Race No. 10

Medic Drug Cleveland Grand Prix
Cleveland — Ohio
July 11 — July 13, 1997

Zanardi Overcomes Adversity to Win the Medic Drug Cleveland Grand Prix
PPG Championship race tightens up
By Ray Sprouse

©1997 SpeedCenter Internet Publishing, Inc.

In a race characterized by an unusual number of black flags, Alex Zanardi(Target Chip Ganassi Reynard Honda) led the Medic Drug Grand Prix of Cleveland...twice.

The first of black flags was issued to Bobby Rahal (Rahal Miller LiteReynard Ford) for passing Andre Ribeiro (Tasman Racing LCI ReynardMercedes-Benz) before the drop of the opening green flag. Rahal honoredthe flag on lap four with a stop-and-go pit stop, and then resumed therace near the back of the field.

Early in the race, Zanardi drove his Honda-powered Reynard to a commandinglead of more than five seconds over second-place Gil de Ferran (also in aReynard-Honda) and third-place Christian Fittipaldi (Newman-Haas Kmart/BudweiserSwift Ford,) In what was to become a controversial point in the race, theyellow flag was shown for the first time on lap 20 after Richie Hearn blew a rear tire andimbedded his Lola Ford in a tire barrier.

On lap 21, while the field trailed the pace car, officials verballyannounced on the CART radio frequency that the pits had opened, just ascars approached the pit entrance. However, track officials at the entrance tothe pits still displayed the blazon orange sign with a bold black P indicatingthat the pits were closed. Leader Alex Zanardi dove to the entrance after being prompted byhis pit radio, as did Michael Andretti and several other drivers. Andretti thought he had avoideda penalty by passing his pit and continuing back onto the track. Zanardi and the other drivers,meanwhile, made their pit stops and re-entered the field back in the pack.

After a 10-lap caution period required to rebuild the tire barrier,Zanardi and Andretti were both ordered to the back of the pack.Others who were also penalized for the pit entry infraction were Paul Tracy (Penske RacingMarlboro Penske Mercedes,) Mauricio Gugelmin (PacWest Hollywood ReynardMercedes,) Dario Franchitti (Hogan/Comptech Mobil 1 Reynard Mercedes,)Michael Jourdain Jr. (Payton-Coyne Herdez Reynard Ford,) and Juan ManuelFangio II (AAR Racing Castro/Jockey Reynard Toyota.) Zanardi re-startedthe race at lap 32, having been relegated to 21st position, only to bepenalized again for a blend-line violation, and had to pit again for arolling penalty.

Meanwhile, Mark Blundell (PacWest Motorola Reynard Mercedes) hadremained on the track throughout the lengthy lap caution period in anapparent attempt to begin a one-stop pit race strategy, only to be forced to the pitsfor fuel under the green only laps after the re-start. It was later discovered thatfaulty pit/car communications was the cause of this confusion.

A shining effort of honorable mention was the finish of Al Unser, Jr. (Marlboro Team Penske, Penske Mercedes-Benz). Afterqualifying 18th, Unser clawed his way through the pack to finish infourth position. This was Little Al's best effort of the entire season in advancing throughthe field, after having suffered a string of DNF's and disappointing showings since his 4th and 3rd placefinishes in Long Beach and Nazareth, respectively.

In contrast, Michael Andretti in theNewman-Haas Kmart Texaco/Havoline Swift Ford had a disappointing finish (23rd) out of the points, afterelectrical problems on lap 74 forced him to retire with a DNF. As a result, helost his third place standing in the PPG Cup chase to Gil de Ferran(Walker Racing Valvoline Reynard Honda) who finished second. Canadian GregMoore (Players/Indeck Reynard Mercedes-Benz) suffered similar misfortuneafter he lost an engine on lap 67, but still retains his second-place standingin the PPG championship race.

After early speculation that the Firestone cars would perform best on thehot track surface of Burke Lakefront Airport, only four of the top tenfinishers were shod with Firestone rubber. Zanardi won with Firestones,but cars finishing from second through seventh place were all using Goodyeartires.

The PPG CART World Series now moves to Round 11 for the Molson IndyToronto, to be held on July 20, 1997. Five drivers are in a position to come away from thisrace with the points lead, with the separation being only 16 pointsbetween them. Paul Tracy retains the lead with 106 points after a 7th place finish inCleveland, while Greg Moore retains his second place standing with 95 points.Behind Moore is Gil de Ferran who leaves Cleveland with 94 points, and Michael Andrettiwith 91. Alex Zanardi rounds out the top five after collecting 21 points for his efforts inCleveland, bringing him to a total of 90 for the season.