Race No. 17

The California 500
Presented by Toyota
The California Speedway — Fontana, California
September 26-28, 1997

Current Points Standings
Fontana Weather Forecast
Fontana Area Map

CART '97 Finale at Season's Second New Venue
By Ray Sprouse

©1997 SpeedCenter Internet Publishing, Inc.

Fontana, California Sept. 25th, 1997) — The 1997 PPG CART World Series draws to an end this weekend at Penske Motorsports, Inc.'s new California Speedway in Fontana, California.

In a season that has proven to be the most competitive in CART history, Target Chip Ganassi driver Alex Zanardi evolved from a slow season start to a brilliant last-half charge to clinch this year's PPG Cup. Zanardi assumed the lead in the points standings following his first oval victory at the US 500 at Michigan Speedway on July 27, and never looked back. He followed with a win at Mid-Ohio, and another at Road America. He placed fourth at the Molson Indy Vancouver, and third at Laguna Seca. He enters the Marlboro 500 at the California Speedway with 195 points, 41 points ahead of second-place Gil de Ferran in the Walker Racing Valvoline/Cummins Reynard Honda HHR.

Most notable of the upcoming event is the introduction of the Swift chassis to driver Richie Hearn in the Della Penna Ralphs/Food 4 Less Swift Ford Cosworth. The chassis was provided by Newman/Haas Racing, and was to be delivered to Della Penna no earlier than September 23rd, but the chassis will be set to Newman/Haas specs when it rolls from the transporter. Wouldn't it be nice to have a camera situated to capture the smile on Richie's face when he first brings the Swift to speed.

Also worthy of mention is the return of driver Robby Gordon for the season finale. Gordon will fill the seat of the Hogan Reynard Mercedes-Benz that was suddenly vacated by promising rookie Dario Franchitti. The announcement that Franchitti will drive for Team Kool Green for the '98 season brought a very sudden end to to possibility that Franchitti would be in contention for the '97 PPG Cup Rookie of the Year Award. Gordon also had a rather sudden exit from Walker Racing following the '96 season when constant engine failure led him to make harsh statements about the Ford engine program. Gordon is in for a one-race deal with Hogan, and will then return to his rather lackluster existence with Felix Sebates to finish out his NASCAR season.

The event is scheduled to start at noon on September 28, but will not be televised until 8:00pm EDT on ESPN. "On the Grid" will also precede the tape delayed airing at 7:30pm EDT on ESPN2.

©1997 SpeedCenter Internet Publishing, Inc.