Zanardi Hangs On to Win in Cleveland
Two mistakes and a dead radio were not enough to make Alex Zanardi lose his cool.
Zanardi, 30, of Italy charged back from 22nd in the 28-car field to win Sunday’s Medic Drug Grand Prix of Cleveland, turning the tables on Gil de Ferran in a virtual replay of last year’s finish.
Zanardi, the 1996 rookie of the year, took the lead from de Ferran six laps from the end of the 90-lap, 189.54-mile event at Burke Lakefront Airport. He steadily pulled away, winning by 1.281 seconds.
Zanardi, driving a Lola-powered Reynard, averaged 111.848 mph on the 2.106-mile temporary road circuit.
Zanardi’s problems began when he found two laps into the race that he could not communicate with his crew by radio. He started from the pole and was leading, with de Ferran close behind, when Richie Hearn’s deflating left rear tire sent him hurtling into a concrete wall and then into a tire barrier.
Hearn was not injured, but seven cars, led by Zanardi, took advantage of the situation to pit moments after a full-course caution flag was waved. The problem was that CART had not opened pit lane to the competitors, yet.
Each of the drivers who came into the pit area on lap 23 was sent to the rear of the field for the restart. Zanardi also was penalized for pulling ahead of at least one car that was ahead of him on the track as he left the pit.
By the time he got back into the race, Zanardi was 22nd.
Paul Tracy leads the series with 106 points, followed by Greg Moore with 95.
Jacques Villeneuve won his fourth race of the season, closing within four points of Formula One leader Michael Schumacher with a victory in British Grand Prix at Silverstone, England.
Villeneuve, representing Williams-Renault, took the lead when Schumacher’s Ferrari went out on the 38th of 59 laps because of a burnt left-rear wheel bearing. Mika Hakkinen took the lead after Villeneuve made a pit stop, but went out on the 53rd lap because of a blown engine.
Villeneuve averaged 128.445 mph on the 3.194-mile circuit.
Jeff Burton barely avoided a collision with runner-up Dale Earnhardt in a late pit stop and won the Jiffy Lube 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway.
Burton held the lead when he and other cars pulled into the pit for a final splash of gas on the 285th lap, but as he pulled out of his stall, Earnhardt was pulling in and had to swerve to avoid a collision.
Burton, driving a Ford, went on to defeat Earnhardt’s Chevrolet by 5.4 seconds, averaging 117.194 mph on the 1.058-mile oval.
Terry Labonte, who finished seventh, leads the series with 2,497. Jeff Gordon, who ended up 23rd, is second with 2,494.
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