CHAMPCAR/CART: Michigan race report

Moore Takes Last Of Record 63 Leads For Victory In U.S. 500 CART Online (July 26, 1998) - Greg Moore dipped under Jimmy Vasser to take the lead heading into the first turn of the 250th and final lap Sunday and maintained it in a three-way...

Moore Takes Last Of Record 63 Leads For Victory In U.S. 500

CART Online (July 26, 1998) - Greg Moore dipped under Jimmy Vasser to take the lead heading into the first turn of the 250th and final lap Sunday and maintained it in a three-way sprint to the finish line with Vasser and Alex Zanardi en route to his fourth career FedEx Championship Series victory in the U.S. 500 Presented by Toyota at Michigan Speedway.

Moore's victory was tempered by three spectator fatalities when a wheel flew into a section of the Turn 4 grandstand following a single-car incident on the 175th lap. According to Dr. Greg Baumann, Medical Director for Michigan Speedway, six other spectators were injured in the incident. As of 7 p.m. ET Sunday, four of the six had been treated and released from W.A. Foote Hospital in Jackson.

Moore (Player's/Indeck Reynard Mercedes) earned his second victory of the FedEx Championship Series season in an event which featured an amazing 62 lead changes among nine drivers, obliterating the previous CART record of 27 lead swaps set at Michigan in 1982 and '85. The race was CART's first with the new Handford Device, a wing-like aerodynamic piece adopted by CART to help contain speeds at superspeedway events.

Moore led 36 of 250 laps en route to a 0.259-second victory over Vasser (Target Reynard Honda), who was making his 100th career start.

Zanardi (Target Reynard Honda), who entered the event seeking a CART-record fifth consecutive victory, finished third, 0.267 seconds behind Moore. Scott Pruett (Visteon Reynard Ford) finished fourth as the top four drivers were separated by 0.518 seconds.

Moore averaged 165.917 miles per hour and closed to four points of Vasser for second place in the PPG Cup points standings. Moore entered the event trailing Vasser, 106-98, but trimmed his deficit to 122-118 heading into the Aug. 9 Miller Lite 200 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Zanardi, buoyed by his 16th podium finish in his last 19 starts, continues to lead the championship with 190 points. Zanardi led a race-high 63 laps, followed by Michael Andretti (Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Swift Ford), who led 62 en route to a sixth-place finish.

Richie Hearn (Budweiser/Ralphs Swift Ford) finished a career-best fifth and led 11 laps. The top-nine finishers were separated by 4.059 seconds.

WHAT THEY'RE SAYING:

GREG MOORE, Player's/Indeck Reynard Mercedes: "The last five laps were pretty intense. Jimmy [Vasser] and Alex [Zanardi] had both been having great restarts, and I thought to catch them, I'd have to have a good draft off [Scott] Pruett. Once we got the white flag, I got a good run into Turn 1. He took the outside and I took the inside, and I got a good run down the backstraight and was able to hold on. It was a pretty eventful day. I stalled twice in the pits, we had a problem with the pit lane speed limiter which caused that, but Magneti Marelli got that corrected and it didn't happen again. It was a great day for everyone involved on the Player's team. We were able to gain several positions in the pits thanks to their great work. It was a great way to shake the monkey off our backs after a tough last four races.

[On the Handford Device] I think for superspeedways I'm a fan of it. It made for great side-by-side racing. Everyone respected each other's air today. I'm definitely a fan of it."

JIMMY VASSER, Target Reynard Honda: "I thought I'd get a good shot off [Turns] 1 and 2. I had some good distance, but I got stuck in a rev that was 1,000 [revolutions per minute] less from what we wanted. It must have been a sensor problem. We joked all weekend that no one wanted to lead the white flag lap, but it's hard not to take the lead when you can. I thought I had enough of a cushion. Obviously, I didn't."

ALEX ZANARDI, Target Reynard Honda: "It was a very long day. At one point, I thought it was just because I was concentrating on what we were doing because I didn't hear too much from [owner] Chip [Ganassi] on the radio. It was a long race but very exciting. At one point, I felt like I had everything covered. After our late pit stop, the car was just beautiful. Then, just before the end, something went wrong, an oil leak or something. We're happy to finish third. It was a great race."

ANDREW CRAIG, CART Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, issued the following statement regarding Sunday's three fatalities at Michigan Speedway: "I can only express the deep sorrow felt by everyone within the CART community. There is, of course, nothing that we can say or do that in any way will reduce the deep sadness felt by the families and friends of the victims, but on behalf of all of us at CART, I extend our heartfelt sympathies."

WHAT'S NOTEWORTHY:

* One story of Sunday's race was the spectacular back-and-forth racing attributable, at least in part, to the implementation of the new Handford Device adopted by CART to help contain the speeds of its Champ Cars at superspeedway events. The 250-lap event featured 62 lead changes among nine drivers, more than double the previous record of 27 lead changes set during 500-mile events at Michigan Speedway in 1982 and '85. Alex Zanardi (Target Reynard Honda) led 63 laps, followed by Michael Andretti (Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Swift Ford), with 62. Other lap leaders included winner Greg Moore (Player's/Indeck Reynard Mercedes), with 36; Gil de Ferran (Valvoline/Cummins Special Reynard Honda), with 26; Paul Tracy (KOOL Reynard Honda), with 22; Jimmy Vasser (Target Reynard Honda), with 18; Richie Hearn (Budweiser/Ralphs Swift Ford), with 11; Adrian Fernandez (Tecate/Quaker State/Labatt Reynard Ford), with 9 and Al Unser Jr. (Marlboro Penske Mercedes), with 3. Andretti led the most laps at a stretch with 28 (Laps 38-65), and drivers led two or fewer laps on 37 different occasions.

* Three of the four engine manufacturers (Honda, Ford, Mercedes), three of the four chassis (Reynard, Swift, Penske), both tire manufacturers (Goodyear, Firestone) and five (United States, Brazil, Canada, Italy, Mexico) of the 10 nations represented in the FedEx Championship Series led at least one lap during Sunday's U.S. 500 Presented by Toyota.

* The final five laps, and seven of the last eight, featured changes for the lead. Vasser led Lap 238 followed by Zanardi, who led Lap 239. Vasser held the point from Laps 240-245 before Zanardi, Vasser, Moore again, Vasser and finally Moore took turns leading one lap each en route to the checkered flag.

* Sunday's three podium finishers have accounted for all three victories in the history of the U.S. 500. Vasser won the inaugural event in 1996, followed by Zanardi last year.

* Vasser's runner-up finish marked his 11th consecutive finish of eighth or better, dating to seventh at Japan. He has scored PPG Cup points in 49 of his last 56 starts, dating to 1995 at Milwaukee.

* Firestone scored its 11th victory in a row and 22nd in the past 23 FedEx Championship Series events.

* Zanardi has led a race-high total of laps in all three of his career starts in the U.S. 500, including 134 at the inaugural event in 1996, 104 en route to victory last year, and 63 Sunday. He also led 74 laps at the 1996 Marlboro 500, also at Michigan Speedway. All told, he has led 375 of a possible 1,000 career laps in four starts at Michigan.

* The average speed for the first 100 miles, including a pit stop, was 216.438 miles per hour, with Andretti the leader. The first 50 laps were completed in 27 minutes, 44 seconds. The average speed at 150 miles was 216.049 mph.

* CART announced Sunday that the winner's purse for the season-ending Marlboro 500 Presented by Toyota at California Speedway will be $1 million. Coupled with the $1 million bonus from PPG which is awarded annually to the FedEx Championship Series champion, the potential winner's payoff at Fontana could be $2 million. The $1 million first-place prize ranks among the richest in sport, exceeding the winner's take in such events as the Super Bowl, World Series, Masters golf tournament and the World Cup of soccer. In addition, a fan could win an additional $1 million at the season finale as part of CART's first-ever major consumer promotion. CART's sponsor partners in the watch-and-win program include FedEx, Firestone, Goodyear, Kmart, MCI, Mercedes-Benz, PPG and Toyota.

"The $1 million prize to the winner is possible because Penske Motorsports [race promoter at California Speedway] and CART believe there is great value in developing special events within the FedEx Championship Series," said Carl Cohen, executive vice-president of marketing at CART. "We have joined together to provide the opportunity to provide drivers with the opportunity to win a single- day prize that is extremely rare, even in today's billion-dollar sports industry. What makes it even more exciting is that the race winner could be the driver who wins the PPG Cup and the $1 million that goes with it. And then there's the opportunity for a fan to become an instant millionaire in the 'Million Dollar Payday' program. We think it will be one of the most exciting days in the 20 years of CART Champ Car racing."

* The Marlboro Pole Award rollover bonus went unclaimed for the 18th consecutive event Sunday, meaning that the potential Marlboro Pole Award payout at the August 9 Miller Lite 200 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course is a record $310,000, Including $300,000 in rollover funds. The Miller Lite 200 will mark more than one year since the bonus, which grows at a rate of $15,000 per event until a victory from the pole is recorded, was last claimed by Zanardi at Cleveland.

* Detroit Red Wings Larry Murphy and Aaron Ward and actor Dermot Mulroney ("My Best Friend's Wedding") attended Sunday's race as guests of Newman/Haas Racing.

Motorsport News International's Internet Access in Brooklyn Provided by **** WebNet Detroit **** * Phone 1-888-WEB-NET-8 * 313-295-6227 * * http://www.wnol.net * info@wnol.net *

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Al Unser Jr. , Gil de Ferran , Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Adrian Fernandez , Paul Tracy , Alex Zanardi , Scott Pruett , Richie Hearn , Greg Moore