The Callahan Report: Paul Tracy Heads to Nazareth With Confidence
24 April 1998
By Terry Callahan
The Auto Channel
Tracy has an estimated 20,000 laps of competition and practice experience at the short oval. While driving for Roger Penske, Tracy ran lap after lap during shakedowns of the famous PC (Penske Car) chassis. Tracy could probably drive around this short circuit in his sleep. Tracy's experience, coupled with the fact that he set another unofficial track record during testing this week, makes him the odds on favorite to win the Bosch Spark Plug Grand Prix this weekend in Nazareth. Tracy has won the past two races held at Nazareth.
Michael Andretti has a new look this season. Along with that new look comes a new attitude. Although his face is covered with hair this season, there is nothing hairy about Andretti's performance. The second generation racing superstar always performs well at Nazareth. He is a native of this small Pennsylvania community. The extra cheering from the local crowd has an effect on his performance.
Andretti has already won this season. Andretti may be the only one to challenge Tracy for the victory at Nazareth. Short ovals suit Andretti's driving style. He said "Short ovals are just perfect for great racing. You're always in traffic, and there's always passing going on."
Adrian Fernandez has found new life this season. After winning in Japan and posting consistent high finishes, Fernandez is the early points leader. This track clearly belongs to Paul Tracy, but with some racing luck and a few breaks, the race victory could be inherited by front runner Fernandez.
After failing to visit victory lane in over two years, Al Unser Jr. is back with a vengeance. He was putting the pressure on Adrian Fernandez in Japan (another oval race) earlier this season. Time ran out causing the hungry veteran to finish second. Nazareth is a track where Unser Jr. has performed well in the past. Finally, with a competitive racing machine under him once again, Unser Jr. will be a threat to win a CART race. That long overdue victory could come this weekend.
Al Unser Jr.: Still searching for victory lane
In the darkhorse category this week, Jimmy Vasser gets the nod. Vasser qualified well at the Japan oval. He won the pole there but he fell back during the race. Chip Ganassi/Target racing has had enough time to get the bugs worked out. Vasser could and should be a threat for a podium finish at Nazareth. Vasser finished fifth here last year.
The 12th annual Bosch Spark Plug Grand Prix gets underway this Sunday afternoon, April 26, at 12:30 p.m. (et). The race will be broadcast live on ESPN television.
Callahan's Picks for Nazareth:
1. Paul Tracy
2. Michael Andretti
3. Al Unser, Jr.
4. Adrian Fernandez
5. Bryan Herta
Darkhorse: Jimmy Vasser
Entry List for the Bosch Spark Plug Grand Prix:
No Driver (Country) Car 1 Alex Zanardi (Italy) Target Reynard Honda 2 Al Unser, Jr. (USA) 98 Marlboro Penske Mercedes 3 Andre Ribeiro (Brazil) 98 Marlboro Penske Mercedes 5 Gil de Ferran (Brazil) Valvoline/Cummins Special 6 Michael Andretti (USA) Kmart/Texaco/Havoline 7 Bobby Rahal (USA) Miller Lite 8 Bryan Herta (USA) Shell 9 J.J. Lehto (Finland) Hogan Motor Leasing, Inc. 10 Richie Hearn (USA) Budweiser/Ralphs Swift Ford 11 Christian Fittipaldi (Brazil) Kmart 12 Jimmy Vasser (USA) Target Reynard Honda 15 Mimmo Schiattarella (Italy) Hawaiian Tropic 16 Helio Castro-Neves (Brazil) Alumax Aluminum 17 Mauricio Gugelmin (Brazil) Hollywood PacWest Mercedes 18 Mark Blundell (England) Motorola PacWest Mercedes 19 Michel Jourdain, Jr. (Mexico) Herdez/Viva Mexico 20 Scott Pruett (USA) Visteon 21 Tony Kanaan (Brazil) LCI Reynard Honda 24 Robby Gordon (USA) Panasonic-Duskin-Reynard-Toyota 25 Max Papis (Italy) MCI Racing Reynard-Toyota 26 Paul Tracy (Canada) KOOL 27 Dario Franchitti (Scotland) KOOL 33 Patrick Carpentier (Canada) Player's/Indeck 34 Dennis Vitolo (USA) SmithKline Beecham 36 Alex Barron (USA) Castrol-Degree-Toyota Reynard 40 Adrian Fernandez (Mexico) Tecate/Quaker State/Labatt 77 Arnd Meier (Germany) BAAN Business Software/Total Tel 98 P.J. Jones (USA) Castrol-Degree-Toyota Reynard 99 Greg Moore (Canada) Player's/Indeck
Past 10 Bosch Spark Plug Grand Prix Winners
1997 -- Paul Tracy 1996 -- Michael Andretti 1995 -- Emerson Fittipaldi 1994 -- Paul Tracy 1993 -- Nigel Mansell 1992 -- Bobby Rahal 1991 -- Arie Luyendyk 1990 -- Emerson Fittipaldi 1989 -- Emerson Fittipaldi 1988 -- Danny SullivanEditors Note: The images displayed in this article (plus many more) can be viewed in The Racing Image Galleries and the Visions of Speed Art Gallery.