The Callahan Report: Zanardi Takes Victory At Mid Ohio
11 August 1997LEXINGTON, OHIO: Alex Zanardi is beginning to sound like a battery commercial. He keeps winning, and winning, and winning. For the third time in four races, Zanardi was the first driver to take the checkered flag. This time it was the Miller 200 at the Mid Ohio Sports Car Course.
The Italian born driver won the race going away. His margin of victory was over 4 seconds. Canadian Greg Moore was second. Zanardi averaged 110.456 mph on his way to victory. The speed was a new race record. Zanardi had to move from the back of the pack in his recent wins. That didn't happen today. Zanardi was in the front pack all day.
Zanardi started the race from the second spot. His run was a cake walk after polesitter Bryan Herta had a tire disintegrate going into the keyhole turn. Herta maintained control of the car but the flapping tire caused extensive body damaged. Herta took the long walk back to the garage area. He received a heros welcome and was giving "high fives" to the fans lining the fence.
The Target Chip Ganassi Team had planned on Herta having tire problems. Herta qualified on a soft compound. Zanardi expected Herta's tires to wear out....not puncture. "We were expecting to see Bryan have trouble with his tires,'' said Zanardi, "The plan was to wait a little bit and let Bryan cook his tires so it would have been easy to overtake him."
Zanardi continued, "Bryan was doing a beautiful job until the tire exploded. ... That was an unexpected break for me and more than welcome ... although it may not be very sporting of me to say so.''
Zanardi opened a big gap on second place runner Greg Moore. The crew brought Zanardi in for a splash of fuel on a late race yellow. Zanardi retained the lead. Moore chose not to pit and was not able to challenge at the end. "We pushed very, very hard in order to open up a gap on Greg, big enough to pit again and still come back in the lead," Zanardi said. "Maybe we got a break with the last caution, but I still think we had something on the rest of the field."
Moore scored some much needed points with his high finish. The Canadian ended a three race DNF streak. It was Moore's third second place of the season. He also has two wins. "We were hoping to catch Zanardi by staying out on the last yellow, but we got caught behind a couple of lapped cars and Alex got out ahead of us,"Moore said. "But after three bad races, this is a good one for the whole team."
Mid Ohio is the home track for Team Rahal. They did not disappoint. Owner/Driver Bobby Rahal made his first podium appearance of the year. Rahal charged from 16th starting spot to finish third. He was challenging for second place in the closing laps. Polesitter Herta is the other half of the Rahal Team.
Zanardi now has a commanding lead in the points over Paul Tracy (148-121). Tracy finished last today, pulling into the pits at the end of the first lap after bending his suspension while trying to avoid a spinning Michael Andretti. Gil De Ferran and Greg Moore are third and fourth in the points standings.
Final Standings: Finishing Position, (starting position), driver, Home, Chassis/Engine, laps completed.
1. (2) Alex Zanardi, Italy, Reynard-Honda, 83 2. (3) Greg Moore, Canada, Reynard-Mercedes, 83 3. (16) Bobby Rahal, New Albany, Ohio, Reynard-Ford, 83 4. (11) Raul Boesel, Brazil, Reynard-Ford, 83 5. (9) Jimmy Vasser, Las Vegas, Reynard-Honda, 83 6. (4) Gil de Ferran, Brazil, Reynard-Honda, 83 7. (6) Mauricio Gugelmin, Brazil, Reynard-Mercedes, 83 8. (10) Michael Andretti, Nazareth, Pa., Swift-Ford, 83 9. (7) Scott Pruett, Crystal Bay, Nev., Reynard-Ford, 83 10. (17) Andre Ribeiro, Brazil, Lola-Honda, 83 11. (5) Dario Franchitti, Scotland, Reynard-Mercedes, 83 12. (12) Parker Johnstone, Brush Prairie, Wash., Reynard-Honda, 82 13. (22) Richie Hearn, Henderson, Nev., Lola-Ford, 82 14. (24) Max Papis, Italy, Reynard-Toyota, 82 15. (23) Patrick Carpentier, Canada, Reynard-Mercedes, 82 16. (27) Arnd Meier, Germany, Lola-Ford, 81 17. (20) P.J. Jones, Rolling Hills, Calif., Reynard-Toyota, 80 18. (14) Michel Jourdain Jr., Mexico, Lola-Ford, 80 19. (28) Hiro Matsushita, Japan, Reynard-Toyota, 78 20. (19) Gualter Salles, Brazil, Reynard-Ford, 58, electrical 21. (8) Christian Fittipaldi, Brazil, Swift-Ford, 41, transmission 22. (18) Al Unser Jr., Albuquerque, N.M., Penske-Mercedes, 37, engine 23. (21) Adrian Fernandez, Mexico, Lola-Honda, 27, engine 24. (1) Bryan Herta, New Albany, Ohio, Reynard-Ford, 18, suspension 25. (25) Juan Fangio II, Argentina, Reynard-Toyota, 13, engine 26. (13) Mark Blundell, England, Reynard-Mercedes, 6, crash 27. (15) Paul Tracy, Canada, Penske-Mercedes, 1, crash 28. (26) Charlie Nearburg, Dallas, Lola-Ford, did not start