Vasser on Par With Fifth Fastest Time in Round One Road America Qualifying; Gonzalez 12th in First Ever Foray to Elkart Lake ELKHART LAKE, Wis. (August 6, 2004) -- After pacing the afternoon warm up session, 1996 Champ Car World Series champion...
Vasser on Par With Fifth Fastest Time in Round One Road America Qualifying; Gonzalez 12th in First Ever Foray to Elkart Lake
ELKHART LAKE, Wis. (August 6, 2004) -- After pacing the afternoon warm up session, 1996 Champ Car World Series champion Jimmy Vasser (#12 Gulfstream Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) overcame a pit lane speed violation and a trip into the sand trap in Turn 7, and still managed to come out of Round 1 qualifying with the day's fifth best time at 1:44.859 (138.975 mph) in beautiful Elkhart Lake, Wis. Vasser's PKV Racing teammate Roberto Gonzalez (#21 Nextel Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) piloted his machine around 4.048-mile course to the tune of 1:45.674 (137.903 mph) in his first visit to the monstrous circuit.
Vasser's day started out on a sour note when his 750hp turbocharged PKV Racing Lola stalled leaving pit lane. The California native was handed a drive-through penalty for the ensuing 53mph radar reading that registered when the car was refired and he sped off. The struggle continued for Vasser, as the Red Flag flew for his off in Turn 7, which also resulted in the loss of his fastest lap [third overall, 1:44.629 (139.281 mph). However, the 10-time racewinner tightened the belts, regained his composure, and held onto fifth place on the driver-favorite Road America circuit.
"I was up about a half second on my time when I spun out [while in third], so it's a little disappointing," said Vasser, who stands seventh in the championship with 112 points. "But I think we found something in our shock program. I can feel the difference, so my guys must have come up with something between races. Hopefully this is a sign of good things to come. P5 is about as good as the Gulfstream car has been all season in qualifying. But sometimes motorsports is like a golf swing -- just when you think you've got it figured out, it can change on you."
Sunday's Grand Prix of Road America is also a noteworthy stop on Vasser's 2004 Champ Car tour of duty, as Round 8 will mark consecutive start number 191 for the durable driver, pulling him within just one start of Al Unser Jr., who holds the all-time Champ Car iron man mark with 192. Vasser is scheduled to break that record in Round 10 at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, Quebec Canada with start 193. His current streak dates back to his 22nd career start at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca (1993), with his first Champ Car start coming in Surfers Paradise, Australia in 1992.
Gonzalez turned his first official laps at Road America today after testing the Nextel-sponsored Champ Car here earlier in the year. The Mexican rookie acclimated himself to the track quite nicely, but he knows bigger and better things are in store for the final qualifier tomorrow afternoon.
"We made a huge change in the Nextel car in terms of the roll center, which really seemed to help us out in qualifying," said Gonzalez. "I just wish we would have done it earlier in practice this morning, and maybe we would have been further along in the balance. The change really made the car quicker and easier to drive. I was on a flyer with just two or three turns before the timing line when the final Red Flag came out and ruined our lap. [PKV Racing teammate] Jimmy [Vasser] found something in the 12 car so hopefully we can translate that information into our setup and improve tomorrow."
Watch Vasser and Gonzalez this Sunday, August 8th on Spike TV (4:00 pm ET/PT) or HDNet (2:00 pm ET, Live) as they try to tame the 4.048-mile permanent road circuit in Elkhart Lake, Wis. in Round 8 of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered By Ford.