CHAMPCAR/CART: Road America Preview

Texaco/Havoline 200 Road America International (August 12, 1998) -- They call it Road America, but FedEx Championship Series events held at the venue in the recent past have had a distinctly international flavor. The series prepares for ...

Texaco/Havoline 200

Road America International

(August 12, 1998) -- They call it Road America, but FedEx Championship Series events held at the venue in the recent past have had a distinctly international flavor.

The series prepares for Round 14, Sunday's Texaco/Havoline 200 (3:30 p.m. ET, live, ESPN), at a venue where five of the past six winners have been international drivers. That group has included Brazilian Emerson Fittipaldi (1992), Canadians Paul Tracy (1993) and Jacques Villeneuve (1994 and '95) and Italian Alex Zanardi (1997). Michael Andretti (Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Swift Ford) in 1996, has been the lone American winner at Road America during that span.

Andretti, CART's all-time victory leader with 37, owns three wins at Road America (1990, '91 and '96), tying him with his father, Mario (1983, '84 and '87), and Fittipaldi (1986, '88 and '92) for the career lead at the venue.

Recent international dominance of the Texaco/Havoline 200 - and the fact that the past six FedEx Championship Series events have been won by international drivers - figures to impact the Nation's Cup standings this weekend as the United States bids for its fourth consecutive Nation's Cup title. Heading into the weekend, the U.S. - keyed by 11 consecutive top-eight finishes from Jimmy Vasser (Target Reynard Honda) - holds a 213-190 Nation's Cup lead over Italy, which has received all its points from Zanardi. Canada, led by Greg Moore (Player's/Indeck Reynard Mercedes), stands third at 144.

Nation's Cup points are awarded only to a country's highest finisher at each FedEx Championship Series event, according to the same scale used to compute the drivers' standings. One bonus points is awarded for both the pole position and most laps led.

Meanwhile, Zanardi (Target Reynard Honda), the defending race and series champion, holds a 190-122 lead over Vasser, his Target/Chip Ganassi Racing teammate, in the PPG Cup points race. Neither driver scored during last Sunday's Miller Lite 200 at Mid-Ohio, a season first.

Vasser was eliminated due to contact on the opening lap, ending a streak of 11 top-eight finishes, while Zanardi was deprived of the PPG Cup point he would have earned for his 12th-place finish for separate incidents of unjustifiable risk involving contact with rookies JJ Lehto (Hogan Motor Leasing, Inc. Reynard Mercedes) and Helio Castro-Neves (Alumax Aluminum Reynard Mercedes). Zanardi was also fined $50,000 and placed on probation for an indeterminate period by CART Chief Steward Wally Dallenbach.

In addition, Moore, third in the championship, was fined $5,000 for unjustifiable risk in connection with an unsafe act in the pits while Bryan Herta (Shell Reynard Ford) was placed on probation for his role in an opening-lap accident which caused the immediate exit of front row starters Dario Franchitti (KOOL Reynard Honda) and Vasser from the event.

As a result of the incidents involving Zanardi, Vasser and Moore, there was no change at the top of the FedEx Championship Series points standings at Mid-Ohio. But the Patrick Racing team, on the strength of a one-two finish by Adrian Fernandez (Tecate/Quaker State/Labatt Reynard Ford) and Scott Pruett (Visteon Reynard Ford), improved its lot in the championship considerably.

Fernandez moved from fifth to fourth with an already career-best 110 points, and is only a dozen out of second. Pruett, meanwhile, has been one of the hottest drivers in the series, finishing sixth or better in the past five events and scoring PPG Cup points in his past eight outings. That has moved him from 15th to sixth in the points standings, with 92 points.

Another hot "shoe" has been Bobby Rahal (Miller Lite Reynard Ford), who is retiring as a driver at the conclusion of this season, his 17th in the FedEx Championship Series. "Rahal's Last Ride" currently includes a streak of 10 consecutive finishes with PPG Cup points, topped by a season-high third-place effort at Mid-Ohio last Sunday in his final appearance at his home track.

Paul Tracy (KOOL Reynard Honda) is a past winner (1993) at Road America, and a three-time pole winner (1992-94) there as well. He comes off one of his best drives of the season at Mid-Ohio, where he started 21st and matched his season-best performance by finishing fifth.

Tracy's teammate, Franchitti, collected his third pole of the season at Mid-Ohio, tying him with Moore for the series lead. Herta qualified third, and has qualified fifth or better for five of the six road- or street-course events contested this season.

Al Unser Jr. (Marlboro Penske Mercedes), owner of nine top-10 finishes at Road America, qualified seventh at Mid-Ohio - his best start on a road or street course since seventh at Vancouver in 1996 - and finished sixth. Teammate Andre Ribeiro (Marlboro Penske Mercedes) finished 10th, his best performance since ninth at Japan.

Mauricio Gugelmin (Hollywood PacWest Mercedes), last year's runner-up and pole sitter at Road America, comes off a season-best effort at Mid-Ohio, where he started and finished fourth. Patrick Carpentier's (Player's/Indeck Reynard Mercedes) seventh-place finish at Mid-Ohio was a career best on a road or street course.

Gil de Ferran (Valvoline/Cummins Special Reynard Honda) finished third at Road America last year, while Christian Fittipaldi (Kmart Swift Ford) matched his season best by finishing fourth.

Mark Blundell (Motorola PacWest Mercedes) started second and led 23 laps at Road America last year until an off-course excursion ended his day. Richie Hearn's (Budweiser/Ralphs Swift Ford) ninth-place performance in last year's Texaco/Havoline 200 stood as his career-best showing on a road or street course until he finished seventh at Toronto last month.

Road America hasn't been particularly kind to Robby Gordon (Panasonic-Duskin/MCI Reynard Toyota), whose best finish in five career starts is 17th in 1996. Arciero-Wells Racing teammate Max Papis finished ninth that year, in only his second CART career start.

The Jim Trueman Rookie of the Year Award remains up for grabs, with Tony Kanaan (LCI Reynard Honda) and Castro-Neves the primary contenders. Kanaan holds a 46-33 lead entering the weekend, with Lehto and Alex Barron (Castrol-Degree Eagle Toyota) still hoping to impact the race.

PJ Jones (Castrol-Degree Reynard Toyota) earned one of his two best road- or street-course finishes of 1997 at Road America, taking 14th. Rounding out the field are Michel Jourdain Jr. (Herdez/Viva Mexico! Reynard Ford), Arnd Meier (Hasseroder/J.A.G. Lola Ford) and Gualter Salles (SmithKline Beecham Reynard Ford), all of whom are making their second career appearances at Road America. Salles' 13th-place finish topped the group in '97.

Qualifying for the Texaco/Havoline 200 will air 5 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN2. "CART 2Day" airs 3 p.m. ET Sunday on ESPN2. The Texaco/Havoline 200 will be broadcast live on the CART Radio Network, beginning at 3:30 p.m. ET.

Following the Texaco/Havoline 200, the FedEx Championship Series takes two weekends off before continuing Sept. 6 with the Molson Indy Vancouver from Concord Pacific Place in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Source: CART Online

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Wally Dallenbach , Jacques Villeneuve , Gualter Salles , Robby Gordon , Al Unser Jr. , Gil de Ferran , Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Max Papis , Adrian Fernandez , Bobby Rahal , Patrick Carpentier , Christian Fittipaldi , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Alex Zanardi , Mauricio Gugelmin , Bryan Herta , Scott Pruett , Mark Blundell , Richie Hearn , Alex Barron , Chip Ganassi , Andre Ribeiro , Greg Moore , Michel Jourdain , JJ Lehto
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing