VASSER OFFICIALLY BECOMES A FIRST-TIME IndyCar WINNER HOMESTEAD, Fla. (March 3, 1996) -- It's official. Target/Chip Ganassi Racing driver Jimmy Vasser's search for that elusive first career IndyCar victory finally ended Sunday as he fended...
VASSER OFFICIALLY BECOMES A FIRST-TIME IndyCar WINNER
HOMESTEAD, Fla. (March 3, 1996) -- It's official.
Target/Chip Ganassi Racing driver Jimmy Vasser's search for that elusive first career IndyCar victory finally ended Sunday as he fended off a late charge by Gil de Ferran to capture the season-opening Marlboro Grand Prix of Miami presented by Toyota at the Metro-Dade Homestead Motorsports Complex.
Vasser initially had recorded his first career triumph last June when Al Unser Jr. was disqualified at the Budweiser/G.I. Joe's 200 in Portland Ore., transforming his runner-up finish into a victory. That title, however, was returned to Unser at the end of the PPG Indy Car World Series when an appeals court overturned the decision.
"It feels great to finally get that monkey off my back," Vasser said. "Once I got the lead, I just ran conservatively to the end and got the win."
This time there was no doubt as Vasser parked his Target/Chip Ganassi Racing Reynard Honda in Victory Circle of the 1.527-mile oval and tasted the champagne that celebrates the accomplishment. The triumph came in his 56th career start and marked his fifth consecutive podium finish dating back to last season. The triumph was the third overall for Target/Chip Ganassi Racing and first since Toronto in July of 1994.
De Ferran (Pennzoil Reynard Honda) helped Honda to its first 1-2 showing in an IndyCar event, finishing 3.156 seconds behind Vasser. It was the third podium finish and second runner-up showing in 18 career starts for the 1995 Rookie of the Year. Robby Gordon (Valvoline/Cummins/Craftsman Reynard Ford Cosworth) finished third, his ninth podium finish in 55 career starts.
The start of the inaugural race at Homestead was slowed by light rains that brought out a red flag delay and five cautions that resulted in 36 of the first 60 laps being run under yellow.
Despite the cautions, Paul Tracy (Marlboro Penske Mercedes) still established himself of having the most dominant car. Tracy, who claimed the pole (198.590 mph, 27.681 sec.) as well as owning the top practice speeds, exhibited the same power through the first half of the race as he led the first 83 laps. Trouble, however, struck Tracy on following lap as he was forced out of the race because of transmission problems.
That left it wide open, and de Ferran was the first to take advantage of the departure of Tracy. De Ferran grabbed the lead and held it for 18 laps before Vasser overtook him on a restart on lap 102. Vasser opened up a more than a six-second lead with 18 laps remaining in the 133-lap event before de Ferran closed in traffic to 2.1 seconds with three laps remaining. Vasser, however, held him off to secure his first victory and the PPG Cup lead with 20 points. De Ferran is second in the points with 16 and Gordon third with 14.
In the Nation's Cup, Vasser gave the United States the lead with 20 points and de Ferran put Brazil in second with 16. Canada is third, with 6 courtesy of a seventh-place finish by rookie Greg Moore. Mexico was the other country gaining points (2) as Adrian Fernandez finished 11th.
Honda grabbed the Manufacturer's Championship lead for the first time in its three-year existence with 20 points. Ford Cosworth is second with 14 and Mercedes-Benz third with 10. Toyota did not record any points in its IndyCar debut. Reynard jumped out in front of the Constructor's Championship with 20 points and was followed by Lola (12), Penske (5) and Eagle (0).
Moore is the Rookie of the Year leader with 6 points, the only first-year driver of the five to earn points.
The Marlboro Grand Prix of Miami presented by Toyota will be re-aired at 1 p.m. Monday on ESPN. The PPG Indy Car World Series resumes March 17 with the inaugural Rio 400 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.