CHAMPCAR/CART: Portland: Jimmy Vasser preview

Vasser looks for better luck at Portland; Shell driver seeks initial GI Joe's 200 victory. Vasser ready for Portland victory run: For sometime in 1995, Jimmy Vasser was credited with winning the GI Joe's 200 at Portland International Raceway.

Vasser looks for better luck at Portland; Shell driver seeks initial GI Joe's 200 victory.

Vasser ready for Portland victory run:

For sometime in 1995, Jimmy Vasser was credited with winning the GI Joe's 200 at Portland International Raceway. The current Shell driver took the checkered flag that year in the second position, but was awarded his first CART career victory after Al Unser Jr.'s winning car was deemed illegal in post-race inspection. Unser later was reinstated with the win and Vasser was second. "That really wasn't the way I wanted to win my first CART race," said Vasser, a nine-time winner in CART competition. "I wanted to take the checkered flag first, not later after everything was over for the day. I was able to come back later (in 1996) and win my first race at Homestead. I would like to finally win that race at Portland. My luck hasn't been very good there over the years."

And Vasser's luck has been too good lately either on the CART tour. After a brilliant performance at Long Beach in April, the Las Vegas driver has been struck with the series of misfortune in events at Japan, Milwaukee and Laguna Seca. Even the Indy 500 (when Vasser was sixth at 80 laps) ended to soon for the 1996 CART series champion. A fuel leak kept Vasser from finishing at Japan, he placed ninth at Milwaukee after sliding wide and nearly hitting the wall and, last week at Laguna Seca, Vasser had to stop in the first turn of the first lap after coming up on a six- car mishap. "I haven't been able to get away from the bad luck lately," said Vasser, just six points out of sixth place. "Of course, we haven't qualified in the positions that we wanted in recent races. And if you are starting in the back, you can get caught up in some of crap that happens in the middle and the back of the fields. And Portland can have similar results for a driver in the middle of the field. I have been knocked out of the race several times. So I want to be at the front of the field and race with the leaders."

VASSER'S ROAD RACING STYLE COULD BE RIGHT FOR PORTLAND: Vasser's first victory nearly came at Portland in 1995 at the wheel of the No. 12 Target machine but placed second ahead of his new team owner Bobby Rahal. Last year, Vasser was forced to dodge spinning cars in the rain-soaked event that was won by Team Rahal's Max Papis. "That was a wild race last year," said Vasser. "We have had some rain at Portland over the years and I have been in the middle of incidents. I'm hoping we have a rain-free race this year because our Shell car is fast. I feel confident about over road racing setups right now. The new CART rules aren't supposed to have a lot of fuel runs this year. So it should be a shootout with the fastest cars and drivers at Portland."

VASSER HAS NORTHWEST ROOTS: Vasser's father, Jim Sr., was a popular drag racer in the Portland and Seattle area in 1960s and Jimmy lived in the Northwest as a youngster. He began racing quarter-midgets at age 6 and won three national titles.

VASSER ENJOYS COMING BACK TO ROAD COURSES: Vasser was ready for the road courses after two months of oval racing. "I'm glad to be back on the roads again," said Vasser. "A lot of weird things have been happening to us on the ovals. I believe Team Rahal and the Shell crew in particular has a very strong road course setup. We had good testing earlier in the year and I think we can relate that information to the upcoming road circuits. I'm anxious for the Portland, Toronto and Cleveland races."

RAHAL KNOWS PORTLAND TOO: In 2001, Team Rahal's Max Papis won the GI Joe's 200 in his Miller Lite Ford. It marked the second time a Bobby Rahal car has won at Portland. Rahal, the three-time CART champion, won at Portland in 1987, finished second in 1989, third in 1991 and 1995, fourth in 1993 and sixth in 1996 and 1998. "The Portland track is always a great one to run," said Rahal. "I think both Jimmy and Michel (Jourdain, Vasser's teammate) will be competitive there. Our road racing cars have been fast this year. Jimmy should have won at Long Beach and Michel has two Top-Five finishes on road circuits so far. I think we'll have the cars to win again. Just like Max had last year."

VASSER COLLECTS HOT RODS IN HIS PAST TIME: With Jim Vasser Sr.'s background, it is no surprise that Jimmy is a collector of hot rods. Vasser has a large collection of machines including vintage Corvettes, Thunderbirds and Cadillac's. "I've always enjoyed the American hot rods," said Vasser. "They are cool cars."

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Al Unser Jr. , Jimmy Vasser , Max Papis