1998 Pre-Season Thoughts
They're not Indy cars anymore. They are Champ Cars. It's not the PPG
CART World Series anymore. It is the CART FedEx Championship Series for
the PPG Cup. Call it what you want. It is still the most exciting, most
competitive racing series in the world. It will once again teach the F1
boys what the true meaning of "pass" is, as in pass a car, not pass out
In no particular order:
TOYOTA: A make it or break it year for them.
PENSKE: Will the master give up making his own chassis? Or will this be
a repeat of 1994? Technically, the PC27 holds a lot of promise. And the
greatest wild card.
REYNARD: Whether the F1 project becomes a distraction for them or not, it
won't matter this year. Their customers will be singing their praises.
TEAM GANASSI: Their owner might be annoying, especially when things don't
go right, but he has put together a formidable team. There is no reason to
suggest they cannot three-peat.
PACWEST: Bruce McCaw should stick to racing rather than hockey (where,
along with his brother, has spent foolishly on the Vancouver Canucks who
have only gotten worse by the day). Last year was their breakthrough year.
This year will be an expectation year.
TEAM GREEN: With Villenueve, they looked great. Without him, they've
looked terrible. Now that they have Paul Tracy, there are no more excuses
for this team.
BOBBY RAHAL: No matter what happens this year, he will get to do what few
athletes are able to -- go out with dignity. Even more importantly, he will
continue to carry out the legacy of Jim Trueman for years to come.
HIRO MATSUSHITA: Say what you want about "King Hiro," but he has been the
ultimate sportsman. And, like Rahal, if he does retire, his impact on the
sport will continue for years.
ALEX ZANARDI: Remember Vancouver in 1996 in his rookie year when he
failed at an ill advised pass on PJ Jones? Remember how mad Alex was? We
didn't see that last year because everything went his way. There is no way
his luck can be so good again. Emotions rule this driver which makes him
both so much fun and so scary to watch.
JIMMY VASSER: Why "Chimmy" ever went along with taking Zanardi's setups
is still the question of 1997. He won't be doing that this year, and as
his late season run showed along with his ability to finish races, Vasser
is the pre-season favorite.
PAUL TRACY: Vengeance is a great motivator. But with someone
occassionally nicknamed "Wall Tracy," that might not be such a good thing.
SCOTT PRUETT: Here is a real easy prediction: by the third or fourth race,
Pruett will be in first place. Will he ever be able to maintain that pace
for a whole season, a season that keeps getting longer? That is the
CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI: It is still my belief that he is the most overrated
driver in CART. I don't expect anything to change that.
BRYAN HERTA: Also considered overrated, Herta must prove himself this year.
He's won everything before: Skip Barber Formula Ford series, Barber-SAAB Pro
Series, Indy Lights Championship. He's over the emotional consequences of
driving for AJ Foyt. He's over the physical consequences of that terrible
crash at Toronto. He has to win this year. No more excuses.
ALEX BARRON: In my mind the most talented rookie in the new crop.
However, being on a Toyota team, he will instead be using this year to gain
experience and learn. Having Dan Gurney as his tutelage will be a great
TONY KANAAN: My pick for Rookie of the Year.
RICHIE HEARN: The team has learned some valuable lessons. He now has a
real chassis with Firestone tires. Expect this driver to start showing some
of his potential.
MICHEL JOURDAIN, JR.: The brunt of a lot of jokes, he suddenly quieted
those naysayers when the team dumped the Lola chassis and had some excellent
runs. Too young and too inexperienced when he first came into CART, he has
now gained the necessary knowleadge and may be a greater talent than anyone
GIL DE FERRAN: The quietest guy on the circuit, but he sure can drive a
race car. Still with Goodyear tires, but if he wins some races, he may be
taking the PPG Cup home.
AL UNSER, JR.: He's lost 20 pounds. He claims to have a new spark. If
the Penske chassis produces, we may see the original Little Al.
ANDRE RIBEIRO: Perhaps under the most pressure of anyone in 1998. He
needs to prove that Roger made the right move.
ROBBY GORDON: Whenever he races, even with a slow car, he will bring
excitement to the series. The only question is, what sort of excitement?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: He's given up bicycles for "safer" activities like
snowmobiling. With new surroundings and an experienced teammate, Carpentier
should see his first win.
JJ LEHTO: Will he be the next Stefan Johansson or the next Mark Blundell?
GREG MOORE: Remember, no matter what he does this year, he is still only 22.
Copyright © 1998 by Deep Throttle. All Rights Reserved.