On the Track

On the Track

The inaugural California 500 had the fastest 500-mile fields in history.


For a moment it appeared that Jimmy Vasser would capture pole position with a 239.222 mph lap in his Target Reynard-Honda.

Vasser Qualifying
Gugelmin's World Record

But Mauricio Gugelmin astounded everyone with a new world record lap averaging 240.942 mph.

Gualter Salles jumps from a smoking Reynard-Ford. Team owner Gerald Davis had been struggling all year to keep together the remains of the 1996 Hall Racing team after Jim Hall's retirement at the end of the season.

Salles Escapes
Swift Andretti

Michael Andretti puts the Swift-Ford through its paces in the test session following qualifying.


Gugelmin and Vasser's cars are lined up at the front of the field on the pit lane before moving onto the track for the rolling start.

Front Row
Scoring Tower

The scoring tower stands tall above the pit lane.

Grandstands filled with anticipation.

Full Grandstands

Thousands of red, white and black balloons are released to herald the start of the inaugural California 500.

Michael Andretti was very strong in the early laps of the race, emerging in the lead from a pit stop during the yellow due to Arie Luyendyk's crash.

Andretti's Fast Pit Stop
Gugelmin and Vasser Exit Pits

Gugelmin beats Vasser out of the pits.

Smoke pours out of Al Unser Jr's Marlboro as he ends his disappointing season on lap 44 with a blown exhaust.

Lighting Up a Marlboro

The green flag flies for a restart with Michael in the lead. However, it was not to last: he retired on lap 104 with an overheated engine.

Jimmy smokes the tyres as he screams away from another pit-stop.

Vasser Pit Exit
SpeedPick Groupies

Pete now runs the SpeedPick Pick12 competition on the Internet. He always enjoys meeting up with his competitors and was especially pleased that Shelly (right) and Pam tracked him down.

Greg Moore, seen here lapping Gil de Ferran, made a charge late in the race. Within a few laps he was past Gugelmin and had established a commanding lead. But with 11 laps to go, his Mercedes engine expired in a massive puff of smoke.

Moore Passes De Ferran
Vasser Laps de Ferran

Vasser also laps de Ferran. When Moore's engine lets go, he backed off expecting a yellow flag...

... but a quick-witted Mark Blundell realized that it wasn't coming and seized the opportunity to take the lead.

Mark Steals the Lead
The Chequered Flag

Mark takes the chequered flag for his third win of the season, with a seething Jimmy trailing.

In the Paddock | Arie Luyendyk

Paul Jasper's Web Site | Racing | Fontana 1997

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