CHAMPCAR/CART: Road America Race Report

Elkhart Lake, WI (August 16, 1998) -- Dario Franchitti scored a triumph befitting the United Nations while posting his first career FedEx Championship Series victory in Sunday's Texaco/Havoline 200 before a crowd of 75,000 at Road America.

Elkhart Lake, WI (August 16, 1998) -- Dario Franchitti scored a triumph befitting the United Nations while posting his first career FedEx Championship Series victory in Sunday's Texaco/Havoline 200 before a crowd of 75,000 at Road America.

Franchitti (KOOL Reynard Honda), a native Scot of Italian ancestry, ended a three-year victory drought for a team owned by New Zealander Barry Green by driving to a 7.102-second victory over series points leader Alex Zanardi (Target Reynard Honda). Christian Fittipaldi (Kmart Swift Ford) finished third, his best effort since finishing in the same position at Vancouver in 1996.

Franchitti became the first Scotsman to win a Champ Car race since Jim Clark was victorious in the 1965 Indianapolis 500. He also collected the first FedEx Championship Series victory for a Green-owned car since Jacques Villeneuve won at Cleveland in 1995.

Franchitti, making his 30th career start, led a race-high 23 of 50 laps and took the lead for good on the 30th lap of the 4..048-mile permanent road course. In a game of pit strategies, he built a lead of as much as 27.582 seconds over Adrian Fernandez (Tecate/Quaker State/Labatt Reynard Ford) before his final pit stop on Lap 42, when he took on fuel and four tires during an unofficial 10.7- second stop.

Fernandez and Fittipaldi, running third, also pitted on Lap 42, allowing Franchitti to emerge with an 11.673-second lead over pole-sitter Michael Andretti (Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Swift Ford) on Lap 43. Franchitti maintained the advantage at six or more seconds for the balance of the event.

Zanardi, who fell back to 24th place on Lap 7 after being involved in contact with Al Unser Jr. (Marlboro Penske Mercedes) on the opening lap, rebounded from the incident to reach the podium. He ran strong while also benefiting from late-race misfortune befalling Andretti, who cut a tire on the final lap while running second, to collect his 11th podium finish in 14 events.

Fittipaldi, who overcame severe neck pain prior to the start of the race, scored a season-best finish, topping his previous best of fourth established at the season opener at Homestead. Rounding out the top-five finishers were rookie Tony Kanaan (LCI Reynard Honda), who matched a season best established at Portland, and Fernandez, who claimed his seventh top-five finish of the season and moved into third place in the FedEx Championship Series points race, with 120.

Zanardi holds an 80-point lead (206-126) over Target/Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Jimmy Vasser (Target Reynard Honda) in the PPG Cup race heading into the Sept. 6 Molson Indy Vancouver. Vasser finished ninth Sunday, his 45th points-paying result in his past 47 starts, dating to the 1995 season finale at Laguna Seca.

POST RACE QUOTES

DARIO FRANCHITTI, KOOL Reynard Honda: "It was very difficult to pass anybody on track, so I just concentrated on good stops and quick 'out' laps. After the last stop, I saw 'plus-10' on the pit board, and that kind of worried me, because that's exactly what it said in Toronto before I went off [after leading 76 of the first 79 laps]. I was slowing it down and being cautious on the brakes the last couple of laps and cruising it home. I could really run fast after the last stop because of the fuel mileage we were getting. The guys at Team KOOL Green are going to have a party tonight. They did a great job. The stops were awesome. And I hope this [victory] is the first of many."

ALEX ZANARDI, Target Reynard Honda: "Congratulations to Christian [Fittipaldi], he's had some tough luck and it's about time that he gets a good result. I'm really happy for both him and Dario [Franchitti]. They're both good guys and they deserve good results. It was a great race after Lap 1. That was very unfortunate. In the short chute between Turns 1 and 2, I saw a puff of smoke. Everybody stopped, and that wasn't even the braking point. The first thing I did was hit the brake, but it wasn't soon enough. After that, we had to take an aggressive strategy, and thanks to my boys [in the pit crew], it paid off. I'm happy for the way I raced, although I'm disappointed for what happened on Lap 1. It's exactly what I wouldn't need after what happened last week [when he was placed on probation]."

CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI, Kmart Swift Ford: "I honestly don't know what happened [to create his sore neck]. This has never happened before. This morning, I went out and did five laps and after I came in, I could hardly turn my head. I took a shot and I took a couple of Advils, but when we went out to do the parade laps, I thought I was done. Then my neck started getting hot and I started feeling better. Other than that, the race was fine. We had a good day. We've had a hard time getting back here since the last time. We have five more races to go, and hopefully, I can visit you guys again and we can get ready for next year."

WHAT'S NOTEWORTHY

CART Chief Steward Wally Dallenbach announced following Sunday's Texaco/Havoline 200 that no action will be taken against Alex Zanardi, who currently is on probation and was involved in an opening-lap incident with Al Unser Jr. "After reviewing the tapes and interviewing several drivers, it was apparent that Alex took evasive action to avoid this incident, which was triggered by nose-to-tail contact between the No. 5 [nose of Gil de Ferran] and 20 [tail of Scott Pruett] cars in front of them," Dallenbach said. "Alex's wheels were locked up before the contact. It was deemed a racing incident." Zanardi was placed on probation for "unjustifiable risk" following last week's Miller Lite 200 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Dallenbach said that the incident involving Alex Barron remains under review pending further information, and no decision will be reached today. Barron went off course and made contact with the disabled car of Bryan Herta on Lap 11.

Dallenbach also announced that Paul Tracy was removed from probation prior to Sunday's Texaco/Havoline 200. Tracy had been on probation following the June 7 ITT Automotive Detroit Grand Prix for "unjustifiable risk." "I have been pleased with Paul's driving in the last couple of races and I decided that he would be removed from his probationary status prior to Sunday's race," Dallenbach said.

Dario Franchitti (KOOL Reynard Honda) became the sixth international driver in the past seven years to win at Road America following Brazilian Emerson Fittipaldi (1992), Canadians Paul Tracy (1993) and Jacques Villeneuve (1994 and '95), and Italian Alex Zanardi (1997). Michael Andretti (1996) is the lone American winner at Road America in that span.

Franchitti became the fourth different driver to claim his first career FedEx Championship Series victory at Road America. He follows Hector Rebaque (1982), Jacques Villeneuve (uncle of the 1995 PPG Cup winner Jacques Villeneuve, 1985), and the younger Villeneuve in 1994.

Franchitti's victory was the ninth of the season for Honda, and the first since Andre Ribeiro's in the Marlboro 500 at Michigan Speedway in 1996 by a driver who is not a member of the Honda-powered Target/Chip Ganassi Racing Team.

The victory was the 13th in a row for Firestone and its 24th in the past 25 FedEx Championship Series events.

Bobby Rahal (Miller Lite Reynard Ford) finished eighth, extending his streak of PPG Cup points-paying finishes to 11 events.

Tony Kanaan (LCI Reynard Honda) extended his lead in the Jim Trueman Rookie of the Year race with his fourth-place finish. He now holds a 58-33 advantage over Helio Castro-Neves (Alumax Aluminum Reynard Mercedes), who was held scoreless, in the rookie points standings.

By leading 18 laps, Michael Andretti (Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Swift Ford) surpassed his total laps led in road or street course events for the season. Andretti entered Sunday's event with 389 laps led to date, but only 13 were on road or street courses.

Arnd Meier (Hassroder/J.A.G. Lola Ford) finished a career-best 10th Sunday, exceeding a previous career-best 12th established last year at Michigan and equaled this season at Portland.

Scott Pruett's (Visteon Reynard Ford) exit due to engine difficulties on Lap 25 ended a streak of five consecutive top-six finishes and eight consecutive finishes with PPG Cup points.

When rookie JJ Lehto (Hogan Motor Leasing, Inc. Reynard Mercedes) led Lap 28, it marked the second time this season that he had led at least a lap. Lehto led five laps at Long Beach earlier this season.

Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson declared Sunday as "Bobby Rahal Day" throughout the state. Rahal, a three-time PPG Cup champion (1986, '87, '92), is retiring as a driver at the conclusion of this, his 17th season, which has been dubbed "Rahal's Last Ride," by primary sponsor Miller Brewing. Thompson read a proclamation in Rahal's honor and presented him with a crystal vase bearing his likeness during pre-race ceremonies.

Entertainer David Letterman, a part owner of Team Rahal, attended his first race of the FedEx Championship Series season Sunday. Letterman joined Team Rahal prior to the 1996 season.

When Andretti earned the pole position for the Texaco/Havoline 200 Saturday, it marked the first FedEx Championship Series pole for an American-made chassis since Gordon Johncock drove a Wildcat to the pole position at The Milwaukee Mile on June 12, 1982.

The Marlboro Pole Award rollover bonus went unclaimed for the 21st consecutive event Sunday, meaning that the potential Marlboro Pole Award payout at the Sept. 6 Molson Indy Vancouver is a record $340,000, including $330,000 in rollover funds. The Molson Indy Vancouver 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.

WHAT'S ON TAP

The Texaco/Havoline 200 will receive an encore performance 3:30 a.m. ET Wednesday on ESPN and will re-air 3 a.m. Thursday on ESPN2.

WHAT'S NEXT

After a two-week break, the FedEx Championship Series will resume Sept. 6 with the Molson Indy Vancouver from Concord Pacific Place in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Source: CART Online

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Wally Dallenbach , Jacques Villeneuve , Al Unser Jr. , Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Adrian Fernandez , Bobby Rahal , Christian Fittipaldi , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Alex Zanardi , Tony Kanaan , Scott Pruett , Alex Barron , Emerson Fittipaldi , Barry Green , Chip Ganassi , Gordon Johncock , Andre Ribeiro , JJ Lehto
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing