobble and with his incredible driving skills fully on display, he saved the car from going into the wall. The incident dropped Vasser into sixth place, however, with the help of some outstanding pit work from the Gulfstream/PKV Racing crew, the resident of Las Vegas charged back into the top-three. He challenged Servia several times for second place, but eventually had to settle for third. The third place performance here in Las Vegas vaulted Vasser two positions in the point standings. The 1996 Series Champion currently sits sixth in the championship race with 173 points. He is just 13 points out of fifth place.

"Early in the race I saw Paul (Tracy) coming hard and I had a run on Oriol (Servia) on the outside," Vasser began. "I got along side of Oriol and Paul came along side me. We were three wide and it was one of those unfortunate situations where I was in the middle. I got pressure on both sides and had to lift, so the Gulfstream/PKV car ended up losing three positions," he explained. "After that we settled in and had good pit stops and were able to work our way back into contention," Vasser noted.

Vasser went on to say, "The entire PKV Racing team worked very hard the last few weeks to get our cars put together right and make them as slippery (through the air) as possible. There was a lot very fine detail work done in an effort to find as much speed as possible. We qualified both cars on the second row and I had a really good race car. To be honest, this race, I give mostly of the credit to the crew because of all the hard work that they did during the off weeks and this weekend. I also want to give credit to Bridgestone for giving us a very good tire for this race."

Vasser concluded by saying, "This was a good finish and I am happy for our sponsors, Gulfstream, Bell Micro, KPLJ and the whole PKV team. We built a new giant trophy case in our shop, and little by little we're filling it up."

Vasser, who was making his second start in Las Vegas, has now finished in the top-five both times placing fifth in the inaugural event to go with last night's third place performance. He has qualified in the top-three twice staring second at last year in addition to third this year.

Vasser has now finished in the top-10 in seven of the 11 races this year with three top-five showings, a fourth in Toronto and a fifth in Milwaukee to go with the season high third here in Las Vegas. The 39-year-old native of California has qualified in the top-10 in 10 consecutive races and 10 of the 11 events this year including the first pole in PKV Racing's history, at Milwaukee. Vasser is fifth in laps completed with 1094 (out of a total of 1183) and ninth in laps led with 27.

Vasser, who is contesting his 14th Champ Car season, made his 229th career start and extended his record for consecutive starts to 208. He has finished 143 of his last 185 races and placed in the top-10 in 130 of his 229 events including 65 top-five showings.

Da Matta, who tied his second best qualifying effort for the season with a fourth place starting position, lined up next to his teammate on the second row. Unfortunately, on the opening lap the #21 Bell Micro/PKV Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone machine got boxed in and da Matta could not defend his position. As a result he was passed on both the inside and outside by several competitors and dropped to 10th place. Over the next 10 laps da Matta struggled with the car and dropped as low as 15th. He remained in 15th for much of the race as he and the PKV Racing engineers and crew worked on changes from the cockpit and during pit stops. As the race wore on da Matta was able to pick up some positions, but he was down three laps to the leaders and could never seriously mount a challenge for a top-10 finish.

Da Matta, who spent the last two seasons competing in Formula 1, is contesting his fifth Champ Car season and first with PKV Racing. The 31 year-old Brazilian, who resides in Miami, FL made his 90th career start, 11th for PKV Racing and first in Las Vegas today. He has now finished in the top-10 in five of the 11 races contested this year including a victory in Portland, the first in the two-plus year history of PKV Racing. The resident of Miami, Florida has qualified in the top-10 in 10 of the 11 events this year (missing out only in San Jose) with a best starting position of second in Cleveland. He also qualified fourth in Milwaukee to go with the fourth place starting position here in Las Vegas. Da Matta is third in laps led with 71. The 2002 Series Champion currently sits 10th in the championship standings with 130 points.

PKV Racing made its third and fourth starts while competing in its second race in Las Vegas. The team has finished in the top-10 in three of its four starts and in the top-five twice with Vasser's third place performance their best showing (Vasser, fifth in 2004; Gonzalez, 10th, 2004). The team has qualified in the top-10 all four times and the top-five three times with a best starting position of second by Vasser in last year's inaugural event (Vasser, 3, 2005; da Matta, 4, 2005; Gonzalez, 10, 2004).

After the first 11 races in the 2005 Champ Car World Series season, PKV Racing has established a number of team records. Da Matta scored the team's first victory in their two plus year history in Portland (round #4) while Vasser earned the team's first pole in round #3 at Milwaukee. The two drivers have combined to set team records for best combined qualifying, first and fourth at Milwaukee and best combined finish, first and sixth at Portland. They have both qualified in the top-five twice (Milwaukee and Las Vegas, Vasser -- third, da Matta -- fourth) and in the top-10 in a team record nine races, including a team record six consecutive races. Da Matta and Vasser have finished in the top-10 in the same race three times (eighth/10th at Long Beach; first/sixth, Portland and sixth/seventh, Montreal) this year and at least one of them placed in the top-six in seven of the 11 events including five consecutive races (the streak ended in Edmonton), which is also a team record.

Next up for PKV Racing is The Champ Car World Grand Prix of Ansan, October 14-16, on the streets of Ansan, Korea. The Champ Car World Grand Prix of Ansan will be telvisied televised taped delayed on Sunday, October 16 at 11:30 a.m. (ET) on SPEED Channel.


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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Jimmy Vasser , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Cristiano da Matta