1997 Laguna Seca Thoughts
RACE: Maybe it's a good thing that the season is winding down. I don't
know how many of these races my heart can take. I was jumping up and down
cheering and screaming over this one. Simply incredible! This season keeps
getting better and better. And each season gets better than the previous one.
On second thought, I'll take my chances. Let's have a 52-race schedule next
ESPN: I try not to complain about TV coverage of racing. After all, I can
remember the days of Wide World of Sports sporadically covering a few laps in
between arm wrestling. However, ESPN, how in the world did you manage to go
to a commercial break and miss perhaps the 5 most exciting laps of the season?!
Perhaps the decade!
VICTORY LAP: I'm still laughing, but this is not unprecedented. Way back,
the same thing happened to Jackie Stewart and Emerson Fittipaldi after a
Grand Prix. The only amazing part I found was that even on the cool down lap,
Zanardi escapes without any damage and keeps going while the other car is out.
How does he manage this time and time again?
ZANARDI: If you look at his driving style, you would say that it is not one
that wins championships. In fact, I maintain Zanardi never would have won
the PPG Cup if it was not for the most amazing luck in racing history and the
fact that all of the contenders decided to go on a DNF frenzy in the stretch
run of the season. However, the theory is that the championship is supposed
to be for the best driver of the year, and Zanardi was definitely the best
driver on the circuit. And for that, nobody should begrudge Zanardi the title.
HERTA: When asked if he will drive more aggressively, Bryan said he always
drives aggressively. Perhaps some other drivers didn't see that. Rahal said
that he knows Bryan, and he felt Bryan had a score to settle. Well, settle it
Bryan did! And drivers will now think twice about pushing Herta around.
There is no question in my mind that Bryan was thinking, "Alex, you are not
getting by me, and if you try to take me out, you're coming with me." Quite
ironic that it was Vasser that shoved Herta off the track just after Herta
gave Zanardi the love tap into the dirt. Nevertheless, Herta sent his message.
VASSER: Well, Jimmy finally started getting into the act way too late to
defend his title. Perhaps now he will be able to go his own route in regards
to setup, and will once again be a contender for the title in 1998. The more
contenders, the more excitement.
NUNN: Apparently, Chief Engineer extraordinaire, Mo Nunn is looking to
retire as he is finding the grind of the long season too much. Chip Ganassi
says he'll do anything to keep him. He better, otherwise we may find out
where Team Ganassi's true success really came from.
SALLES: Did anybody else notice Gualter Salles had a fine run and finished
7th on the lead lap?
HEARN: The Lola has been flushed down the toilet. Now he gets a Swift,
perhaps the best oval car this year, with all the setup information from Haas
for the California 500. I've been raving about Hearn since his Toyota
Atlantic days. I sure hope he comes through.
TRACY: Well, at least he made it past the first lap.
ANDRETTI: Five DNF's in the last 7 races. Well, at least this year's
schedule ends on an oval. Last chance for the Swift to redeem Andretti's
season. Then again, we're talking 500 miles and an Andretti...
NEARBURG: He actually outqualified somebody. Well, it was Vitolo.
VITOLO: Speaking of which, how bad is this guy? Two seconds behind
Nearburg, he actually finishes the race behind 3 drivers who dropped out
that's how many times he was lapped. I always felt that Vitolo got a bum
deal for the criticism of his now infamous crash with Mansell at Indy, but
now I'm beginning to change my tune.
PAPIS/JONES: Guys, what were you thinking? Sure, it's tough to run with a
boat anchor of an engine, but to get so upset over qualifying when the
difference might mean starting 23rd instead of 24th is a bit too much. For
those of you who didn't see it, it appeared that Max Papis and PJ Jones were
trying to hit each other, and did, on the cool off lap after qualifying.
Then, when Jones stopped on the track, Papis did likewise whereupon Jones
took his steering wheel and flung it at Max going "boink" off his helmet.
JOHNSTONE: Looks like Parker is definitely out. Team Green announced they
will run only one car next year. They also said that the acceptance deadline
for the offer to Robby Gordon is past due by one week. Barry Green mentioned
that the "marriage with Parker is not working out." Rumor has Green wanting
Franchitti. What happened to the American only driver dictum from KOOL?
And what about Franchitti being Mercedes Benz's protege? Team Green is going
to keep the Honda.
BRAHMA: Rumors have Brahma leaving Patrick Racing to back Indy Lights star
Tony Kanaan on the Tasman team. That leaves Fernandez out, but some wild
rumors have him signing with Newman/Haas. That leaves Fittipaldi out. Will
he join up with his father concerning that often rumored new team? Or
perhaps take Franchitti's spot on Hogan? And what will Boesel and Patrick
do, both losing their sponsor again? Players is making rumblings of
supporting a second car. Carpentier? Nope. He announced he will stay on
with Bettenhausen next year. Word has it, it's going to be Empringham (and
about time too).
KENDALL: No, there was not a Trans Am race this weekend. But, that won't
stop me from mentioning Tommy Kendall. Word has it that he will test a car
for Davis Racing. They say that he *does* fit in an Indy car, and now the
next step is to drive one. Davis announced they will run two cars next year.
Wait a minute. Isn't this the same team that almost didn't have enough money
to run Vancouver? Something big must be in the wings. Can you say Pennzoil?
QUOTE OF THE WEEKEND: Goes to Bryan Herta after being asked if beating out
Zanardi for pole position was a bit of a pay back: "I would say the irony of
the situation is not lost on me."
SCHEDULE: Onto the new Penske track in Fontana. It is a carbon copy of
Michigan with the exception of lower banks. Despite this, it may be almost
just as quick based on NASCAR's experience and summer testing. Reynard says
they fixed the gearbox problem that manifested in Michigan. With no
championship concerns except for positioning in the top ten, people will be
"going for it." As long as attrition doesn't rear it's ugly head, this could
be a fun race.
Copyright © 1997 by Deep Throttle. All Rights Reserved.