Cars n' Stars: Long Beach GP a Financial Success, CART Race In Chicago?, Kenny B. Top Fuel Fog In Rockingham

8 April 1998


There was a time, log ago, when a guy named Cliff Tufte ran all the big
pro sports car races at Road America's Elkhart Lake four-mile road
course.  There was NEVER a weather problem, so all the scribes would
talk about "Tuftes weather" when describing a great weekend of racing in
the kettle Moraine basin.  Well race fans, the new weather guru is Chris
Pook, Major domo of the Long Beach Grand Prix weekend for the past 24 years.  There
never seems to be a climate casualty, and last weekend--when all the
soothsayers predicted monsoons--the three day racing weekend got but a few
sprinkles on Saturday, which caused the schedule to be juggled a bit. Everyone
who came to run raced!  213,000 fans paid for the three days; consider that some tickets were 60 bucks--that's serious loot.  Beer was $4.50 and the sponsor entertainment areas were booming with party-goers.

Some sidelights: 

Finnish driver J.J. Lehto (Hogan Racing) led his first CART laps, and
Greg Moore (Players/Forsythe) drove with a flu bug and was on a
chicken soup regimen prior to the green flag.  

Memo Gidley won $2,000 in the Toyota Atlantic race--which is probably
what it costs to just feed his crew for the weekend.  

Cristiano daMatta won the Indy Lights race, which you can catch on
ESPN2 on April 18 at 1:30 a.m. EDT. 

In the CART crash fest, Toyota powered driver Max Papis couldn't
impress his home town crowd: he started and finished in the 24th spot.
From here on in Mad Max teams with Robby Gordon, a friendly rivalry
that should be interesting to watch. 

Honda powerplants finished 1-2-5-8-20-25; all the Hondas ran well
up front until brain fade took over at various corners on the track.

You would think Bryan Herta would be getting sick of Alex Zanardi
making (successful) moves on him at the late stages of major races,
but the cool and calm Herta said he was not peeved . . . no hard
feelings.  The consensus was that Zig Zag had fresher rubber and thus
could try some hairy tricks.  Let's face it, Herta did lead the first
20 laps . . .  where was Zanardi THEN?

Formula One Czar Bernie Eccelstone attended Sunday's race.  We'd sure
like to hear what he had to say about open wheel 200 mph race cars
actually passing each other.

The Pro-Celebrity race was won by Sean Patrick Flanery of the movie
"Powder."  Actor Andy Lauer of "Caroline in the City" (whatever that
is) had the pole.  We predicted that the two Japanese ladies, an
actress and a journalist, would do well: Kumi Sato finished fifth.
Lady drag racer Cristen Powell finished 15th; Queen Latifah came in
18th.

Elsewhere: Kenny Bernstein took Top Fuel over Paul Romine at
Rockingham, NC with a run of 305.39 and 4.710 et.  Funny Car went to
Cruz Pedregon over Ron Capps, 312.08 mph and 4.927 et. Pro stock was
all Mark Osborne with a 196.89 over Kurt Johnson.

Mercedes Benz has set another North American sales record with 16,303
vehicles over the curb and 1,149 of these were SLK sporty cars.

Chip Ganassi is heading a group to bring CART racing to Chicago and it's
rumored they will take over the one mile oval at Sportsman's Park on the
south side of Chi-town.  No way . . . it's dirt and champ cars do not run on
dirt any more. Silver Crown cars?  Sure.

Saab just completed a cross continent tour with the new 9-3 sedan. The
cars covered 5,782 miles in 96 hours, 23 minutes, driving from the
Arctic Circle to Key West, Florida.

IN F-1 scuttlebutt we learn that Damon Hill, who finished in 10th place
at the Brazilian GP, has been disqualified: his race car was found to
be underweight.  

The GP driver with the most active years in the sport was Graham Hill
with 18 years, 1958-1975, but then he bought the farm in an airplane
accident.  Driver Andrea de Cesaris started 208 races but was unable
to win a single event.

We chatted with Al Unser, Jr at lunch in the Marlboro-Penske enclave at
Long Beach on the Friday, prior to the Sunday debacle wherein he didn't
complete a lap.  He was full of confidence. Racing luck is fickle.

Bill Maloney -- The Auto Channel

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