CHAMPCAR/CART: Team Rahal Laguna Seca Preview

HILLIARD, OH . . . Next Monday is the one-year anniversary of Shell Champ Car driver Bryan Herta's first CART victory. Herta would like to celebrate the milestone by winning on Sunday in the Grand Prix of Monterey featuring the Shell 300. For...

HILLIARD, OH . . . Next Monday is the one-year anniversary of Shell Champ Car driver Bryan Herta's first CART victory. Herta would like to celebrate the milestone by winning on Sunday in the Grand Prix of Monterey featuring the Shell 300. For the 29-year-old Herta, Laguna Seca Raceway is site of his greatest triumph and also his most heartbreaking moment in the CART FedEx Championship Series. If past history is an indicator, Herta will be one of the cars to beat this weekend. In four CART starts on the 2.238-mile road course, Herta has never failed to qualify in the front row. "I can't explain why but running fast at Laguna has never been difficult for me," said Herta. "My strengths as a driver translate well to this track and I have always been fast, but as anyone around this series can tell you past success does not guarantee success in the future." For Herta the win at Laguna Seca, which came in his 71st Champ Car start, exorcised the demons of other brushes with the top step of the podium. Foremost among the close calls was Herta's 1996 race at Laguna where Alex Zanardi's controversial off track pass of the Shell car on the last lap snatched victory away from Herta. In 1998 Zanardi was again chasing Herta on the final lap of the race with victory at stake. This time Herta was not to be denied as he took the checkered flag and captured his first win. In winning the race Herta swept the weekend's points capturing the pole, leading the most laps in the race and winning the race. It was a feat that only one other driver accomplished during the 1998 season. "The feeling on that last lap was awesome and reflecting back after a year I can tell you I am glad that it was Alex chasing me. At the time I thought about the fact I had wished for this exact scenario a thousand times and suddenly here was my wish coming true. It seemed like the last lap took forever but finally I saw the flag and the victory was ours." If an early season test is any indication, Herta and his teammate Max Papis will be among the fastest cars this weekend. Both Herta and Papis unofficially topped Herta's track record at a test at Laguna Seca in March. "Like very race in this series there will be a dozen cars with a realistic shot at the pole position and a chance to win on Sunday," said Herta. "That spring test is so long ago and the drivers are all so much more in tune with their cars that it really doesn't mean much. Sure on that day I was the fastest car, but come this weekend I will have to prove myself all over again."

Max Papis is tenth in the PPG Cup Points with a career high 91 entering this weekend's Shell 300 at Laguna Seca Raceway. Even though he failed to post a point at Vancouver, Papis remains just ten points from the series top-five and just nine points away from the 100-point plateau. Papis is trying to become just the second driver for Team Rahal to reach the 100-point plateau. Team owner Bobby Rahal reached the milestone four times while serving as driver/owner for the team from 1992-98. Papis also has the opportunity this Sunday to tie Rahal's team record of 15 running finishes in a season. The 29-year-old Papis has finished 14 of the 16 CART events this season, ranking him second among the drivers in the CART FedEx Championship Series in laps completed and miles logged.

The highly anticipated release of Bobby Rahal - Graceful Champion has arrived and the book by venerable Champ Car writer Gordon Kirby will be in bookstores this week.

In support of the book's release, Rahal will appear at a book signing at Borders Books in downtown San Francisco on Thursday evening (6:30-7:30 PM). Rahal will also appear that same night on the national syndicated talk show Sports By-line USA promoting the book's release.

The official release party will fittingly take place Saturday afternoon at the Laguna Seca Raceway with a reception at the Miller motor home. Rahal will sign copies of the book at the Team Rahal merchandise trailer 2:15 PM on Saturday.

The Bobby Rahal Foundation will make a donation of $17,000 to the Family Service Agency of Monterey prior to Sunday's running of the Grand Prix of Monterey featuring the Shell 300. The Bobby Rahal Foundation is the not-for-profit charitable endowment founded by the three-time PPG Cup Champion prior to his final season as a driver. During the 1998 season and "Rahal's Last Ride," the Foundation raised over $400,000 which is earmarked for charitable donations to organizations in CART race communities during the 1999 FedEx Championship Series.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Max Papis , Bobby Rahal , Alex Zanardi , Bryan Herta