CHAMPCAR/CART: Toronto Review

Zanardi Ties CART Record For Consecutive Victories At Molson Indy Toronto, Ontario(July 19, 1998) -- Alex Zanardi, whose palpitating penchant for spectacular last-minute racing maneuvers seems to know no bounds, executed...

Zanardi Ties CART Record For Consecutive Victories At Molson Indy

Toronto, Ontario(July 19, 1998) -- Alex Zanardi, whose palpitating penchant for spectacular last-minute racing maneuvers seems to know no bounds, executed a daring pass of Michael Andretti with three laps remaining Sunday and went on to his record-tying fourth consecutive FedEx Championship Series victory in the Molson Indy before a record crowd of 71,456 at Exhibition Place.

The victory allowed Zanardi (Target Reynard Honda) to equal the CART record for consecutive wins established by Al Unser Jr. in 1990. Prior to Sunday, Zanardi earned victories at Detroit, Portland and Cleveland. Unser Jr. established the mark with wins at Toronto, Michigan, Denver and Vancouver.

Zanardi passed Andretti (Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Swift Ford), who struggled with a loose car in the late stages, on the inside of Turn 3 under late braking on the 93rd of 95 laps and went on to a 1.921-second victory over Andretti, a five-time winner at Toronto.

Zanardi benefited from the misfortune encountered by Dario Franchitti (KOOL Reynard Honda), who started on the pole and led 76 of the first 78 laps before brake problems on Lap 79 forced him to spin and ended his day. At the time, Franchitti owned a comfortable 10.6-second advantage before the misfortune robbed him of a prime opportunity to secure his first career CART victory. His car sat in the middle of Turn 1 and left the charging Zanardi, Andretti and Vasser with an anxious moment as the trio had to tiptoe around the car and keep their hopes alive.

Zanardi extended his lead in the FedEx Championship Series points race to 175-106 over teammate Jimmy Vasser (Target Reynard Honda), who moved into second with a third-place finish. Greg Moore (Player's/Indeck Reynard Mercedes), who finished 11th, slipped from second to third with 98 points.

Zanardi also moved into sole possession of eighth place on the CART career list with his 14th victory. The victory gave him his 15th podium finish in his last 18 starts, a run of success which includes 10 victories and dates to last year at Cleveland.

The victory was also the sixth in a row for Target/Chip Ganassi Racing, dating to Zanardi's win at St. Louis in May. The winning skein is the longest for a Champ Car team since Marlboro Team Penske won seven in a row in 1994.

Vasser's third-place finish was his 10th consecutive top-eight effort, dating to the second race of the season at Japan. Bobby Rahal (Miller Lite Reynard Ford) finished fourth in his final appearance at Toronto, his 10th top-five showing in 13 career starts at the venue

Bryan Herta (Shell Reynard Ford), Rahal's teammate, finished fifth for his third top-five finish in five FedEx Championship Series road course events this season.

WHAT THEY'RE SAYING:

ALEX ZANARDI, Target Reynard Honda: "I have to say very honestly that a lot of things didn't go right today. I spun, I got stuck in an accident and I had problems with my tires. Nevertheless, I'm here in the middle of these two guys [in the winner's seat in the post-race interview] and that's unbelievable. [On passing Michael Andretti] It wasn't me going super fast as much as Michael having nothing left to compete with me. I came up in the turn and saw his car go a little wide and it left me with and opening. I said 'I'm going to try it,' and that's the way I got the position. [On his duel for position with Vasser] I wasn't expecting any favors from my teammate. The only thing I'm disappointed in is that we had a chat before the race and I told him in advance what I was going to do in that situation, then I was wondering 'Why the hell did I tell him?' I never found anybody so difficult to pass. I cannot feel sorry for how much luck I'm having right now. Obviously, I can't complain. Things are going right for me and obviously I'm very happy because I'm able to take advantage."

MICHAEL ANDRETTI, Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Swift Ford: "It was an interesting day. In the beginning, Dario [Franchitti] just took over. Poor Dario. He was in a class of his own today. I don't think anybody had anything for him. After the last restart, the car got so loose, I could barely keep it straight, especially under braking. I was just a sitting duck for Alex. I didn't know how I was going to hold him off without taking him out. If I would have moved over any more, I think we would have crashed, which I wasn't about to do. Alex just took advantage. It was very disappointing."

JIMMY VASSER, Target Reynard Honda: "It was pretty uneventful in the first half. I lost my rear tires toward the end of the first stint, so I came in and we made an adjustment and the car was pretty good. It wasn't fantastic like Dario's car, but I didn't have any complaints. The thing with Dario I saw the yellows, but I was carrying too much speed on the concrete. I couldn't make it to the inside, which is where I thought you needed to go. I ran over his nose, and after that I had a vibration. It was good to get two Target cars on the podium and move into second in the championship."

DARIO FRANCHITTI, KOOL Reynard Honda: "What can I say? I just can't believe it. The brakes were a worry all day. We had similar problems in qualifying yesterday. We thought the pads were low, so we swapped rotors and discs on the car. The brake pedal was going long in the longer runs. When I spun in Turn 1, I caught the throttle as I was braking. It's really disappointing because the Team KOOL Green guys did a great job in the pits."

WHAT'S NOTEWORTHY:

Alex Zanardi's 14th victory in his 43rd career start allowed him to improve his career victory percentage to .3255, tops in CART annals among drivers with 10 or more career wins. Zanardi is the only driver in CART history with a winning percentage above .300. Bobby Unser, who won 10 races in 37 starts, stands second at .2702.

Zanardi helped Italy trim four more points off the United States' lead in the Nation's Cup competition. The U.S., leading 165-155 in the championship entering Sunday's race, now leads 181-175 entering Sunday's U.S. 500 Presented by Toyota at Michigan Speedway. Zanardi has scored all of Italy's points to date.

Zanardi's victory was the sixth in a row for Honda power and the 10th in a row for Firestone tires. Firestone has also won 21 of the past 22 FedEx Championship Series events.

Helio Castro-Neves (Alumax Aluminum Reynard Mercedes) collected three points for his 10th-place finish Sunday and closed his deficit in the Jim Trueman Rookie of the Year points race to 39-32 behind Tony Kanaan (LCI Reynard Honda). Kanaan finished 22nd.

Michael Andretti's runner-up effort was his 10th finish of fifth or better in 12 career starts at Toronto. He has been on the podium eight times, including victories in 1989, '91, '92, '94 and '95.

Sunday's top four finishers own a combined six PPG Cups. Zanardi is the defending series champion while Andretti won the title in 1991. Target/Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Jimmy Vasser preceded Zanardi as series champion in 1996. Fourth-place finisher Bobby Rahal is one of two three-time series champions (1986, '87 and '92) along with Rick Mears.

Vasser's third-place performance marked the 48th time he has collected PPG Cup points in his past 55 starts, an .873 percentage.

Max Papis (MCI Reynard Toyota) finished eighth, a career-best effort on a road or street course which also tied his overall career best established at Michigan Speedway last season. Papis, driving the new Toyota RV8D engine, helped Toyota-powered drivers score PPG Cup points for the seventh time in 11 events this season.

When Dario Franchitti led the first 76 laps Sunday, he fell just two short of his career laps-led total in 26 previous starts in the FedEx Championship Series. Franchitti had led a total of 78 laps prior to Sunday. Franchitti's previous race high of 31 laps led came at St. Louis last year. Sunday's 76 laps led also enabled Franchitti to exceed his season total of 31 coming into the event.

The Marlboro Pole Award rollover bonus went unclaimed for the 17th consecutive event Sunday, meaning that the potential Marlboro Pole Award payout at Sunday's U.S. 500 Presented by Toyota is a record $295,000, Including $285,000 in rollover funds. The U.S. 500 Presented by Toyota 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.

Zanardi completed only two laps of the morning warm-up before encountering a turbocharger problem and pulling off-course at Turn 3. He did not return during the half-hour session, and his Target/Chip Ganassi Racing team completed an entire engine replacement in the 3=-hour window between the conclusion of the warm-up and the start of the race.

World Championship Wrestling star Brett "The Hitman" Hart said the command to start engines prior to Sunday's race. Hart and "Mean" Gene Okerlund, the voice of World Championship Wrestling attended Sunday's race as guests of race promoter Molstar Sports and Entertainment. Other celebrities in attendance included baseball Hall of Famer slugger Reggie Jackson and Milwaukee Brewers' two-time MVP Robin Yount; Academy Award-winning actor Louis Gossett Jr.; actor Dermot Mulroney, who had a starring role in "My Best Friend's Wedding"; Billy Corgan of the alternative rock band Smashing Pumpkins; former National Hockey League coach and "Hockey Night in Canada" analyst Don Cherry; Larry Murphy, defenseman of the Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs wingman Tie Domi.

Sunday's record race attendance of 71,456 helped the Molson Indy establish a weekend attendance record of 168,206, the best in the event's 13-year history. Friday's and Saturday's crowds of 44,256 and 52,224, respectively, also set Molson Indy records.

WHAT'S NEXT:

The FedEx Championship Series continues with its third event in as many weeks, the U.S. 500 Presented by Toyota , Sunday, July 26 from Michigan Speedway.

Source: CART Online

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