The Auto Channel
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
Official Website of the New Car Buyer

The Callahan Report: CART Fed-Ex Championship Kicks Off at Homestead

11 March 1998

By Terry Callahan
The Auto Channel

HOMESTEAD, FL: It has been several months since we have heard the whine of the CART cars. That all changes this weekend. The long winter is over. The Fed-Ex CART Championship opens its season Sunday at the Metro-Dade Motorsports Complex.

Michael Andretti
Michael Andretti is the defending champion. Last year, he debuted the all-American Swift chassis at this sparkling facility in Southern Florida. Andretti was fast "out of the box" last year, but was unable to match his Homestead performance again in the 1997 season. Andretti has all the notes from last year and should be a contender here in 98.

Paul Tracy started out hot here last year as well. Tracy was driving a troubled Penske chassis last year, but still managed a second place finish. Tracy will be waving the colors of team Green this year. He will be a favorite with a proven chassis/engine combination. KOOL could be Hot this weekend and throughout the season.

Another proven and always strong team are the duo of Alex Zanardi and Jimmy Vasser. Zanardi was hotter than a Honda engine running wide open around the sun in 97. He had the championship wrapped up with two races remaining in the season. He finished in the top ten at Homestead last year starting from the pole. Driving for the other half of the Target team, Jimmy Vasser was on the podium here in 97. He knows how to get around this course quickly. The Target/Chip Ganassi Racing Team has the advantage of two great drivers and the momentum of two consecutive championships behind them.

Alex Zanardi

Favorites at any track, Scott Pruett, Mauricio Gugelmin, and Greg Moore were all in the top ten at Homestead last year. They all also won a race in 1997. Expect that string to continue this year and beyond. Mark Blundell, Gugelmin's teammate, was also a big winner in 97 but could not find his way into the top ten here last time around. The talented driver from England should figure heavily into the mix all season long.

The race at Homestead is considered to be the 8th Annual Marlboro Grand Prix of Miami. The Metro-Dade Motorsports Complex opened to the CART cars in 1995. There were no CART races in the Miami area between 1989 through 1994. There were four races ran at Tamiami Park (street circuit) between 1985 and 1988.

The CART cars roar to life at 1:30 p.m (ET) on Sunday, March 15. ABC television will cover the event. The drivers will run 147 laps around the 1.517 mile track.

Marlboro Grand Prix Of Miami Entry List:

Driver                 Car                                Country

Alex Zanardi           Target Reynard Honda               Italy
Al Unser, Jr.          Marlboro Penske Mercedes           U.S.A.
Andre Ribeiro          Marlboro Penske Mercedes           Brazil
Gil de Ferran          Valvoline Cummins Honda            Brazil
Michael Andretti       Kmart/Texaco Havoline              U.S.A.
Bobby Rahal            Miller Lite                        U.S.A.
Bryan Herta            Shell Ford                         U.S.A.
J.J. Lehto             Hogan Motor Leasing, Inc.          Finland
Richie Hearn           Budweiser/Ralph's                  U.S.A.
Christian Fittipaldi   KMART Ford Cosworth                Brazil
Jimmy Vasser           Target Reynard Honda               U.S.A.
Christian Danner       P C World/Hawaiian Tropic          U.S.A.
Helio Castgro-Neves    Alumax Aluminum                    Brazil
Mauricio Gugelmin      Hollywood PacWest Mercedes         Brazil
Mark Blundell          Motorola PacWest Mercedes          England
Michel Jourdain, Jr.   Herdez/Viva Mexico                 Mexico
Scott Pruett           Visteon Ford Cosworth              U.S.A.
Tony Kanaan            LCI Reynard Honda                  Brazil
Hiro Matsushita        Panasonic Duskin Reynard Toyota    Japan
Max Papis              MCI Racing Reynard Toyota          Italy
Paul Tracy             KOOL Honda                         Canada
Dario Franchitti       KOOL Honda                         Scotland
Patrick Carpentier     Player's/Indeck                    Canada
Dennis Vitolo          SmithKline Beecham Ford            U.S.A.
Alex Barron            Castrol-Time Inc.                  U.S.A.
Adrian Fernandez       Tecate/Quaker State Labatt         Mexico
Hideshi Matsuda        BMB MiniJuke Ford                  Japan
Arnd Meier             BAAN Business Software             Brazil
P.J. Jones             Castrol-Time Inc.-Toyota           U.S.A.
Greg Moore             Player's/Indeck Mercedes-Benz      Canada

Editors 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.