By: Spencer Neff
August 26, 2020
Welcome to IndyCar1909. For this week’s edition of Rewind, we’ll go back to 1998’s race at the current World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, the Motorola 300.
After a competitive start to the CART FedEx Championship Series, the race winner began a record-breaking campaign.
Zanardi becomes first repeat winner of 1998
Heading into Round Six at Gateway International Raceway, the 1998 CART FedEx Championship had been one of the most competitive on record.
In the first five races, five different drivers representing four different teams had won.
Throughout the weekend, rain had become an issue, forcing the cancellation of qualifying. After posting the quickest time in practice, Forsythe Racing’s Greg Moore would start on pole.
Following an epic duel with Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Zanardi two weeks earlier in Rio, Moore was in prime position to win consecutive races for the second time in as many years.
One change was implemented prior to the race, as the smaller speedway wing was added, making the cars tougher to drive.
After posting the quickest lap in the morning warmup, Jimmy Vasser sped past Greg Moore and took the lead from second on Lap 1 of the 236-lap race. Further back, trouble broke out on the opening lap in Turn 3 of the 1.27-mile oval.
After Dario Franchitti spun and hit the wall in Turn 3, teammate and defending race winner Paul Tracy spun behind him. In addition to Team Kool Green, Richie Hearn was also knocked out of the race with damage.
Fortunately, Forsythe’s Patrick Carpentier and Newman-Haas’ Christian Fittipaldi were involved but continued on.
Just after the restart, Dennis Vitolo crashed on the front straightaway and the Dale Coyne Racing driver was out after just 14 laps. Fortunately for the field, the race got back to a regular pace following after the Lap 23 restart.
By Lap 42, Michael Andretti found his way to the lead, just before rookie Tony Kanaan’s Lap 47 crash in Turn 2. After winning the season-opening race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the Newman-Haas driver looked to become the first two-time winner in 1998.
After taking the lead early, Andretti held control for much of the race, withstanding Al Unser Jr’s crash. With 61 laps to go, defending series champion Alex Zanardi made his way to the lead.
On Lap 189, All-American Racers’ Alex Barron collided with the backstretch traffic cones, limping around the track to bring out the sixth and final caution of the afternoon.
With 41 laps to go, the race restarted with Andretti closing in on Zanardi. Despite leading a race-high 133 laps, Andretti was unable to grab the lead back.
After winning by just .573 of a second, Zanardi became 1998’s first two-time winner and took the points lead in his pursuit of a second straight title. After finishing third, Moore would fall a single point back of Zanardi in the championship.
Though it took Zanardi six races to reach the points lead, he would not surrender it for the rest of the season. After winning seven times with 15 Top 3 finishes, the Italian easily secured his second consecutive title before departing CART for Williams F1.
In 1999, Andretti led 91 laps and won at Gateway. One interesting note from both races, Andretti and Zanardi both won after starting in 11th. To date, no other winner at the track has started further back than eighth.
With two races on the docket for this weekend, Andretti has another chance to return to victory lane at the track, this time as an owner. For Ganassi’s team, a win would be their second at the track and first since Zanardi’s triumph.
Header Image by Basso488/Twitter