CHAMPCAR/CART: Fontana Mercedes Qualifying Report

Race: Marlboro 500, California Speedway, Fontana, Calif. Date/Session: Oct. 31, 1998 Qualifying PacWest Pair Cruising in California Mercedes-Benz Powers Three of Top 10 Mauricio Gugelmin and Mark Blundell demonstrated their affinity for...

Race: Marlboro 500, California Speedway, Fontana, Calif. Date/Session: Oct. 31, 1998 Qualifying

PacWest Pair Cruising in California Mercedes-Benz Powers Three of Top 10

Mauricio Gugelmin and Mark Blundell demonstrated their affinity for the two-mile California Speedway last year with a world record pole position and a 500-mile race win. Not surprisingly, the PacWest Racing teammates led the Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Team again this year during qualifying for tomorrow's Marlboro 500.

Gugelmin will start his Hollywood Reynard/Mercedes-Benz sixth, having turned a quick lap of 31.429 seconds (232.410 mph), just 0.18 seconds off the pace set by this year's pole winner Scott Pruett.

Average lap speeds during qualifying were significantly lower than those set during practice earlier in the day because drivers were running one at a time without the all-important aerodynamic benefit of the draft.

Blundell earned the seventh starting position thanks to a lap of 31.441 seconds (232.321 mph) in his Motorola Reynard/Mercedes-Benz. The pair were joined in the top 10 by Player's/Forsythe Racing's Greg Moore, who will start ninth.

Marlboro Team Penske's Al Unser Jr. qualified 13th and will share the seventh row of the starting grid with fellow Mercedes runner Patrick Carpentier. Team Alumax's Helio Castro-Neves will start his final race as a CART rookie 16th.

Andre Ribeiro will start the second Marlboro Penske/Mercedes 19th, and Hogan Racing rookie JJ Lehto qualified 20th.

Tomorrow's 250-lap, 500-mile race will start at 12:30 p.m. local time and will be televised live on ESPN.

Mercedes Quotes

Mauricio Gugelmin, No. 17 Hollywood Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone: Sixth - 31.429 sec.

"I'm not disappointed because I have a great race car. The balance is very good. I perhaps could have found another mile-per-hour. We could have run less downforce. It was an easy, flat two laps, and that was it. The car feels good here. It's a long race. This place kind of owes me one."

Mark Blundell, No. 18 Motorola Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone: Seventh - 31.441 sec.

"I'm reasonably happy. We're not far away. This is a good result, and we needed it. There's a little tighter groove here than Michigan. If you get your car to work well up high, then you might have something."

Greg Moore, No. 99, Player's/Indeck Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone: Ninth - 31.523 sec.

"The biggest thing here is the draft. The reason we ran 240 mph in practice is I got a better draft. We're great for the race. I was hoping for a top-15 qualifying run. We said a top-10 would be a good job. We've got it for the race. The race is 500 miles. We want to stay out of trouble all day, run towards the front all day and give ourselves a shot at the end."

Al Unser Jr., No. 2, Marlboro Penske/Mercedes/Goodyear: 13th - 31.650 sec.

"This was a little less than what we were hoping for, but a little more than we expected. Goodyear gave us a great tire here. We're pretty happy. This will be a fan's race, just like Michigan. You want to be near the front, away from traffic. You don't want to get caught up in a mishap back in the pack. I feel confident our car will perform very well."

Patrick Carpentier, No. 33, Player's/Indeck Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone: 14th - 31.688 sec.

"I was pretty much flat out, and there was nothing left. That's all it had. I tried to get as close to the wall as I could to let the speed come back up. The car just wouldn't accelerate against the wind. The car is much better with the aerodynamics setup for traffic, so that will help for the race."

Helio Castro-Neves, No. 16 Alumax Reynard/Mercedes/Goodyear: 16th - 31.754 sec.

"We've been struggling a lot, and working a lot on the setup. I did it flat out all the way around. Today, we just tried to go fast by ourselves. Tomorrow we'll work hard. It's not as important where you start. We just have to be careful. Uncle Emerson (Fittipaldi) will be here tomorrow, and he can help."

Andre Ribeiro, No. 3, Marlboro Penske/Mercedes/Goodyear: 19th - 31.887 sec.

"Where you start in a 500-mile race is not as important as at other tracks because it is a long race and there will be plenty of room and time for passing. When I won the Marlboro 500 in 1996 at Michigan Speedway, I had gone to the back of the pack at the start and was still able to work my way through the field. Although we had hoped for a better starting position, we just have to concentrate on keeping up with the leaders tomorrow. We will work on improving the Marlboro Penske Mercedes throughout the first half of the race so that we can be there in the end. We've done well on these types of tracks before, so we're hoping for a good finish tomorrow."

JJ Lehto, No. 9 Hogan Racing Reynard/Mercedes/Firestone: 20th - 31.940 sec.

"It was disappointing today. The car is not going very strong on the straights. Aerodynamically we're just lost. The wind really makes the car slow down on the back straight."

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Al Unser Jr. , Patrick Carpentier , Mauricio Gugelmin , Scott Pruett , Mark Blundell , Andre Ribeiro , Greg Moore , JJ Lehto
Teams Team Penske