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The Teammate Everybody Wants

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  • The Teammate Everybody Wants

    That is how Alex Zanardi describes this driver. Hopefully, Sunday will not be his last race in a Champ car. Here is the article:

    MILLER: Jimmy Vasser - "The Teammate Everybody Wants"
    Written by: Robin Miller

    Indianapolis, IN – 11/3/2005 Jimmy Vasser is part of Champ Car's glorious past and its seemingly optimistic future. (Photo: Donald Miralle/Getty Images)

    If Jimmy Vasser steps out of a Champ Car for the final time this Sunday afternoon in Mexico City, as expected, he'll walk away with one championship, 10 wins, nine poles and a multitude of memories.

    He'll be remembered as a smart, clean racer who knew the limit and respected it.

    An American success story that began in the SCCA ranks and drove to the top of open wheel racing.

    A graceful guy who never forgot the people that helped him up the ladder.

    And, as Alex Zanardi will be happy to tell you, a rarity in motorsports.

    "When I came to CART in 1996 I have to admit I was a little bit envious because I was not enjoying the great results that Jimmy was getting," recalled the two-time CART champ. "And, you know, Jimmy was being nice to me but I thought that would probably end if I started winning or the results were reversed.

    "But, in the three years we were together, he never changed. He was always very generous and very honest with me. He never lied. He did many nice things for me and, at first, I felt uncomfortable with this kind of consideration because I hadn't done anything to deserve it.

    "Of course we became great friends and I'll always consider myself so lucky to have had this happen to me. You ask me to describe Jimmy Vasser. Well, he was a very good driver and a very special person.

    "He's the teammate everybody wants."

    Whether you were a cocky rookie like Juan Montoya, a guy trying to improve his craft like Michel Jourdain or a guy trying to prove his worth like Zanardi, Vasser treated then all as equals because he was the consummate team player.

    "It's a whole team atmosphere and I'd like to think I promote that. You know, I don't promote screw your teammate mentality," said Vasser. "Sure, I want to beat my teammate, don't get me wrong. But, if I can't, I'm happy for them if they win the race.

    "But all these guys work together in the shop, we have sponsors on both cars and if the other guy wins our sponsors are happy. You can't make a division between two sides. The guys I've been paired with are reasonable, sensible people and I think they understood.

    "It's the team that's most important. That's the best feeling about winning a race or a championship. You were able to deliver your part of the deal and you helped the team reach its ultimate goal."

    Vasser was an integral part of Chip Ganassi's Target thunderbolt that captured four consecutive CART titles from 1996-1999 with Vasser, Zanardi and Montoya. He tutored those Formula One boys on the art of ovals and gave them a sounding board on road courses.

    If he resented their presence, he masked it well, and provides a splendid anecdote of this formidable twosome.

    "I had won the championship in '96 and pretty much got pummeled by Zanardi in '97 and '98 even though I finished second and third in the points," continued Vasser. "When he went back to F1 I thought to myself, 'Well, there's no way I can get a teammate who's going to come in here that will be as competitive as Zanardi.

    "Then, lo and behold, Juan Pablo Montoya shows up."

    The native Californian chuckles at that irony since Montoya remains the most impressive rookie since Mario Andretti.
    "Jimmy has always been fast but not Holy [email protected]#t fast...he makes very few mistakes. - Paul Tracy (Photo: Darrell Ingham/Getty Images)

    Vasser's ascension to No. 1 wasn't nearly as quick. After six wins in Toyota Atlantic in 1991 for Rick Galles, he moved up to CART in '92 with an old car, a small budget and eyes wide open.

    "Jim Hayhoe was instrumental in me making the jump to CART, as well as Rick Ellis, Rick Cole, John Della Penna and Angelo Ferro," he said. "I remember my first race at Long Beach and I finished right behind Rick Mears and that was cool since I used to sit in the stands and watch him a few years earlier.

    "Then we go to Indy and I'm the fastest rookie qualifier. In the race, I tucked right in behind A.J. Foyt followed him around for the first 150 miles because I figured that would be the right thing to do. Those are my two early memories."

    After being hired by Ganassi in 1995, J.V. had all the planets align in '96. He had a Reynard/Honda on Firestone tires and a badass Italian teammate to push him to the title in CART's heydays of competition.

    "I had four second places in '95 so '96 was special because I got my first win and three more after that, plus the championship," he said. "I guess the U.S. 500 stands out the most. None of us imagined we wouldn't be running Indy but here we are at Michigan in front of 100,000 fans and I guess I kinda became the poster boy for that race.

    "Remember, in victory lane I was joking with my crew and I said, 'Who needs milk?' and that instantly became quoted everywhere. We got back to the shop on Monday morning and there was a bottle of milk with a death threat. So, you know, the war begins, right?"

    Ganassi was the first to cross battle lines in 2000 when he took Montoya and Vasser to Indianapolis but Jimmy still missed four Mays in his prime and four more this decade.

    "I've won three 500-milers and finished second in another three so I would have liked to have had more opportunities at Indy, for sure," said Vasser, whose last lap duel with the late Greg Moore and Zanardi at Michigan in 1998 remains a classic. "I love Indianapolis. I'm able to separate Indy from the IRL and Indy is certainly not the way it used to be but it's still Indianapolis."

    Vasser's laid back style on and off the track has been his calling card but Paul Tracy offers a quaint description of his longtime rival.

    "Jimmy has always been fast but not Holy [email protected]#t fast," said Tracy. "He's not a stand out guy, he's not the fastest guy but he goes fast when he needs to and makes very few mistakes."

    Although his last win came in a 500-miler at Fontana in 2002 when he edged Michael Andretti, Vasser is not an embarrassing roadblock like some guys who hung on too long. He's coming off back-to-back podiums and has out-paced teammate Cristiano da Matta much of the season.

    Still, at 39 (he'll be 40 on Nov. 20), J.V. is realistic about his profession. He's co-owner of PKV Racing with Dan Pettit and Kevin Kalkhoven and wants to grow his team into a winner. Last August he said: "I think this is probably going to be my last year but I'm going to sit down with my partners and we'll work things out.

    "I don't want to take up a seat if somebody is faster but I also don't want to give it up if they can't beat me."

    In the final analysis, Jimmy Vasser has been a fast act and a class act for 14 years. He developed into a champion in CART's heydays and he's remained fiercely loyal to the series that nearly imploded a couple years ago. He's part of Champ Car's glorious past and its seemingly optimistic future.

    "Quitting is a tough thing to think about and I'll always respect the way Gil de Ferrean retired at the top," he said. "He was respected by his peers up and down pit lane and that's the way to go out.

    "I feel like I'm still competitive but, for now, the focus is on what's best for the team."

    Naturally.

    Jeeemy Article


    It is a good read. He discusses the "Who needs milk" comment and his love for Indy.

    Jimmy is a class act. I have never heard or read about a teammate saying one bad word about him. Alex has some great things to say about him. They are still great friends.

    I certainly hope Sunday is not his last race. I would love to see him race in 2006 and even try Indy again. He is my favorite driver, and the racing season would not be the same without him. He is not the greatest driver of all time, but he was and is good.

    But more important, he is a good person and teammate. I remember first meeting and talking with him at the first Houston Grand Prix. He talked to my friends and I for over 15 minutes, just BSing. I had on a Shell Houston Open shirt. He teased me that Herta should be my favorite driver, then called Herta over and introduced us to him. I have always enjoyed talking with Jimmy at the races I got to attend. He is a class act. CCWS and open wheel were better for having Jimmy Vasser race. And the racing world will miss him.

    Good luck Sunday, Jimmy.
    Last edited by Vasserfan; 11-03-2005, 12:18 PM.
    After years of fighting and a split, guess what, we are all IndyCar

    October will always be a sad racing month for me. RIP Greg and Dan. You both were great and we miss you.

  • #2
    Too bad Jimmy hasn't considered sportscars. I imagine he could still have alot of fun there and it wouldn't be bad for either series to have him. Sportscar racing is alot more team oriented, so any team that isn't watching him might be missing a good thing.
    "Is that my *** that I smell burning?" ... Helmet Stogie from "Death spasms of the Mabuchi"

    Comment


    • #3
      I love Indianapolis.
      Jimmy gets it.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Chitownfan
        Jimmy gets it.
        Sure does.

        Memorable quotes:
        "Who needs milk?"
        "There's no 'I' in team, but there is in Chip."
        (and my favorite) ...

        "The JIMMY car was having trouble all day today." (Dang I'm gonna miss you Jimmy.)
        "Don't believe the hype!"

        Comment


        • #5
          Chitownfan Quote:
          I love Indianapolis.

          Jimmy gets it.

          If Jimmy ever got it, he wouldnt have boycotted the Indy 500 from 1996-1999, he wouldnt be running in the CART/OWRS series.. Jimmy is all about Jimmy nothing more nothing less..

          Comment


          • #6
            If Jimmy ever got it, he wouldnt have boycotted the Indy 500 from 1996-1999
            I believe Jimmy's participation or lack thereof during that time period was dictated by his team owner, not Jimmy.

            Jimmy is all about Jimmy nothing more nothing less..
            You know, I think I'd be just a wee bit more linclined to believe the guy that raced alongside Jimmy as a teammate for several years before I'd believe you.
            BAN SHREDDED CHEESE! MAKE AMERICA GRATE AGAIN!

            Comment


            • #7
              I believe Jimmy's participation or lack thereof during that time period was dictated by his team owner, not Jimmy.


              He could have asked to be released from his contract.. he was a grown adult and could make his own decisions.. also he had the opportunity to take over the Brack seat with Rahal in 2004 and decided to stay in CART/OWRS.. His actions dont seem like a guy who really loves Indianapolis..

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Chris Paff
                I believe Jimmy's participation or lack thereof during that time period was dictated by his team owner, not Jimmy.


                He could have asked to be released from his contract.. he was a grown adult and could make his own decisions.. also he had the opportunity to take over the Brack seat with Rahal in 2004 and decided to stay in CART/OWRS.. His actions dont seem like a guy who really loves Indianapolis..
                I'm sure he was making a lot of money from his contract. Would YOU ask to be released from a contract that guaranteed you not only a ride for several years, but lots of money?

                On Rahal, Jimmy grew up and spent his entire career road racing. At the time, the IRL didn't turn right. He made his choice and I doubt he's regretted it.

                Chris, I believe you've made your statement about Jimmy purely because he came from CART/Champ Car.

                When you truly think this over get back to us.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Kurt, how can you say a driver loves Indianapolis but makes no attempt to continue racing there? Boycotts in 1996-1999, doesnt sign with Rahal in 2004.. If someone loves something they do what they can to do that thing.. Hell im suppose to graduate college on the weekend of Indy in 2006.. but im purposely not taking all the classes i need next semiester so i dont miss Indianapolis.. thats proves my love for the 500..

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Chris Paff
                    .. but im purposely not taking all the classes i need next semiester so i dont miss Indianapolis.. thats proves my love for the 500..
                    A love for Indy wasn't what I was thinking.
                    Trump, he's one of the nicest, most decent human beings possibly ever to walk the planet..

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Chris Paff
                      Chitownfan Quote:
                      I love Indianapolis.

                      Jimmy gets it.

                      If Jimmy ever got it, he wouldnt have boycotted the Indy 500 from 1996-1999, he wouldnt be running in the CART/OWRS series.. Jimmy is all about Jimmy nothing more nothing less..
                      <whisper mode> Psssst .. your agenda is sticking out! </whisper mode>

                      Jimmy raced where the competition, and money was. You think a driver would be that dumb to give up an opportunity like he had at the time?
                      If CD’s were spun in the opposite direction, would it say everything backwards?

                      "Fun is where it's at. That's why you have to be there!"

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Chris Paff
                        Hell im suppose to graduate college on the weekend of Indy in 2006.. but im purposely not taking all the classes i need next semiester so i dont miss Indianapolis.. thats proves my love for the 500..
                        Can I assume that one of the classes you're putting off is basic English composition?
                        "It was actually fun, because you're back fully driving again in these trucks. Ninety percent of the tracks we go to in the IRL, you're flat-out. I was having to lift off the corners some here." - Buddy Rice

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                        • #13
                          Jimmy can only say he got the opportunity to be teamed with guys like Zanardi and Montoya. He'll never be able to relive 1996 at Indy and the opportunity to race against a dentist and cowboy.
                          Trump, he's one of the nicest, most decent human beings possibly ever to walk the planet..

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Well what do ya know, I decent article from Robin. 'Course since it was based on facts and not the fertile wanderings of a poisoned mind......... But I digress.

                            Jimmy was the perfect teammate. A really nice guy, a guy to measure yourself against. To know when you equal him, you're a cut above average, and when you blow past him, he'll continue to be a nice guy, and learn what he can from you. Jimmy Vasser is from the same mold as Lloyd Ruby, Mike Mosley, and a few others. Too bad he decided to be loyal to the CC crowd, but racing needs more guys like him.
                            ...Always follow the money

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Chris Paff
                              He could have asked to be released from his contract.. he was a grown adult and could make his own decisions.. His actions dont seem like a guy who really loves Indianapolis..
                              I agree, look at this quote from Long Beach 1997:

                              My thoughts are pretty much what Rick said. Indy once was the greatest show on earth. It's the hardest to win. And now it's sad . . . we don't miss anything about what is going on there."
                              Oh wait a minute, that was Al Unser Jr.

                              Interesting Unser Jr. finally showed up in the IRL once Penske was done with him.

                              The guy signing your paycheck can be tough sometimes.

                              Comment

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