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The Callahan Report: CART - High Speed on High Banks

26 September 1997

FONTANA, CA: The fastest cars in the world get to show their stuff in Fontana, CA this weekend. The CART series will take to the high banks of the new California Speedway this for the final race of the season this Sunday. The new track was initiated earlier this year by NASCAR, but the stars of CART will be putting on a much faster "Speed Show". The race will be the inaugural running of the Marlboro 500 at Fontana.

The series championship has already been wrapped up by Alex Zanardi by virtue of his third place finish at Laguna Seca earlier this month. The race should be a real thrill as all the drivers have nothing to lose. Some of the drivers and teams still searching for 1998 sponsor dollars will be hanging it all out. They want to make a good showing to help their resumes for next season. The final race of the season is always an action packed drama.

[ Bobby Rahal ]Bobby Rahal The only other high speed oval event on the series schedule this season was at Michigan International Speedway in July. Zanardi was the eventual winner in that race. There were several leaders at Michigan. Bobby Rahal, Scott Pruett, Mark Blundell, and Mauricio Gugelmin all looked to be strong contenders before having some bad luck. The track in Fontana is the same design as Michigan with the exception of the degree of banking. Fontana is banked 4 degrees less. The CART cars will be running flat out just as they did in Michigan so look for the same drivers to be strong here.

One driver will be making more noise than speed this week. Dennis Vitolo of Ft. Lauderdale, FL is entered in the Marlboro 500. He has raced only seven times this year. He will be touting sponsorships for several anti-smoking related products. Ironically, his new sponsorships will debut in a race being promoted by the world's largest maker of cigarettes. Vitolo has made noise before. In the 1994 Indianapolis 500, Vitolo wound up on top of defending CART champion Nigel Mansell in the warm up lane. The Marlboro sponsored cars of Roger Penske should watch closely during the race ... they may be wearing a NicoDerm patch as a gift from the part time driver, Vitolo.

The television broadcast for the Marlboro 500 will be on ESPN, tape delayed, at 8 PM this Sunday. The entry list for the race is:

Jimmy Vasser (Las Vegas, NV)
Al Unser, Jr. (Albuquerque, NM)
Paul Tracy (Parker, AZ)
Alex Zanardi (Monte Carlo, Monaco)
Gil de Ferran (Ft. Lauderdale, FL)
Michael Andretti (Nazareth, PA)
Bobby Rahal (New Albany, OH)
Bryan Herta (New Albany, OH)
Robby Gordon (Orange, CA)
Christian Fittipaldi (Sao Paulo, Brazil)
Patrick Carpentier (Indianapolis, IN)
Mauricio Gugelmin (Ft. Lauderdale, FL)
Mark Blundell (Paradise Valley, AZ)
Michel Jourdain, Jr. (Mexico City)
Scott Pruett (Crystal Bay, NV)
Richie Hearn (Henderson, NV)
Hiro Matsushita (San Clemente, CA)
Max Papis (Newport Beach, CA)
Parker Johnstone (Brush Prairie, WA)
Andre Ribeiro (Sao Paulo, Brazil)
Adrian Fernandez (West Bloomfield, MI)
Dennis Vitolo (Ft. Lauderdale, FL)
Juan Fangio II (Miami, FL)
Raul Boesel (Key Biscayne, FL)
Arnd Meier (Hanover, Germany)
Gualter Salles (Miami, FL)
PJ Jones (Scottsdale, AZ)
Greg Moore (Maple Ridge, British Col)

Terry Callahan -- The Auto Channel