CHAMPCAR/CART: Fontana Mercedes-Benz Friday Practice Report

FedEx Championship Series Report Race: Marlboro 500, California Speedway, Fontana, Calif. Date/Session: Friday, Oct. 29, 1999 Practice Blundell, Mercedes Lead the Way at Marlboro 500 Practice PacWest Motorola Mercedes...

FedEx Championship Series Report

Race:   Marlboro 500, California Speedway, Fontana, Calif.       
Date/Session:   Friday, Oct. 29, 1999   Practice

Blundell, Mercedes Lead the Way at Marlboro 500 Practice

PacWest Motorola Mercedes driver Mark Blundell topped the time sheets at today's practice for Sunday's Marlboro 500, the final and title-deciding round of the CART FedEx Championship Series. PPG driver's championship contenders Juan Montoya and Dario Franchitti were third- and 11th-quickest, respectively. Windy conditions in the afternoon session slowed times, and some drivers elected not to run.

Blundell, who won this race in 1997, lapped the 2.029-mile speedway oval in 31.044 seconds (235.292 mph), while his teammate, Mauricio Gugelmin was 10th quickest with a lap of 31.361 seconds (232.913 mph). Gugelmin holds the world record for the fastest recorded lap, which he set here in 1997 with a speed of 240.942 mph.

Patrick Carpentier piloted his Player's/Forsythe Mercedes entry around the circuit in 31.482 seconds (232.018 mph) for 14th place. The Marlboro Team Penske Mercedes duo of Alex Barron and Al Unser Jr. did not turn a wheel in the afternoon session due to the windy conditions. Their morning lap times were quick enough to put Barron in 15th place (31.553 seconds/231.496 mph), with Unser Jr. just ticks behind in 16th (31.593 seconds/231.203 mph).

Player's/Forsythe driver Greg Moore turned in a quick lap of 31.664 seconds (230.685 mph), while Helio Castro-Neves lapped the circuit in 31.704 seconds (230.394 mph) in his Hogan Racing Mercedes.

Final qualifying begins Saturday at 10:30 a.m. PT, while the green flag for the Marlboro 500 waves Sunday at 12:00 p.m. PT (live, ESPN).

Mercedes Quotes

Mark Blundell, No. 18, PacWest Motorola Mercedes/Firestone (First/ 31.044 seconds) "Overall it was a very pleasing day. Everything went well, and the car was pretty quick right off the truck. In the afternoon, we had to deal with some strong winds. We just scrubbed all our tires and didn't hang it out with the wind, there was no point.

"The car has a good balance. If we can be in the top eight after qualifying, we'll be looking good. We'll be able to work with the car over 500 miles and see what happens. We obviously know our way around this place, since we won here in 1997."

Mauricio Gugelmin, No. 17, PacWest Hollywood Mercedes/Firestone (10th/ 31.361 seconds) "This afternoon we ran on full tanks to see how the car would handle in these windy conditions. There was a big difference in the balance of the car between one end of the track and the other, because the wind was blowing right across the circuit. We worked on reading ride heights for these conditions, since most likely it will be the same for the race."

Patrick Carpentier, No. 33, Player's/Forsythe Mercedes/Firestone (14th/ 31.482 seconds) "The wind was very bad in the afternoon, especially in Turn 2, but we were very happy with the car in the morning session * it was very stable. The car is very different with a wind package, so we will decide just before the race how to set it up."

Greg Moore, No. 99, Player's/Forsythe Mercedes/Firestone (19th/ 31.664 seconds) "It's definitely a weird feeling knowing this is my last race with this team. They are like a family to me, so I would like to reward them with a good performance, but I will have to try to race like this is just another race. If I push too hard, there is a bigger chance to make a mistake."

Helio Castro-Neves, No. 9, Hogan Racing Mercedes/Firestone (22nd/31.704 seconds) "The wind was strong, so basically we just used the time to scrub tires. We were very consistent which is important in a 500-mile race. We tested here earlier and focused on having a good car for the race and I think we have that "The draft was difficult. At one point, you are 50 yards behind the car in front of you, then all of a sudden, you feel like you have to brake or hit them."

Practice, Marlboro 500 California Speedway, Fontana, Calif. Oct. 29, 1999

Pos.    Driver                  Engine          Time    Speed   
1       Mark Blundell           Mercedes-Benz   31.044  235.292 
2       Max Papis               Ford            31.116  234.747 
3       Juan Montoya            Honda           31.277  233.539 
4       Jimmy Vasser            Honda           31.308  233.308 
5       Christian Fittipaldi    Ford            31.313  233.271 
6       Michael Andretti        Ford            31.316  233.248 
7       Cristiano de Matta      Toyota          31.324  233.189 
8       Scott Pruett            Toyota          31.334  233.114 
9       Paul Tracy              Honda           31.343  233.047 
10      Mauricio Gugelmin       Mercedes-Benz   31.361  232.913 
14      Patrick Carpentier      Mercedes-Benz   31.482  232.018 
15      Alex Barron             Mercedes-Benz   31.553  231.496 
16      Al Unser Jr.            Mercedes-Benz   31.593  231.203 
19      Greg Moore              Mercedes-Benz   31.664  230.685 
22      Helio Castro-Neves      Mercedes-Benz   31.704  230.394 

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Al Unser Jr. , Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Max Papis , Patrick Carpentier , Christian Fittipaldi , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Mauricio Gugelmin , Scott Pruett , Mark Blundell , Alex Barron , Greg Moore