Race No. 13
Miller Genuine Draft 200
MID-OHIO (August 11, 1996) - Alex Zanardi cleaned house at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Sunday's Miller Genuine Draft 200. Zanardi was never seriously challenged for the top spot and only gave it up briefyly to teammate Jimmy Vasser for pitstops. This win launched Alex into third place in the PPG Cup points standings and he now has 94 points followed by Christian Fittipaldi (93 points) and de Ferran (92 points).
"This is a very good win. It was more work than Portland because I had that Ďredí car [Vasser] behind me the entire time," said Zanardi, who averaged 104.358 miles per hour in a race with three cautions for 10 laps. "If he tries a move, it is difficult to block your teammate. Iím very happy he could finish second and score a lot of points for the championship."
Jimmy Vasser extended his points lead to 17 (128 points) over Al Unser Jr. (111) who finished 13th and out of the points after a last-lap incident.
"I didnít have anything for Alex. He was a tick faster all the way around," Vasser said. "I drove a little conservatively to save fuel and make sure I got points for the championship. Iíve been up before in the points and then it was back down to one point, so itís good to be up by a few points again, although it is not enough. We still have to take them one race at a time. I wonít start counting points until Vancouver."
Also out of the points was Gil de Ferran and dropping to fifth (92) in points who punted Mauricio Gugelmin on the first lap bringing out the first of three caution periods.
Gugelmin went out of the race with unrepairable suspension damage and de Ferran suffered nose damage and hobbled home for 17th place, 4 laps down and the last car running in the field.
In the last 19 laps of the race there were two caution periods brought out by incidents and bunching up the front-runners. The Target/Ganassi drivers were not challenged for the top two spots, but there was plenty of jockeying for position behind them.
On lap 65 rookies Mark Blundell and Jan Magnussen got together and then on lap 70 Robby Gordon and Hiro Matsushita went on off-course excursions in separate incidents.
On the final lap rookie Greg Moore and Andre Ribeiro had contact and shortly thereafter Unser Jr. and Parker Johnstone touched wheels and went off for some "agricultural" racing of their own. Moore, Ribeiro and Johnstone all scored points finishing 9th, 8th and 12th, respectively.