In 1996, Zanardi made the switch to CART, having won a seat at Chip Ganassi Racing. The team's race engineer Mo Nunn advised Chip against signing him, as he believed Italian drivers were too prone to mistakes. Tellingly, Mo later signed Alex for his own team.
He rapidly became one of the series' most popular drivers. He took pole for his second race, although his first win didn't come until mid-season. In total he won three races in his rookie season and five pole positions, finishing in a tie for second in the championship points (officially scored third as Michael Andretti had won more races) behind team-mate Jimmy Vasser (who did not win after round 6 of the season) and being named Champ Racing Rookie of the Year. He would win the championship for Ganassi in both 1997 and 1998, bringing home twelve victories.
A win came at Laguna Seca for the final race of the 1996 season, where he conducted a highly risky overtaking move at the Corkscrew corner (known to many racing fans as 'The Pass'; the maneuver was banned for future years), on race leader Bryan Herta, having fought his way through the field. After winning a race, Zanardi was fond of spinning his car around in tight circles, leaving circular donut-shaped patterns of tyre rubber on the track; this would eventually become a popular means of celebrating race wins all across America.
UPC/Bar Code: 63785398644
Manufacturer Part Number: 39864
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