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Auto circuits

By JOANNE KORTH

© St. Petersburg Times,
published July 21, 2001


CART

POINTS LEADER: Kenny Brack.

RACES REMAINING: 11.

SO FAR: After nine races, former IRL driver Brack leads the standings with 84 points. But Michael Andretti is poised for a second-half run at the championship, closing to within 11 points of Brack after winning last week at Toronto. Winning for the first time with first-year Team Motorola, and using the Reynard-Honda package that has claimed the past five championships, Andretti came from last place after an early race incident. ... Brack, driving for Team Rahal, followed up his 2000 Rookie of the Year award with back-to-back victories this season at Japan and Wisconsin. ... Exuberant Brazilian Helio Castroneves, a close third in the standings with 70 points, has made fence-climbing an acceptable form of celebration. He did so in an effort to get closer to the fans after winning the prestigious Indianapolis 500, the IRL's signature event. He also has two CART wins. ... Alex Zanardi, the 1997 and '98 CART champion, returned after an ill-fated year in Formula One and a year out of racing. Driving for his former Ganassi engineer Mo Nunn, Zanardi is 17th in the standings with a season-best finish of fourth last week at Toronto.

FORMULA ONE

POINTS LEADER: Michael Schumacher.

RACES REMAINING: 6.

SO FAR: Ferrari's Schumacher remains the series' most dominant driver. With a substantial 37-point lead over second-place David Coulthard in the standings, Schumacher appears headed for his second straight championship, fourth overall. He has six victories and four runner-up finishes in 11 races. With his next victory, Schumacher will tie Alain Prost's record of 51 career F1 victories. The stage is set for next week, when the circuit visits Schumacher's home course in Hockenheim, Germany. ... Mika Hakkinen, the 1998 and '99 champion, picked up his first victory of the season last week at the British Grand Prix, adding a layer of intrigue to speculation the "Flying Finn" will not return to the McLaren team next season.

INDY RACING LEAGUE

POINTS LEADER: Sam Hornish Jr.

RACES REMAINING: 5.

SO FAR: While some luster was restored to the Indianapolis 500 by the presence of some CART drivers, including Michael Andretti, the IRL could not have been happy when CART swept the top five positions, led by race rookie Helio Castroneves. The highest-finishing IRL driver behind former IRL champion and NASCAR convert Tony Stewart was seventh-place Eliseo Salizar. Gil de Ferran was second, giving owner Roger Penske a 1-2 finish in a triumphant return. ... Hornish Jr., who leads the standings with 309 points, won the first two races of the season and is the league's up-and-coming star. ... 2000 series champion Buddy Lazier closed the gap to 50 points with victories in two of the past three races.

NHRA

POINTS LEADERS: Top Fuel -- Kenny Bernstein; Funny Car -- John Force; Pro Stock -- Warren Johnson; Pro Stock Motorcycle -- Angelle Savoie; Pro Stock Truck -- Bob Panella Jr.

RACES REMAINING: 11.

SO FAR: The series just learned it will lose its title sponsor, Winston, at the end of the season after a 27-year relationship, but drag racing's growing popularity and the series' long-term television contract with ESPN and ESPN2 should make it attractive to prospective sponsors. ... NHRA celebrated its 50th anniversary this month at Pomona Raceway. ... Force, a four-time winner this season and the winningest driver in NHRA history with 96, is moving closer to a record 11th Funny Car championship. ... 2000 Pro Stock Bike champion Savoie recorded her 18th career victory, tied with three-time Top Fuel champion Shirley Muldowney for most victories by a woman.

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