CHAMPCAR/CART: Long Beach: PKV Racing preview

PKV Racing Set To Open Champ Car World Series With Former Long Beach Winner Jimmy Vasser and 2004 Rookie-of-the-Year Candidate Roberto Gonzalez. INDIANAPOLIS (April 14, 2004) -- With valuable testing sessions at Sebring, Fla. and Fontana, Calif.

PKV Racing Set To Open Champ Car World Series With Former Long Beach Winner Jimmy Vasser and 2004 Rookie-of-the-Year Candidate Roberto Gonzalez.

INDIANAPOLIS (April 14, 2004) -- With valuable testing sessions at Sebring, Fla. and Fontana, Calif. under their belts, PKV Racing owner/driver Jimmy Vasser (#12 Gulfstream Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Mexican rookie Roberto Gonzalez (#21 NII Holdings, Inc. Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) are planted on solid ground and ready to take on the best Champ Car has to offer this weekend in Round 1 of the 2004 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford, the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Last month, PKV Racing unveiled their eye-catching duo of 750hp turbocharged Lolas in Long Beach at the Champ Car Season Premiere, but this weekend 1996 Series Champion Vasser and 2004 Rookie-of-the-Year hopeful Gonzalez will put the thoroughbred racing machines through their first full strides on the SoCal City's downtown street circuit.

As one of the most recognized names in open wheel racing's vast landscape, Vasser leads the recently expanded two-car PKV Racing operation to the 30th Annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach with a wealth of Champ Car experience, returning to the 1.986-mile ribbon of pavement that delivered him a victory in 1996, and the pole in 2002.

"Long Beach is one of the events that I look forward to most each year," said Vasser. "I love this place, and it's been good to me over the years. It's a great street circuit with a lot of history and an awesome atmosphere. You have to have a good car to run up front, so that will be the key for us this weekend, a good consistent car. I'm looking forward to getting the season started."

In addition, Vasser is scheduled to start his 205th (ranks sixth all-time) Champ Car race on Sunday, which includes a streak of 183 consecutive starts, second longest in series history only to Al Unser Jr. (192).

The beneficiary of Vasser's Long Beach successes will be 27-year-old Monterrey, Mexico native Gonzalez, who will make his full-time debut in the series after contesting two Champ Car races in 2003.

"I'm very excited for Long Beach and for my first full season in Champ Car. "I feel very positive about what the team has already done, and with NII Holdings, Inc. coming on board as sponsor with me this season. I'm looking forward to the race and hopefully we can achieve some success as a result of our recent testing. Jimmy has been great to work with and has really motivated me and the team with his experience and leadership."

Watch Vasser and Gonzalez take on the rest of the Champ Car competition in the 81-lap (159.4-mile) street course showdown this Sunday, April 18th at 4:00 ET (Live) on Spike TV and HDNet.

NOTABLE NUGGETS

* Vasser's SoCal Successes...To complement his 1996 Long Beach win and 2002 pole position, the California native has tallied three podiums, 5 top fives, nine top-10s, and hasn't finished outside of the top-five since a 10th place result in 1999.

* Not My First Rodeo...The casual race fan might be led to believe Long Beach marks rookie Roberto Gonzalez' first start in a season opening Champ Car race. However, the Mexican pilot made his Champ Car debut in the 2003 season opener in St. Petersburg, and followed that up with an impressive top-10 effort in Mexico City as part of the first all-Mexican two-car Champ Car effort with Herdez Competition.

* Rewind...Last season Vasser started a dismal 14th in Long Beach in an outdated Reynard chassis with American Spirit Team Johansson, but a race-long charge saw him bull his way to the frontrunners, barely missing the podium with a solid fourth place result.

About PKV Racing

Founded in January 2003, Indianapolis-based PKV Racing fields a two-car effort in the Champ Car World Series for American open wheel star Jimmy Vasser (#12 Gulfstream Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Mexican rookie Roberto Gonzalez (#21 NII Holdings, Inc. Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone). The second-year team is owned by successful venture capitalists Kevin Kalkhoven and Dan Pettit, along with 1996 Series Champion Vasser, and is managed by veteran Champ Car team manager Russell Cameron.

For more information please visit www.pkvracing.com, www.nextel.com.mx or www.gulfstream.com.

-pkvr-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Al Unser Jr. , Jimmy Vasser , Roberto Gonzalez