CHAMPCAR/CART: Fontana Friday track notes

Good Morning from California Speedway in Fontana, California for the first day of practice for Sunday's Marlboro 500 Presented by Toyota, Round 20 and the Grand Finale of the 2000 FedEx Championship Series season! The weather this morning is very...

Good Morning from California Speedway in Fontana, California for the first day of practice for Sunday's Marlboro 500 Presented by Toyota, Round 20 and the Grand Finale of the 2000 FedEx Championship Series season! The weather this morning is very iffy, courtesy of a large low-pressure system situated over the Los Angeles basin, pumping bands of rare, heavy rain across Southern California since late yesterday. The good part is that the system is moving east fast, with at least one, maybe two days of clear blue skies behind it, according to Friday morning satellite images. The system is also predicted to keep ambient temperatures in the low-seventies all weekend long once the threat of rain subsides; a perfect forecast for the last superspeedway race of the 2000 FedEx Championship Series season. And cooler temperatures equate to faster lap times, but it will be tough to crack the track qualifying record of 240.942 mph (30.316 seconds) set in 1997 by MAURICO GUGELMIN in the pre-Handford Device era on the 2.029-mile California Speedway oval.

Being the Grand Finale of the 2000 season, the Marlboro 500 Presented by Toyota presents quite a few stories that are coming to a head in the FedEx Championship Series. First of course, is the CART Championship, featuring five drivers (GIL de FERRAN, ADRIAN FERNANDEZ, PAUL TRACY, KENNY BRACK and ROBERTO MORENO) with a chance to take home The Vanderbilt Cup filled with one million dollars. The winner of the Marlboro 500 Presented by Toyota will also take home one million dollars, with all other position payouts unchanged from the CART regular payday. That's a two-million dollar payday if the race winner also grabs the Championship. If it occurs, beer's on that guy Sunday night! In addition, the season-long Sears Craftsman Pit Crew Challenge will be decided Friday afternoon. The over-the-wall boys fighting for the Craftsman Pit Crew Challenge trophy and $50,000 in cash are the #40 Tecate/Patrick Racing Team, followed by the #32 Players/Forsythe Racing Team, #20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Team, and the #26 Team KOOL Green entry. The CART Manufacturer's Championship will also be decided on Sunday, when Ford defends its 16-point lead over rival Honda. Ford must place a car in the top six when the dust settles to lock up its first Championship since 1995. Honda took the title in 1996, 1998, and 1999 with Mercedes coming home the Champ in 1997. Finally, CASEY MEARS makes his CART Champ debut Sunday, driving a third entry from Team Rahal; #91, sponsored by WorldCom. MEARS, nephew of CART legend Rick Mears, will also compete for his first Indy Lights Championship in the Lights finale just before the Main event Sunday, becoming the first Champ Car driver to wheel an Indy Lights and Champ Car on the same day.

This morning's first practice session is scheduled for 10:10 a.m., a rookie session designed to acclimate CART freshmen to the high speeds of the California Speedway. The session runs 20 minutes, with the entire field taking to the track at 10:30 a.m., and running until 12 p.m. The Champ Cars again return to the track at 2 p.m. for one more hour to close today's CART on-track activities. Of course, today's schedule is at the mercy of the aforementioned weather conditions. Saturday's schedule has the drivers out again at 8 a.m. for a one-hour session, followed by two-hour Champ Car qualifying session taking the Green Flag at 10:45 a.m. Sunday's traditional 30-minute morning warm-up session takes to the track at 8:15 a.m., followed by the start of The Marlboro 500 at 11:30 a.m. (All times are local.) On hand for your media needs from Championship Auto Racing Teams this weekend are Ron Richards, Vice President of Corporate Communications; Mike Zizzo, Vice President of Competition Public Relations and Marketing; Steve Shunck, Director of Broadcast Public Relations; Merrill Cain, Manager of Broadcast Public Relations; T.E. McHale, Senior Manager of Public Relations; Nate Siebens, New Media Public Relations Manager; and Mark Tate, Pit Note Specialist. Feel free to seek out any of these individuals with any questions that you may have concerning this weekend's Marlboro 500 Presented by Toyota!

At 9 a.m., the rains that have plagued the area all night are subsiding and there are actually blue skies beginning to show behind Mt. Baldy, the cloud-shrouded mountain that looms behind the backstretch to the west. The CART jet driers are out on the track, making good success in getting the familiar light gray color to the asphalt. But the CART on-track schedule will definitely be seriously impacted today.

At 11 a.m., CART Race Control releases a revised-schedule for today's CART on-track activities is released showing a 90-minute CART practice session scheduled to take to the track at 1:30 p.m. with the Craftsman Pit Crew Competition Finals putting on their season-finale at 4:30 p.m., lasting 30 minutes.

The track is now completely dry and with the cool temperatures and light breeze from the south, the speed conditions are ideal. MARK BLUNDELL was the fastest of combined times from Friday's 1999 session with a speed of 235.292 mph (31.044 seconds), followed by MAX PAPIS (234.747 mph; 31.116 seconds) and #4X MONTOYA (233.539 mph; 31.277 seconds).

GREEN FLAG waves at 1:30 p.m. to start the first practice session of the weekend. Firestone engineers report a track temperature of 96 degrees F. and an ambient temperature of 76 degrees F. at the start of the session. A full sunshine has covered the now-dry track but clouds are again building to the southwest.

BLACK FLAG is shown at 1:35 p.m. to #7 PAPIS for a Pit road speed violation. PAPIS subsequently pits the car to comply with the Black Flag drive-thru penalty.

BLACK FLAG is shown at 1:36 p.m. to #32 CARPENTIER for a Pit Road speed violation. CARPENTIER subsequently pits the car to comply with the Black Flag drive-thru penalty.

At 1:40 p.m., ten minutes into the session, the fastest driver is #3 CASTRONEVES with a speed of 236.067 mph (30.942 seconds) on his fifth lap, followed by #12X VASSER (234.710 mph; 31.121; seventh lap) and #26X TRACY (233.524 mph; 31.279 seconds; ninth lap). This is already faster than the best Friday lap from last year by BLUNDELL.

BLACK FLAG is again shown at 1:40 p.m. to #7 PAPIS for another Pit Road speed violation. And again, PAPIS pits the car to comply with the Black Flag drive-thru penalty.

BLACK FLAG is shown at 1:45 p.m. to #19 BARRON for a Pit Road speed violation. BARRON subsequently pits the car to comply with the Black Flag drive-thru penalty.

At 1:50 p.m., 20 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is #2 de FERRAN with a lap of 238.675 mph (30.604 seconds) on his 13th lap, followed by #3 CASTRONEVES (238.107 mph; 30.677 seconds; 13th lap) and #12X VASSER (234.710 mph; 31.121 seconds; seventh lap).

BLACK FLAG is shown at 1:59 p.m. to #40 FERNANDEZ for a Pit road speed violation incurred at Pit In at 1:58 p.m.. FERNANDEZ subsequently pits the car to comply with the Black Flag drive thru penalty.

BLACK FLAG is shown at 2 p.m. to #3 CASTRONEVES for a Pit Road speed violation incurred at Pit In. CASTRONEVES subsequently pits the car to comply with the Black Flag drive-thru penalty.

At 2 p.m., 30 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is still #2 de FERRAN with his earlier lap of 238.675 mph (30.604 mph) on his 13th lap, followed by #3 CASTRONEVES (238.107 mph; 30.677 seconds; 13th lap) and #6 ANDRETTI (236.718 mph; 30.857 seconds; seventh lap).

BLACK FLAG is shown at 2:01 p.m. to #7 PAPIS for a Pit Road speed violation. PAPIS subsequently pits his car to comply with the Black Flag drive thru penalty.

BLACK FLAG is shown at 2:09 p.m. to #40 FERANDNEZ for a Pit Road speed violation. FERNANDEZ subsequently pits his car to comply with the Black Flag drive thru penalty.

At 2:10 p.m., 40 minutes into the session, the fastest drivers are still #2 de FERRAN and #3 CASTRONEVES with their earlier laps, now followed by #1 MONTOYA (237.526 mph; 30.752 seconds; 12th lap.)

BLACK FLAG is shown at 2:12 p.m. to #3 CASTRONEVES for a Pit Road speed violation. CASTRONEVES subsequently pits his car to comply with the Black Flag drive-thru penalty.

BLACK FLAG is shown at 2:15 p.m. to #97 da MATTA for a Pit Road speed violation. Da MATTA subsequently pits his car to comply with the Black Flag drive-thru penalty.

At 2:20 p.m., 50 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is now #11 FITTIPALDI with a lap of 238.909 mph (30.574 seconds) on his 25th lap, followed by #2 de FERRAN with his earlier lap (238.675 mph; 30.604 seconds; 13th lap), now followed by #1 MONTOYA (238.379 mph; 30.642 seconds; 18th lap.)

YELLOW FLAG waves at 2:21 p.m. for a track inspection after several of the crews report cut tires on their machines under examination on Pit Road. Several loose screws are found by CART safety teams after a full-track inspection.

At 2:30 p.m., one hour into the session and under the Yellow Flag, the fastest drivers and speeds are unchanged from the 2:20 p.m. report.

GREEN FLAG waves at 2:31 p.m. to resume the session.

At 2:33 p.m., #1 MONTOYA logs the first 240 mph-plus lap of the weekend with a speed of 240.934 mph (30.317 seconds) on his 24th lap and second out lap after the last Yellow Flag.

YELLOW FLAG waves at 2:34 p.m. after #3 CASTRONEVES pits with a fire showing at the right side of the car, smoking down the Pit Lane. CASTRONEVES pulls into his pit and the crew quickly extinguishes the fire and readies the secondary car for use ion the remainder of the session.

GREEN FLAG waves at 2:39 p.m. to resume the session.

BLACK FLAG is shown at 2:41 p.m. to #26 TRACY for a Pit Road speed violation incurred at Pit In at 2:35 p.m., just after the Yellow Flag was shown. TRACY subsequently pits the car to comply with the Black Flag drive-thru penalty.

At 2:40 p.m., 70 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is still #1 MONTOYA with his earlier lap of 240.934 mph (30.317 seconds) on his 24th lap, followed by #3 CASTRONEVES (238.971 mph; 30.566 seconds; 23rd lap) and #11 FITTIPALDI (238.909 mph; 30.574 seconds; 25th lap).

BLACK FLAG is also shown at 2:41 p.m. to teammate #27 FRANCHITTI for a Pit Road speed violation incurred at Pit In at 2:35 p.m., just after the Yellow Flag was shown. FRANCHITTI subsequently pits the car to comply with the Black Flag drive-thru penalty.

YELLOW FLAG waves at 2:21 p.m. for a track inspection after several of the crews report cut tires on their machines under examination on Pit Road. Several loose screws are found by CART safety teams after a full-track inspection.

At 2:30 p.m., one hour into the session and under the Yellow Flag, the fastest drivers and speeds are unchanged from the 2:20 p.m. report.

GREEN FLAG waves at 2:31 p.m. to resume the session.

At 2:33 p.m., #1 MONTOYA logs the first 240 mph-plus lap of the weekend with a speed of 240.934 mph (30.317 seconds) on his 24th lap and second out lap after the last Yellow Flag.

YELLOW FLAG waves at 2:34 p.m. after #3 CASTRONEVES pits with a fire showing at the right side of the car, smoking down the Pit Lane. CASTRONEVES pulls into his pit and the crew quickly extinguishes the fire and readies the secondary car for use ion the remainder of the session.

GREEN FLAG waves at 2:39 p.m. to resume the session.

BLACK FLAG is shown at 2:41 p.m. to #26 TRACY for a Pit Road speed violation incurred at Pit In at 2:35 p.m., just after the Yellow Flag was shown. TRACY subsequently pits the car to comply with the Black Flag drive-thru penalty.

At 2:40 p.m., 70 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is still #1 MONTOYA with his earlier lap of 240.934 mph (30.317 seconds) on his 24th lap, followed by #3 CASTRONEVES (238.971 mph; 30.566 seconds; 23rd lap) and #11 FITTIPALDI (238.909 mph; 30.574 seconds; 25th lap).

BLACK FLAG is also shown at 2:41 p.m. to teammate #27 FRANCHITTI for a Pit Road speed violation incurred at Pit In at 2:35 p.m., just after the Yellow Flag was shown. FRANCHITTI subsequently pits the car to comply with the Black Flag drive-thru penalty.

BLACK FLAG is shown at 2:47 p.m. to #40 FERNANDEZ for a Pit Road speed violation. FERNANDEZ subsequently pits his car to comply with the Black Flag drive-thru penalty.

At 2:50 p.m., 80 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is still #1 MONTOYA with a faster lap of 242.253 mph (30.152 seconds) on his 30th lap, followed by #3 CASTRONEVES (238.971 mph; 30.566 seconds; 23rd lap) and #11 FITTIPALDI (238.909 mph; 30.574 seconds; 25th lap).

BLACK FLAG is shown at 2:51 p.m. to #10 GIDLEY for a Pit road speed violation. GIDLEY subsequently pits the car to comply with the Black Flag drive thru penalty.

At 2:54 p.m., #3 CASTRONEVES pits with a possible mechanical problem and smoke reported on the right side by CART course observers. The crew inspects the car and rolls it back to the garage, through for the session.

BLACK FLAG is shown at 2:57 p.m. to #5 NAKANO for a Pit Road speed violation. NAKANO subsequently pits his car to comply with the Black Flag drive-thru penalty.

CHECKERED FLAG waves at 3 p.m. to end the session with the fastest driver remaining #1 MONTOYA with his earlier lap of 242.253 mph (30.152 seconds) on his 30th lap, followed by #2 de FERRAN (239.198 mph; 30.537 seconds); and #3 CASTRONEVES (238.971 mph; 30.566 seconds; 23rd-lap). At the end of the session, the fastest 19 cars are within one second in lap times. The top 16 cars bettered the best Friday time from last year by MARK BLUNDELL. FedEx Championship series drivers introduced 40 cars to the track with secondary cars were utilized by #1X MONTOYA, #2X de FERRAN, #3X CASTRONEVES, #5X NAKANO, #6X ANDRETTI, #12X VASSER, #18X BLUNDELL, #20X MORENO, #26X TRACY, #32X CARPENTIER, #33X TAGLIANI, #34X MARQUES, #40X FERNANDEZ, and #55X KANAAN. The drivers turned 1550 incident-free laps during the session.

JUAN MONTOYA is the fastest driver in his Target/Chip Ganassi Toyota Lola after the Friday session ends with his speed of 242.253 mph (30.152 seconds), unofficially topping the track qualifying record of 240.942 mph, set by MAURICIO GUGELMIN in 1997 and just shy of the fastest but unofficial closed-course speed record, also set in 1997 by GUGELMIN (242.333 mph).

GIL de FERRAN is the second-fastest today with his lap of 239.198 mph (30.537 seconds) and is after his 10th front row start of the season in his Marlboro Team Penske Honda Reynard.

HELIO CASTRONEVES is the third-fastest in his Marlboro Team Penske Honda Reynard with his lap 238.971 mph (30.566 seconds). CASTRONEVES is chasing his eighth top-three start of the season.

PPI Motorsports rookie Oriol Servia was fined $20,000 and will forfeit the championship points earned for his ninth-place finish in the Honda Indy 300 for on-track infractions stemming from separate incidents during the Oct. 15 event in Surfers Paradise, Australia, CART Chief Steward Kirk Russell announced Friday. Russell cited Servia for unjustifiable risk (CART Rule 8.13), unsportsmanlike conduct (CART Rule 1.77), violation of the yellow-flag rule (CART Rule 6.10.4C) and short-cutting the course (6.13.2), all of which came in two separate incidents on Lap 48 of 59. The violation of the yellow-flag rule and short-cutting the course occurred first, when Servia did not heed a local caution flag that was displayed for an incident between Max Papis and Paul Tracy in Turn 1. In the process, Servia passed three cars before stewards eventually moved him back to his proper position in the running order, prior to the violation. The unjustifiable risk and unsportsmanlike conduct infractions occurred when Servia made contact with Tracy in Turn 7 and the damage forced his competitor to retire from the race. Servia received the fine and the loss of four points for the ninth-place finish as a result. Servia will be credited with the finishing position, but will not earn the points for the position. Drivers who finished 10th through 13th will not move up in finishing positions and not earn any additional points. The ruling came after extensive review of the incident on tape, as well as interviews Friday morning with Servia and Tracy.

JUAN MONTOYA: "I was doing a qualifying simulation. I got Helio going down the back staight and I got a little bit of a tow, but I've gotten some bigger tows before. On the ovals, we've been able to get the setup right, and Toyota has been giving us good engines. You don't feel faster when you're driving between 238 or 239 and 242. This track is pretty wild to be honest. You don't get closer racing anywhere. I've had a lot of fun. I think I learned a lot here. When I came in, I didn't know what to expect. I had a great team and a great car."

GIL de FERRAN: "I had a good far so far thanks to work we did here at the test. It was difficult to get a clear lap at the end. I would have like to get the car a little bit more comfortable, but it rained and it was the same for everybody. To be honest, I'm a little more relaxed than I was at Houston and Australia. I'm not going to race any different than I would approach any 500-mile race. So many things can happen. If I'm last and Fernandez is leading after the first lap, there's still 500 miles to go, so anything can happen. I just need to get the car to the end of the race, and that's the way I'm going to approach it."

HELIO CASTRONEVES: "Right off the bat, the car was feeling very comfortable. The speed was amazing compared to when we tested here. At the test, we were doing 235, and now we're doing 238-239. It was going pretty good, and then had some mechanical problem on the back straight. For me, it was easy to learn respect for the ovals. I hit the wall very hard. It took a little while, and it was good that last year I developed the Lola chassis. I got to learn a lot of things and get experience."

-CART-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Max Papis , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Rick Mears , Chip Ganassi
Teams Team Penske