CHAMPCAR/CART: Long Beach notes

>From IndyCar media relations Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach -- Notebook TOYOTA GRAND PRIX OF LONG BEACH NOTEBOOK Target/Chip Ganassi Racing driver Jimmy Vasser (Target Reynard Honda) became the first driver since Mario Andretti in 1985 to...

>From IndyCar media relations

Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach -- Notebook

TOYOTA GRAND PRIX OF LONG BEACH NOTEBOOK

Target/Chip Ganassi Racing driver Jimmy Vasser (Target Reynard Honda) became the first driver since Mario Andretti in 1985 to claim three of the first four races in a PPG Indy Car World Series season.

Vasser won the season opener at the Marlboro Grand Prix of Miami, finished eighth at the Rio 400 and then reeled off consecutive victories at the IndyCar Australia and Sunday's Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Vasser, who entered the season seeking his first career victory, leads the PPG Cup standings, 67-44, over Scott Pruett (Firestone Patrick Racing Lola Ford).

Andretti also had his only miss at victory in 1985 come in the second race of the season. He won from the pole at Long Beach, finished runner-up at Indianapolis and followed with victories at Milwaukee and Portland. His victory at Milwaukee also came from the pole.

Interestingly enough, Andretti's hot start did not result in the PPG Cup championship. He did not win another race after Portland and finished fifth in the PPG Cup race. Al Unser Sr. won the title by a point over his son, Al Jr.

Vasser, however, has a current streak that works to his advantage. Two of the last three drivers who have won the PPG Cup -- Jacques Villeneuve in 1995 and Nigel Mansell in '93 -- won the season-opening race.

* YOUNG AT HEART (AND BODY)

Michel Jourdain Jr. became the youngest driver in history to start a PPG Indy Car World Series race when he took the green flag in the Grand Prix of Long Beach. Jourdain, 19 years, 6 months 12 days, eclipsed the mark set by Unser Jr., who was 20 years, 4 months and 10 days when he started at Riverside (Calif.) International Raceway on Aug. 29, 1982.

Jourdain qualified 27th in the 28-car field and finished 23rd in the No. 22 Herdez/Perry Ellis/ALTA Natural Spring Water Lola Ford for Team Scandia. "I felt very good," said Jourdain Jr., who exited after 46 laps because of a radiator problem. "I let everyone pass that needed to, but I also passed two or three cars. I think I was doing good."

His recent feat, however, may force him to have a small chat with Josele Garza, who ran Jourdain's Formula 2 team in Mexico. Garza has two birthdays in Indy Car annals and depending on which one he decides to use he could be disputed as the youngest driver to start a PPG Indy Car World Series event. Garza listed his birth date as March 17, 1959 on his race entry for his debut March 22, 1981 at Phoenix, making him 22 years, 5 days old. But Garza apparently found the "Fountain of Youth" later in his career. He later listed his birth date as March 15, 1962, which would have made him 19 years, 7 days old in his 1981 debut.

* CHAMPIONSHIP UPDATE

Honda, with victories in all four events, leads the Manufacturer's Championship with 80 points. Mercedes-Benz is second at 54 and Ford Cosworth third with 50. In the Constructor's Championship, Reynard, with three triumphs, leads with 72 points. Lola is second with 56 and Penske third with 39. … The United States, thanks to three victories by Vasser, is ahead in the Nation's Cup race with 76 points. Brazil is second with 58 and Canada third with 32. … Greg Moore (Player's Ltd./Indeck Reynard Mercedes) leads the Rookie of the Year race with 20 points. Alex Zanardi (Target Reynard Honda) is second with 14 points and Eddie Lawson (Delco Electronics High Tech Team Galles Lola Mercedes) third with 10 points.

* COSTLY MOVE

Christian Fittipaldi (Kmart Budweiser Lola Ford) drew an automatic fine of $5,000 for unsportsmanlike conduct because of his actions after he and Moore were involved in an incident on Lap 47. After the two cars made contact, Fittipaldi exited his car, went over to Moore and pulled him out of his car by the visor. "It was just something that happens in the heat of the moment," Fittipaldi said. In addition to the Fittipaldi incident, IndyCar Chief Steward Wally Dallenbach and Vice President of Competition Kirk Russell met with several competitors for nearly three hours after the race. More than one incident involving several teams and drivers were discussed and reviewed. Disciplinary action will be taken early this week.

* GORDON'S FAN-TASTIC PROPOSAL

Robby Gordon (Valvoline/Cummins/Craftsman Reynard Ford) made a wedding proposal Sunday morning at the Racers Private Motor Sports Club, but those wedding bells are not ringing for him. Gordon, an Orange, Calif. resident, was asked to perform the task on behalf of one of his fans, John Williamson, who was marrying -- who else -- but another Gordon fan, Juliana Page. After Gordon delivered the news to Page, Williamson got down on one knee and made the official proposal himself before 225 fans of Gordon. Gordon then presented the couple with an autographed bottle of Domain Chandon. "I'm not ready to jump into something like this, but if I can help out one of my fans and if they are ready to make the step, then I'm more than happy to help them out. I'm just glad she didn't say 'No' to him and 'Yes' to me.'"

* WHERE'S KRAMER?

Television star Jerry Seinfeld served on Al Unser Jr.'s pit crew during Sunday's race. At the personal invitation of Unser Jr., Seinfeld -- outfitted in a Marlboro Team Penske fire suit -- held the "Reset Fuel Meter" sign during Unser's pit stops. Seinfeld is a big racing fan and was thrilled by the opportunity to participate in an IndyCar event.

* ODDS AND ENDS

NFL Hall of Fame running back Walter Payton, who also is the co-owner of Payton-Coyne Racing, drove the pace car for the start of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Payton, who starred for the Chicago Bears, is the NFL's all-time leading rusher. … When Gil de Ferran (Pennzoil Special Reynard Honda) led the first lap, it marked the first time a team with Goodyear tires had led since the latter stages of the Rio 400, a span of 94 laps. … Vasser has completed 435 of a possible 436 laps this season, finishing a lap off the pace at the Rio 400. Scott Pruett (Firestone Patrick Racing Lola Ford) and Fittipaldi were the only drivers entering the Long Beach event that had completed every lap. On Sunday, Pruett finished 103 of 105 and Fittipaldi 47.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Wally Dallenbach Sr. , Jacques Villeneuve , Robby Gordon , Al Unser Jr. , Gil de Ferran , Jimmy Vasser , Christian Fittipaldi , Alex Zanardi , Nigel Mansell , Scott Pruett , Mario Andretti , Al Unser Sr. , Eddie Lawson , Chip Ganassi , Greg Moore , John Williams , Michel Jourdain
Teams Williams , Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing