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Cars 'n' Stars: Zanardi Takes Home a Bundle Of Loot, Reno GP, Toyota Sticking It Out In CART Motor War, ProSportsCar/Sebring Boasts Full Grids

14 October 1997

Here are a "few" of the goodies that 1997 CART/PPG driving champion Alex Zanardi is taking back to Italy after the CART awards banquet next week in Los Angeles: one of his personal sponsors, Barilla Pasta, is donating 195 cases of pasta to the Second Harvest charity, which is enough for 20,000 soup kitchens meals in the U.S.; PPG is giving "Zig-Zag" a $1 million year-end bonus for being the CART champ; he receives 10 grand from First Brands for winning the title; and his Marlboro Pole awards totalled $130,000. Add salary from Target/Ganassi and race purses, and it appears that Alessandro had a fruitful racing season. Oh yes, Omega gave him a gold Omega Speedmaster watch.

While an Italian won the championship and a Canadian (Carpentier) won Rookie of the Year, the U. S. won the Nations Cup.

Another CART milestone for 1997 was having the youngest driver ever to win a CART race: Greg Moore at the Milwaukee Mile.

The town of Reno, NV is getting ready for the Reno G.P. this coming weekend. The town will build a 1.27 mile street/road circuit around the Reno Hilton for the SCCA Trans Am circus.

Toyota and Dan Gurney's All American Eagle racing operation have announced that they will indeed stay in business and make strides towards building a competitive Indy Car/CART power plant. They point out that their cars had five top ten finishes, and ran laps at Fontana in the 132mph range and finished.

Andy Evans may be under fire from all sides, but it appears that his Sebring enduro this coming weekend for WSC and FIA cars will enjoy full grids. In WSC 17 cars are entered, but we did not see the Ferrari 333SP of (momo) Gianpero Moretti. Though Dave Treffer says the Mercedes, Lister, McLaren, Lotus, and Porsche teams have arrived from Europoe and are practicing on the bumpy airport circuit, they were not listed on the SportsCars PR entry list release. Over 30 cars will compete in the GTS1-2-3 classes, and 72 are entered in the Stock SportsCars race.

Hyundai America has decided to lay back for the outset of the 1997 new car season and will have very few changes to flount at auto shows. The Accent has a new hood design, new wheel covers, and an AM/FM cassette player as a standard feature. The Elantra, Tiburon and Sonata will remain as is, much to the chagrin of Hyundai retailers.

Want to see some really good dirt track racing? Head for the Las Vegas Speedway complex and its 1/2 mile dirt track on Nov. 15 for the USAC Silver Crown cars. Go watch Tony Stewart and Jimmy Sills "do it in the dirt."

GM is coming out with some new motors, including a version of the Corvette LS1, an inline six, and a new four banger for the Saturn in 1999.

Republic Industries (Wayne Huizenga) is buying up lots of new car dealerships, and Honda has decided that it will go to court to curtail some of these acquisitions. The company does not want Republic to come back at some point and dictate marketing strategy to the parent company.

1996 SCCA Pro Rally champ Paul Choiniere has done it again, winning the Prescott Forest, AZ rally in his Hyundai Elantra over Michael Fennel, Mitsubishi Lancer.

Robby Gordon still does not have a firm CART deal for 1997. He really wants to be able to drive the Indy 500, but everytime he mentions that to a CART team it's a turnoff and they say, "next case."

In NASCAR Jimmy Spencer beat Mark Martin last week at Charlotte. Martin was asked if he thought he could have won if a yellow flag would have come out. Mark said that is an IF, and we don't deal in Ifs. Jimmy Spencer earned it!

Nobody is above the Feds and recalls. Now Rolls Royce will notify 1,621 owners that they should bring their luxo cars back to the dealer to have tail pipes repaired.

The first thing Les Richter did after becoming head of the SCCA Trans Am series was to assist with a sponsor hunt. The search was successful, as NTB, Sears National Tire and Battery Centers, have come on board for three years and a few million dollars.

We told you that Indianapolis Colts QB Jim Harbaugh will be involved with backing Scott Goodyear in the IRL next year, and now former St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Ozzie Smith is getting into NASCAR with Harry Rainier.

RCA has pulled the sponsorship on John Andretti.

Former Trans Am standout Tom Gloy is planning a big NASCAR Craftsman truck effort for 1998. He is moving his race shop from Sears Point to Mooresville, NC.

Apparently the $1 million drag race scheduled for next month is for real. John Force has entered a car for his driver Jimmy Clay, and over 300 competitors are expected. The Top Fueler could go away with $2-300,000.

F-1 weighs drivers after a Grand Prix. The heaviest guy is Gerhard Bergher, 175 lbs, while the lightest is Ukyo Katayama at 138 lbs.

Keep the TACH in the black!

Bill Maloney -- The Auto Channel