Mid Ohio

Race No. 13

Miller 200
Lexington — Ohio
August 8 — August 10, 1997

Zanardi Repeats With Commanding Win
Late-Race Lead Worth a Splash.
By Ray Sprouse

©1997 SpeedCenter Internet Publishing, Inc.

Alex Zanardi and the Target Chip Ganassi Team, a well prepared Reynard chassis, and a superbly tuned Honda powerplant, dominated the Miller 200 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course today on a total of three sets of Firestone tires.

Zanardi started on the outside of the front row, beside pole sitter Bryan Herta (Team Rahal Reynard Ford,) and rode out the first 18 laps applying constant pressure from second place. When Herta's left rear tire completely delaminated on lap 18, he was forced to the shoulder and out of the race. During the resulting full-course yellow, Zanardi returned to the track in second place behind Mauricio Gugelmin (PacWest Hollywood Reynard Mercedes,) who had opted not to pit during the yellow.

On lap 29, "Big Mo" finally pitted, and Zanardi assumed the lead. From that point on, Alex would relinquish the front spot for only one pit stop sequence. On lap 51, Bobby Rahal (Team Rahal Miller Lite Reynard Ford) led for one lap while Zanardi pitted, but when Rahal pitted on lap 52, Zanardi would resume the lead for the remainder of the race.

By lap 65 Zanardi had stretched his lead over second-place Greg Moore (Players Forsythe Reynard Mercedes-Benz) to a commanding 18.654 seconds. When the yellow flag flew on lap 70 for the off-track excursion of Payton-Coyne's Michel Jourdain Jr. in the Herdez sponsored Reynard Ford, Zanardi dove to the pits for a splash of gas. He was still able to return in the lead, ahead of Moore by a comfortable margin.

Zanardi cruised the remainder of the race, and Moore continuously closed the gap to just 3.038 seconds as the white flag flew. As the checkered flags were waved, though, the gap had re-opened to 4.871 seconds.

With the win, Zanardi stretches his '97 PPG Cup lead to 148, 27 points over second place holder Paul Tracy (Marlboro Penske Mercedes-Benz) with 121. This with Tracy recording a DNF after contact with Parker Johnstone (Kool Team Green Reynard Honda) on lap one. The incident resulted in irreparable suspension on the rear of the Penske, and Johnstone's crew made repairs and he finally finished in 12th position.

To recap, here are the point standings following Mid-Ohio;

1. Alex Zanardi -


2. Paul Tracy -


3. Gil de Ferran -


4. Greg Moore -


5. Michael Andretti -


6. Scott Pruett -


7. Jimmy Vasser -


8. Mauricio Gugelmin -


9. Raul Boesel -


10. Mark Blundell -


11. Bryan Herta -


12. Bobby Rahal -


13. Al Unser Jr. -


14. Parker Johnstone -


15. Andre Ribeiro -


16. Patrick Carpentier -


17. Christian Fittipaldi -


18. Roberto Moreno -


19. Adrian Fernandez -


20. Dario Franchitti -


21. Max Papis -


22. Dennis Vitolo -


23. Richie Hearn -


24. Juan Fangio II -


25. Hiro Matsushita -


26. Gualter Salles -


27. Michel Jourdain Jr. -


28. Arnd Meier -


29. Christian Danner -


With only four races remaining in the 1997 PPG CART World Series Championship, the mathematical chances start to tighten. With the next race being at another natural road course (Road America,) then to Vancouver for the final '97 street course...on to another road course at Laguna Seca, and then the 500 mile season finale and CART debut at Roger Penske's new California Speedway, the season certainly seems to play-out in Zanardi's favor. Even Michael Andretti (KMart Texaco/Havoline Swift Ford,) fifth with 108 points after today's eighth-place finish, would have to muster a spectacular stretch run to stand a chance for the championship.

On to Road America to the 4-mile, 11-turn road course at Elkhart Lake, WI for the Texaco/Havoline 200. The race is scheduled on August 17th at 2:30PM EDT, and will air live on ESPN.