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

The Callahan Report: Zanardi Continues to Make CART a 'Yawning' Series

12 July 1998

By Terry Callahan
The Auto Channel

Alex Zanardi
CLEVELAND, OH: The CART FedEx Championship used to be one of the most competitive racing series in the world. If Alex Zanardi was a spectator instead of a driver, the series would still be exciting. Zanardi won the Medic Drug Grand Prix of Cleveland Sunday. As usual, he won the race "going away." Zanardi crushed the competition with a nine-second margin of victory.

The win in Cleveland marked the fifth of the season for Zanardi. The series has held ten races in 1998. Zanardi has won half of them. Even more impressive is the fact that Zanardi has racked up 14 top-three finishes in the previous 17 CART races.

The success of Alex Zanardi and Chip Ganassi Racing is a result of very hard work. The team and driver are very talented and they deserve their championship status. However, the series is becoming more predictable week after week. Zanardi continues to dominate while others race for second place.

Zanardi's performance has given him an enormous cushion in the driver's standings. He is 59 points ahead of second place, Greg Moore. The maximum amount of points a driver can earn in a CART weekend is 22 (a win is worth 20 points, leading the most laps is worth one point, and the pole earns a point). Zanardi could probably sit out the next three CART events without losing his points lead.

The series is expected to regain its "competitive" status next season. Zanardi is in negotiations with some Formula One racing teams. The brilliant star from Italy will surely move to one of the high paying rides in that series next year.

Zanardi has no intentions of letting up this season. He is continuing to work on his already impressive racing credentials. The more wins he scores in CART, the more dollars he can demand in Formula one.

"My priority right now is to put all my concentration in this situation," Zanardi said. "I believe the best way to advertise my name is to win races here. I still need to find a job for next year, but I've got to be able to do both things (win and look for work) at the same time."

Zanardi will not be standing in the unemployment line. Instead, he will be making some tough decisions. He will have to decide who will write his checks which will contain at least seven zeros. Zanardi's paycheck in Formula one will exceed the entire budget for a top notch two-car racing team in CART (greater than $10 million.)

Michael Andretti finished in second place Sunday. Andretti is the winningest active driver in the CART series. He will add more victories when Zanardi heads "across the pond" in 1999. Andretti was able to pull off a victory in the opening race of the season at Homestead, Florida.

Greg Moore

Four Car Crash Removes Moore From Competition: The first caution period in the Medic Drug Grand Prix of Cleveland took Greg Moore, second in the championship standings, out of competition Sunday. Moore did a long and lazy spin in one of the many high speed corners. He came to a rest in the middle of the groove. Three other cars were also taken out either avoiding Moore or hitting him while he was sitting helplessly in his stalled racer. Others involved included; Michelle Jourdain, Helio Castro-Neves and J.J. Lehto.

Al Unser Jr.

Ex-Teammates Clash: During a flurry of pit action at the Medic Drug Grand Prix of Cleveland Sunday, former teammates Al Unser Jr. and Paul Tracy made contact in the pit lane. The contact caused Unser to spin and stall, facing the wrong direction. Tracy continued . . . for a while. Tracy was called back to the pits by the CART officials for taking an "unjustifiable risk." Tracy was already on probation for the same offense. He was forced to stay in the pits for ten seconds under the green flag. He fell out of contention in the race. Unser was able to get restarted and ran as high as fifth before another gearbox problems took him out late in the race.

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.