Portland 1996 PPG Indy Car World Series

Race No. 9

Budweiser/G.I. Joe's 200
Portland, Oregon
June 21-23, 1996

200 mph In God's Country
Portland IndyCar Race Preview
By Jim DeFord
©1996 SpeedCenter Internet Publishing, Inc.

Portland International Raceway has become a tradition of being the first natural road course of the season and this year is no different. Rarely do you see a driver make wall contact at PIR.

Plenty of "agricultural" racing though in the large, grassy runoff areas.

rosefestThe Budweiser/G.I. Joe's 200 is the largest sporting event in the Great Northwestwith well over 70,000 fans attending on raceday in 1995. The race is also part of The Portland Rose Festival, so ifyou arrive early there is plenty to keep you occupied until the events at thetrack begin.

As the drivers begin the second half of the 1996 PPG IndyCar World Series we seeMichael Andretti on the charge after winning three of the last four races.Andretti is now third in the points.

Andretti has won three times at this track from 1990-1992.

Jimmy Vasser, the current PPG points leader is found to be in somewhat of a slumpbut will still be leaving Portland in the points lead, currently having a 23point advantage over second place, Al Unser Jr.

And we all remember 1995. Long after the fans had left the track, there was apost-race tech inspection on Unser's winning car and he was disqualified, givingthe win to Vasser.

The decision was protested and appealed, and it was almost four months laterbefore the disqualification was overturned and the win given back to Unser.

Unser has won the last two years and also in 1984.

Fourth and fifth in the points are Christian Fittipaldi and Gil de Ferran. Twodrivers who are expected to do well at this flat nine-turn course....Well, it'sactually twelve turns, but they don't count the Festival Corners (the chicane atthe end of the front straight) in the turn-count.

Fittipaldi was seven laps away from victory at Detroit, the first race he has ledthis year, when a late-race bobble cost him both the lead and the victory toAndretti.

Sixth is Scott Pruett, coming off his first career IndyCar pole at Detroit. Hehas finished in the top ten in three of the last four events at Portland.

Tires an Issue

In 1995 the Firestone-shod cars were uncompetitive. The drivers complained, "it'slike driving on ice out there." In recent testing at Mid-Ohio, where theFirestone tires were also uncompetitive in 1995, Scott posted unofficial trackrecords both days and was the quickest in both sessions.

Seventh is rookie-of-the-year points leader, Greg Moore. Moore has been doingwell, but has not been consistent. He finished 20th at Detroit. I'd bet on a topten finish for Greg next Sunday.

Paul Tracy is eighth in the PPG points battle and has finished third in two ofthe last three events. Tracy has recorded two poles, but has yet to score a winin 1996.

Andre Ribeiro, the only other driver besides Vasser and Andretti to record avictory this year, is ninth in points. He won the inaugural Rio 400 in Brazil,but has not really been too competitive since then.

The only other active driver to win at Portland is Bobby Rahal, who rounds outthe top-ten in points. Rahal won in 1987 and has a handful of podium and top-tenfinishes.

In the past three years that I have attended this race, the battle for the polehas been downright exciting, with the drivers terrorizing the 1.95-mile roadcourse down to the last seconds of the qualifying sessions.

Rain Always a
Threat at PIR
Oregon, famous for its web-footed residents and massive amounts of rain, has onlyproduced rain for one race at PIR. In 1993 there was a mid-race rainstorm whichproduced some interesting pit strategy in changing from "drys" to "wets" and thenback to the slicks again.

As a sidenote, it has been reported to SpeedCenter that Firestone has alreadyproduced a new rain tire for Portland after its terrible outing at Detroit.

The Budweiser/G.I. Joe's 200, presented by Texaco/Havoline, round nine of the PPGIndy Car World Series, will be broadcast live Sunday, June 23 by ABC-TV,beginning at 4 p.m. EDT.

ESPN2 will air pole qualifying on Saturday, June 22, (6:30 p.m. EDT, tape delay)and a live pre-race show June 23 (3:30 p.m. EDT).

The PPG Indy Car World Series travels next to Ohio for the Medic Drug Grand Prixof Cleveland on June 30.