Race No. 4
Vasser Does It Again!
Honda/Firestone Makes It Four In A Row
by Jim DeFord
©1996 SpeedCenter Internet Publishing
LONG BEACH, Calif (April 14,1994) - Jimmy Vasser and the Ganassi Racing
team showed their patience today and won their third race out of four in the 1996
PPG IndyCar World Series Championship before a record crowd of 88,000 fans.
Vasser inherited the lead after Gil de Ferran slowed dramatically with only four
laps to go. Gil had totally dominated the race until that point and suffered a
disconnected exhaust/turbo-driver hose which literally turned his 800-hp,
Honda-powered IndyCar into an everyday Honda Accord.
"We had a good car," Jimmy said, "I feel bad for my teammate, Alex(Zanardi), who
drove a great race, and obviously for de Ferran. They say sometimes youíd rather
be lucky than good, and today, it seemed like we were lucky. We knew we couldnít
catch Gil unless he had a problem. The championship was obviously a goal of ours
at the start of the season, but youíve got to take it one race at a time. This is
a great moment forTarget Chip Ganassi Racing. The Honda engine and Firestone tires
are definitely the combination of choice."
Chip Ganassi had his
own comments: "This was definitely Gilís race today. The result was just as big
a surprise to me as it was to Jimmy, believe me. But weíll take it, and Jimmy by
no means was out of it today. He did a stellar job."
Gil de Ferran had dominated the entire race until his unfortunate mechanical
problem. Gil was teary-eyed after the race, but finished a respectable 5th
place after being hobbled.
"It was a shame. I lost the turbocharger," de Ferran said. "I had no indication
ahead in time. It was a sudden problem. The car was really good."
"What can I say...that's racing. There's more to come at Nazareth,"said de Ferran.
"There was no indication of a problem. It was a sudden problem. The car was really
good, 100% throughout the race. I was just controlling the gap to Jimmy. There was
no point in pushing thingsbecause I had the measure of Jimmy."
Parker Johnstone came just short of peeing his driver's suit, he was so excited
with second place!
"It wasnít lost on me on the closing laps that I had the 'Emperor of the Beach'
(Unser) behind me and a Honda in front of me that I wasn't going to catch,"
Johnstone said. "I tried to make a run at Jimmy at the end, but he was too
quick and I didn't want to lose second place by putting the car into the wall.
Finishing second is a victory here for us. In fact, to finish in front of Al Jr.
at Long Beach, well, if I never do anything else in racing....."
Much jumping, crying and hugging continued far after this statement.
Unser Jr., the two-time defending champion and record six-time winner at Long
Beach, finished third for his second podium appearance in the past three races.
Unser Jr., third in the PPG Cup with 39 points, was 4.409 seconds behind Vasser.
"We had a good run today," Unser Jr. said. "We started ninth and had to protect
our position. We were consistent and didnít make any mistakes. Iíll tell you,
the competition in the PPG Indy Car World Series is tough."
Second-place PPG Cup Points holder, Scott Pruett had a great day until an ignition
coil gave him fits, forcing an un-scheduled pitstop, and putting him one-lap down.
Pruett finished 11th but holds the second spot in the hunt for the cup behind
Following behind Unser Jr. was his Marlboro Team Penske teammate, Paul Tracy.
Tracy (Marlboro Penske Mercedes), who has battled bad luck all season, finished
a season-best fourth.
Robby Gordon had a race-day from hell. In his first pitstop, he attempted a
getaway just a tick too early and the fuel-hose got stuck. Stuck in a partially
Enough fuel spilled to cause a small fire, but Robby jumped back in the car,
in a wet driver's suit and was back out on the track in a very short time.
Unfortunately, he spun several times and finally became a DNF after smacking
the wall after confrontations with de Ferran, Herta, Rahal, just to name a few.
The incident of the race was between Christian Fittipaldi and Greg Moore when
they both ended up in the tire-wall at Turn Seven. The incident began when Moore
made a great outside pass on Christian in Turn Six. He held his line exiting
the corner, putting Moore on the inside for Turn Seven, only to have Fittipaldi
squeeze him into the wall. The cars touched and slammed into the opposite wall
and then all hell broke loose.
Fittipaldi was livid as he jumped out of his car and ran over to Moore's car!
Christian yanked open Greg's visor and then while holding onto the "mouth-guard"
of Greg's helmet and shaking it, he verbally informed Moore that he was not
happy with his actions, even though it was not all Greg's fault.
Christian was assessed a $5,000 penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct.
IndyCar Officials have also notified several other teams that they are assessing
several other incidents that occured during the race and there may be more fines
and penalties coming this week.
One driver who may be awarded a post-race penalty is Michael Andretti.Andretti, on lap 62, lost most of his left front wing in an idiodic attempt
to lap Teo Fabi in turn one. The incident also cut Fabi's rightrear tire.
"It was kind of a rough race," Michael said, "On the incident with Teo (Fabi),
he was a lap down I think, and I was passing him. I thought he was letting me
by, because a lot of others had let me by and that seemed to be what he was
doing, then we connected. I lost most of my left front wing, which I reckon
cost me about a second a lap because of the way the car was handling. The best
I could have done though, might have been a fourth. We just didnít have the
power to catch those other guys."
And then, ten laps later, Andretti banged into Mauricio Gugelmin atthe hairpin
while trying to pass Fernandez, damaging the right frontsuspension of Mo's car.
"We were coming into the hairpin," said Gugelmin. "Michael chose togo inside to
pass Fernandez and I chose the outside. Then Michael changes his mind and turns
left! Right into me! And on a right hand corner!"
"I went to talk to him after the race and he told me 'I'm sorry, Ididn't see you.'
But the problem is, he never sees anything."
But Michael offered this: "I came up behind Fernandez, who was slowed down by
someone in front of him. I started to go around Fernandez on his right, and
that was about when we decided to go to the right also. So to avoid him, I
took to the left, and Gugelmin was right there in my blind spot. It was a
no-win situation. I was either going to hit Fernandez or Gugelmin. After the
race, Gugelmin came down to talk, which I wanted to do, but others butted in
and things got out of hand."
Nevertheless, beyond the hockey fights, penalty boxes and such, it was Vasser
that came out on top in glorious fashion and increases his lead for the PPG
Cup dramatically over second-place contender, Scott Pruett.