Long Beach (April 6, 1998 The international diversity of the FedEx Championship Series is no better evidenced than in Sunday's Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach and the current PPG Cup points championship. The top seven finishers in Sunday's race...
Long Beach (April 6, 1998 The international diversity of the FedEx Championship Series is no better evidenced than in Sunday's Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach and the current PPG Cup points championship. The top seven finishers in Sunday's race represented seven countries with Alex Zanardi (Italy, Target Reynard Honda), Dario Franchitti (Scotland, KOOL Reynard Honda), Bryan Herta (USA, Shell Reynard Ford), Adrian Fernandez (Mexico, Tecate/Quaker State/Labatt Reynard Ford), Tony Kanaan (Brazil, LCI Reynard Honda), Greg Moore (Canada, Player's/Indeck Reynard Mercedes) and Mark Blundell (England, Motorola PacWest Mercedes) pacing the results, respectively. In the PPG Cup race, the top six represent six different countries, including Fernandez (Mexico), Moore (Canada), Zanardi (Italy), Franchitti (Scotland), Andretti (USA) and Gil de Ferran (Brazil, Valvoline/Cummins Special Reynard Honda) .
The first three FedEx Championship Series events of the season have produced nine podium finishes by eight different drivers. Zanardi is the only driver to have repeated on the podium, following a third-place finish at Homestead and Sunday's victory. Michael Andretti (Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Swift Ford) and Moore finished first and second, respectively, at Homestead, while Fernandez, Al Unser Jr. (Marlboro Penske Mercedes) and de Ferran finished first through third, respectively, at Motegi On the strength of his third top-six finish of the season, Fernandez maintained the PPG Cup points lead with 41, followed by Moore (37) and Zanardi (34). Franchitti (25) stands fourth, followed by Andretti (21). Honda's victory allowed it to close to 57-49 of leader Ford in the Manufacturer's Championship. Mercedes-Benz is third with 41. Reynard's Constructor's Championship lead over Swift stands at 60-21 following Zanardi's win. Buoyed by Herta's third-place effort, the United States leads the Nation's Cup competition with 52 points, followed by Mexico (41), Brazil (37) and Canada (37). Kanaan scored PPG Cup points for the second consecutive event and leads the Rookie of the Year standings with 18, followed by Helio Castro-Neves with 6 De Ferran and Moore led Sunday's Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, leaving the duo as the only drivers in the series to lead at least one lap in every race this season. Two of Zanardi's three career victories on a temporary circuit have come at Long Beach the past two seasons. The other came at Cleveland's Burke Lakefront Airport last season. No polesitter has gone on to win the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach since Unser Jr. won in 1990.
Saturday marked the fourth anniversary of CART's hiring of Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Andrew Craig. Formula One chief Bernie Ecclestone attended Sunday's Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach and spent a portion of his afternoon with Craig. "It was pleasing to have Bernie come for a social visit, which gave him an opportunity to renew acquaintances in the racing community," Craig said. "It also gave the FedEx Championship Series an opportunity to show him what we are doing now."
When Herta led the opening 20 laps Sunday, it marked the fifth consecutive road or street course event in which he had led at least one lap. He led 18 laps from the pole at Mid-Ohio last year, four at Road America, 10 at Vancouver and 21 more from the pole at Laguna Seca JJ Lehto (Hogan Racing, Inc. Reynard Mercedes) became the first rookie to lead a lap this season when he led Laps 21-25. He was followed shortly by fellow rookie Helio Castro-Neves (Alumax Aluminum Reynard Mercedes), who led Laps 26-39. It marked the first time two rookies had led the same event since last year's U.S. 500 at Michigan Speedway, when Franchitti led 12 laps and Patrick Carpentier 14. The last time two rookies led at least one lap on a street or road course was 1996 at Toronto, when Zanardi led 63 laps and Moore led 12 De Ferran became the first driver to lead all three FedEx Championship Series events this season when he led Laps 40-80. It was also the fourth consecutive event he has led, including last year at California Speedway, and the third consecutive year he has led a lap at Long Beach.
Actor Sean Patrick Flanery won Saturday's Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race, an annual feature of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Flanery, star of the movie "Powder," qualified second and drove to victory over a field of 16 other celebrities in the annual event, which raised more than $80,000 for "Racing For Kids," a fundraising program benefiting Southern California children's hospitals. Actor Andy Lauer of the NBC-TV series "Caroline in the City" qualified on the pole in the celebrity category and finished second overall after being passed by Flanery on the final lap. Local Toyota dealer John Cabe finished third, followed by actor Eric Braeden ("The Young and the Restless") and Japanese journalist Kumi Sato. Other noteworthy celebrities participating in the event included actress Cameron Diaz ("My Best Friend's Wedding"), who finished fifth; Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Derrick Thomas, who finished seventh; actor Daryl "Chill" Mitchell ("Veronica's Closet"), who finished eighth; actor Joshua Morrow ("The Young and the Restless"), who finished ninth; CNN "Showbiz Today" anchor Jim Moret, who finished 10th; bicycle racing legend Greg LeMond, who finished 13th, top fuel drag racer Christen Powell, who finished 15th and Grammy winning rap artist Queen Latifah, who finished 17th. All told, the Toyota/Pro Celebrity Race has generated nearly $500,000 for charity over the years Musician Joe Walsh, formerly of the James Gang and the Eagles, sang the National Anthem prior to Sunday's race
Herta earned his fourth career pole position during qualifying, at a record average speed of 111.226 mph. The pole was his third in the past eight events, following top qualifying efforts at Mid-Ohio and Laguna Seca last year Bobby Rahal, (Miller Lite Reynard Ford), Herta's teammate, qualified second, marking the first time in Team Rahal's three-year history that its drivers have swept the front row. It was also the first time that teammates have sat on the front row since Mauricio Gugelmin (Hollywood PacWest Mercedes) and Mark Blundell (Motorola PacWest Reynard Mercedes) qualified first and second, respectively, at Road America last year The Marlboro Pole Award rollover bonus went unclaimed for the 11th consecutive event Sunday, meaning that a record purse of $175,000 will be available at the April 26 Bosch Spark Plug Grand Prix Presented by Toyota at Nazareth Speedway. The potential record payout will include $10,000 for the pole winner, plus $165,000 in rollover funds which have accumulated at a rate of $15,000 per race since Zanardi's victory at Cleveland last July.
Source: CART Online