CHAMPCAR/CART: Portland race report

Zanardi Wins His Fourth Of The Season At Portland Portland, OR (June 21, 1998) -- Alex Zanardi led the final 26 laps Sunday to post his second consecutive FedEx Championship Series victory and fourth of the season in the Budweiser/G.I. Joe's...

Zanardi Wins His Fourth Of The Season At Portland

Portland, OR (June 21, 1998) -- Alex Zanardi led the final 26 laps Sunday to post his second consecutive FedEx Championship Series victory and fourth of the season in the Budweiser/G.I. Joe's 200 Presented by Texaco/Havoline at Portland International Raceway.

Zanardi (Target Reynard Honda) extended his lead to 134-96 over Greg Moore (Player's/Indeck Reynard Mercedes) in the FedEx Championship Series title race. Moore exited Sunday's race during a seven-car entanglement on the opening lap and went scoreless only for the second time in nine starts this season.

The victory was Zanardi's 12th in 41 career starts and allowed him to reach a dozen wins quicker than anybody in CART history with the exception of Rick Mears, who accomplished the feat in 38.

Scott Pruett (Visteon Reynard Ford) finished second, 6.839 seconds behind Zanardi. It was his best performance since a victory at Australia last year. Bryan Herta (Shell Reynard Ford) finished third, matching a season-best established at Long Beach.

Zanardi also gave Target/Chip Ganassi Racing its fourth consecutive FedEx Championship Series victory, dating to his win at Gateway International Raceway last month. Jimmy Vasser (Target Reynard Honda) followed with a victory at Milwaukee before Zanardi won at Detroit on June 7.

The win was Zanardi's second in three starts at Portland and his sixth in nine career starts on permanent road courses. He won at Portland, Mid-Ohio and Laguna Seca during his rookie season in 1996 and at Mid-Ohio and Road America last year.

Overall, Zanardi has 12 victories in 41 FedEx Championship Series career starts, including nine on permanent road courses or temporary street circuits.

Rookie Tony Kanaan (LCI Reynard Honda) finished fourth, a career high in nine series starts. He has finished in the top 10 in all three of his road course starts to date, including fifth at Long Beach and eighth at Detroit.

Al Unser Jr. (Marlboro Penske Mercedes) finished fifth, his 12th top-five effort in 15 career starts at Portland.

WHAT THEY'RE SAYING:

ALEX ZANARDI (Target Reynard Honda): "Obviously, it was a fantastic day for me. I'm obviously very happy with the way the day turned out. The championship has started very well, and I'm certainly very happy that I've been able to take advantage of other people's misadventures. There is still plenty of time for me to go home with a grumpy face. Things can't always go this well all the time. We were obviously concerned [about pit strategy] before the race. I told the team, 'We have to play the odds,' and the odds are usually to follow the leader, but I think we were surprised a little bit when Bryan [Herta] came into the pits [early in the race while leading]. At that point, I decided that wasn't the way to go and I'm pleased that our way turned out to be the right way. It was surprising to me to see Bryan, who had the best car and was leading, take the chance. Normally, that's a chance you take when you're running 14th. I'm absolutely not the best driver in the world. But I have to believe deep inside that I'm not worse than anybody, either. Otherwise, I'd better pick another job. But I still have much more to learn. Conditions were tough, there wasn't a lot of chance and opportunity to take a rest."

SCOTT PRUETT (Visteon Reynard Ford) "Everything went pretty good. When the first yellow [caution flag] came out, we obviously went to a two-stop strategy, which worked out very well for us. It was nice to get this thing turned around at Portland. I didn't think I could hold Bryan [Herta] off at the end. He had a very good car. Fortunately, we were able to keep him behind us. It was great fun [racing against Herta for podium positions late in the race]. Bryan and I were both trying as hard as we could. When you have a car underneath you that will allow you to race, it's a lot of fun."

BRYAN HERTA (Shell Reynard Ford) "I was really, really happy with my car. I thought I had one of the best cars ever to race in terms of being able to do a lot with it. The pit stop strategy was the story of the race. I have to talk to my team. We decided that an early stop was the way to go, but I don't think that's the way it worked out. Luckily, we had a good enough car to finish on the podium, and I'm happy about that. That was fun [racing against Pruett]. It was enjoyable to race with Scott because it was clean and hard racing. Our best shot was to try to push him into a mistake. I harried him as much as possible in every corner, but he didn't make a mistake."

WHAT'S NOTEWORTHY:

Unser Jr. led eight laps Sunday, enabling him to move past Mario Andretti and into fourth place on the career laps led list in CART competition. Andretti totaled 3,064 laps led during his CART career. Unser Jr. concluded the day with 3,069 laps led. Bobby Rahal (Miller Lite Reynard Ford) is third with 3,105 laps led in his career. Sunday's performance marked the first time Unser Jr. had led on a permanent road course since 1996 at Road America, when he led 25 of the final 26 laps before an engine failure on the final lap handed the victory to Michael Andretti.

Moore's exit due to contact on the opening lap marked the first time he has failed to complete a FedEx Championship Series event in nine starts this season. Jimmy Vasser (Target Reynard Honda), who finished eighth, is the only driver to have completed all nine events to date. Vasser continues to lead the series in both laps completed (1,417 of a possible 1,420) and miles completed (2,025.926 of a possible 2,030.479).

Zanardi's victory was the 24th for the Honda engine in 75 career starts in the FedEx Championship Series, including 22 in the past 42 starts. Honda entered CART competition at the start of the 1994 season.

Firestone tires has won eight consecutive FedEx Championship Series races and 19 of the last 20.

Kanaan regained the lead in the Jim Trueman Rookie of the Year race by virtue of his fourth-place finish. Kanaan, who trailed Helio Castro-Neves (Alumax Aluminum Reynard Mercedes), 29-27, heading into Sunday's race, collected 12 points for his effort to take a 39-29 lead. Castro-Neves finished 13th and out of the points. Kanaan held the rookie points lead from the Japan through Gateway events earlier this season.

Zanardi's victory moved Italy into second place in the Nation's Cup competition with 134 points, all coming from his efforts. The United States, buoyed by Pruett's runner-up effort, continues to lead the Nation's Cup with 148 points.

By leading a race-high 47 laps, Zanardi has now led at least one lap in 18 of 23 career starts on street or permanent road circuits, including eight of nine on permanent. The exception was Laguna Seca last year.

Arnd Meier (Hasseroder/Total Tel Lola Ford) finished 12th Sunday, the second PPG Cup point-producing finish of his two-year FedEx Championship Series career. He finished 12th at the U.S. 500 last year.

When Dario Franchitti (KOOL Reynard Honda) took the lead on Lap 14 it marked the first time he had led a lap on a permanent road course in five starts over his two-year career.

The Marlboro Pole Award rollover bonus went unclaimed for the 16th consecutive event Sunday, meaning that the potential Marlboro Pole Award payout for the July 12 Medic Drug Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by Star Bank is a record $265,000, including $255,000 in rollover funds. The Cleveland event will mark the one-year anniversary 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.

A number of fathers of FedEx Championship Series drivers were among the interested spectators at Sunday's Father's Day event. They included Mario Andretti, father of Michael; Jim Vasser, Sr., father of Jimmy; George Franchitti, father of Dario; Tom Herta, father of Bryan; Bob Pruett, father of Scott, and Bob Gordon, father of Robby.

WHAT'S ON TAP:

The Budweiser/G.I. Joe's 200 Presented by Texaco/Havoline will receive an encore performance 2 p.m. ET Monday on ESPN2 and again 3:30 p.m. ET Thursday on ESPN.

WHAT'S NEXT:

Following a brief hiatus, the FedEx Championship Series resumes with Round 10, the Medic Drug Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by Star Bank, July 12 from Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland, Ohio.

Source: CART Online

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Al Unser Jr. , Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Bobby Rahal , Dario Franchitti , Alex Zanardi , Tony Kanaan , Bryan Herta , Scott Pruett , Mario Andretti , Rick Mears , Chip Ganassi , Greg Moore
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing