CHAMPCAR/CART: Houston GP Friday track notes

Good Morning from the sun-drenched streets of Houston for the opening day of practice and qualifying for Round 18 of the FedEx Championship Series, the Texaco/Havoline Grand Prix of Houston. Friday morning's weather has greeted the early ...

Good Morning from the sun-drenched streets of Houston for the opening day of practice and qualifying for Round 18 of the FedEx Championship Series, the Texaco/Havoline Grand Prix of Houston. Friday morning's weather has greeted the early arrivals to the 10-turn, 1.527-mile temporary street course with cool temperatures and blue skies. This summer's Texas heat wave is a dim memory for the locals as a large high-pressure over the Midwest has escorted in a cold front, leaving absolutely perfect weather forecasts for the entire race weekend. Temperatures are expected to peak in the low-eighties by the Green Flag for Friday's Provisional Qualifying sessions.

The CART on-track schedule features the weekend's first practice session taking the Green Flag at 10:30 a.m. This full-field session will last 90 minutes. At 2:30 p.m., the FedEx Championship Series teams will again take to the track for the split-group provisional qualifying session with the fastest drivers from the previous road course (Laguna Seca) comprising Group Two. The Champ Car drivers will be chasing the Houston track-qualifying record of 93.651 mph; (58.699 seconds) set by JUAN MONTOYA in 1999. Each split-session provisional qualifying Group will be on track for 30 minutes with a 15-minute break between the two groups' efforts. Saturday's schedule has the Champ Cars again on track for practice from 10 a.m. to 11:15 p.m. with the final round of CART qualifying scheduled from 1:45 p.m. to 3 p.m. This final qualifying session will again be in the split-group format with the fastest drivers from Friday's provisional qualifying comprising Group Two. Again, each group will be on track for 30 minutes with a 15-minute break between the two Groups. Sunday's schedule has the traditional 30-minute warm-up beginning at 11 a.m. followed by the Green Flag for the 100-lap, 152.7-mile Texaco/Havoline Grand Prix of Houston at 3 p.m. (All times are local.)

PAUL TRACY has a carryover penalty from the last road course event (Laguna Seca) for causing a delay in the Saturday practice session. TRACY will sit out the last eight minutes of Friday morning's session as a result.

GREEN FLAG waves at 10:30 a.m. to start the first practice session of the weekend. Firestone engineers report a track temperature of 85 degrees F. and an ambient temperature of 71 degrees F. at the start of the session.

At 10:40 a.m., 10 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is #97 DA MATTA with a lap of 85.233 mph (1:04.496), followed by #33X TAGLIANI (85.225 mph; 1:04.502) and #96 SERVIA (85.018 mph; 1:04.659).

At 10:45 a.m., #25 GARCIA JR. rolls into the run-off at Turn 1 and shuts off the engine. The driver radios his crew that he has a gearbox problem. The crew retrieves the car and brings it back into the paddock.

At 10:50 a.m., 20 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is now #11 FITTIPALDI with a lap of 88.852 mph (1:01.869), followed by #40X FERNANDEZ (88.422 mph; 1:02.170) and #6X ANDRETTI (87.867 mph; 1:02.563).

BLACK FLAG is shown at 10:54 a.m. to #11 FITTIPALDI for a Pit Road speed violation incurred at Pit In at 10:46 a.m. FITTIPALDI subsequently pits the car to comply with the Black Flag drive-thru penalty.

At 11 a.m., 30 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is still #11 FITTIPALDI with a faster lap of 90.004 mph (1:01.077), now followed by #1 MONTOYA (88.881 mph; 1:01.849) and #12 VASSER (88.587 mph; 1:02.054).

At 11:04 a.m., #55 KANAAN slides into the run-off at Turn 6 but continues on course without apparent damage to the car.

RED FLAG waves at 11:06 a.m. after #10 GIDLEY stalls on the short straight between Turns 6 and 7. CART safety crews quickly tend to the car and get it restarted. GIDLEY continues to his Pit Area without apparent damage to the car.

GREEN FLAG waves at 11:08 a.m. to resume the session.

At 11:10 a.m., 40 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is still #11 FITTIPALDI with his earlier lap of 90.004 mph (1:01.077), followed by #1 MONTOYA (89.640 mph; 1:01.325) and #6 ANDRETTI (88.738 mph; 1:01.949).

At 11:11 a.m., #96 SERVIA brushes the wall at Turn 1, and slowly circles the track to his Pit. The car may have sustained some damage to the right side suspension.

At 11:12 a.m., #33 TAGLIANI slides into the run-off at Turn 5 but continues on course without apparent damage to the car.

At 11:14 a.m., #7 PAPIS rolls into the run-off at Turn 5 and stalls the car. The Local Yellow Flag is displayed while CART safety workers work to get the car restarted. After several minutes, the car starts and PAPIS continues on course to his Pit Box while radioing his crew that he is having a problem with the clutch.

At 11:20 a.m., 40 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is still #11 FITTIPALDI with his earlier lap of 90.004 mph (1:01.077), followed by #1 MONTOYA (89.640 mph; 1:01.325) and #6 ANDRETTI with a faster lap of 89.281 mph (1:01.572).

At 11:25 a.m., #26 TRACY slides into the run-off at Turn 5 and stalls the car. CART safety workers get the car restarted and TRACY continues on course without apparent damage to the car.

RED FLAG waves at 11:25 a.m. after #16 JOURDAIN JR. spins between Turns 8 and 9. CART safety workers get the car restarted and JOURDAIN JR. continues on course to his Pit Area without apparent damage to the car.

GREEN FLAG waves at 11:27 a.m. to resume the session.

At 11:29 a.m., #55 KANAAN slides into the run-off at Turn 5 but continues on course without apparent damage to the car.

At 11:30 a.m., one hour into the session, the fastest driver is now #12 VASSER with a lap of 90.251 mph (1:00.910), followed by #11 FITTIPALDI (90.004 mph; 1:01.077) and #1 MONTOYA (89.640 mph; 1:01.325).

At 11:33 a.m., #3 CASTRONEVES spins into the run-off at Turn 4 but continues on course without apparent damage to the car.

At 11:34 a.m., #32 CARPENTIER slides into the run-off at Turn 5 but continues on course without apparent damage to the car.

At 11:36 a.m., #10 GIDLEY rolls into the run-off at Turn 3 and stalls the car. CART safety workers get the car refired and GIDLEY continues on course without apparent damage to the car.

At 11:40 a.m., 70 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is now #33 TAGLIANI with a lap of 90.580 mph (1:00.689), followed by #12 VASSER (90.251 mph; 1:00.910) and #11 FITTIPALDI (90.004 mph; 1:01.077).

At 11:46 a.m., #12 VASSER loses control at Turn 9 and strikes the tire barrier with the rear of the car. VASSER regains control and continues to his Pit Box without the rear wing end plate. The car sustains light damage to the rear wing.

At 11:48 a.m., #26 TRACY and #33 TAGLIANI both slide into the run-off at Turn 5 in separate incidents. TRACY keeps his engine running and continues on course without apparent damage. TAGLIANI stalls his car and CART safety workers get the car restarted. TAGLIANI continues to his Pit Area without apparent damage to his car.

At 11:50 a.m., 80 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is still #33 TAGLIANI with his earlier lap of 90.580 mph (1:00.689), followed by #12 VASSER (90.251 mph; 1:00.910) and #8 BRACK (90.028 mph; 1:01.061).

At 11:51 a.m., #97 DA MATTA slides into the run-off at Turn 4 but continues on course to his Pit Box.

At 11:52 a.m., #3 CASTRONEVES brushes the wall at Turn 4 but continues on course without apparent damage to the car.

RED FLAG waves at 11:55 a.m. after #19 BARRON breaks traction at Turn 9 and slides backward into the tire barrier, making light contact with the rear wing. The driver is uninjured in the incident, but the car sustains minor damage to the rear wing. CART safety workers quickly hook the car up and tow it back to Pit Road. BARRON will receive the standard eight-minute penalty for delaying the practice session in the last 10 minutes. As a result, BARRON will have to sit out the last eight minutes of the Saturday morning session.

GREEN FLAG waves at 11:58 a.m. to resume the session.

At 11:59 a.m., #1 MONTOYA slides into the run-off at Turn 5 and stalls his car. CART safety workers pull the car to safety to await the end of the session.

CHECKERED FLAG waves at 12 p.m. to end the session with #33 TAGLIANI still the fastest with his earlier lap of 90.580 mph (1:00.689), followed by #12 VASSER (90.251 mph; 1:00.910) and #32X CARPENTIER (90.149 mph; 1:00.979). The top 12 cars are separated by less than one second in lap times with the top 24 cars separated by less than two seconds. Last year's race winner PAUL TRACY winds up 10th (89.471 mph; 1:01.441) and the 1998 winner, teammate DARIO FRANCHITTI, is sixth (89.875 mph; 1:01.165). Last year's points champion JUAN MONTOYA is eighth with a lap of 89.640 mph (1:01.325). FedEx Championship Series drivers introduced 37 different cars to the track in Friday morning's session with secondary cars utilized by #32X CARPENTIER, #3X CASTRONEVES, #2X DE FERRAN, #40X FERNANDEZ, #6X ANDRETTI, #20X MORENO, #10X GIDLEY, #33X TAGLIANI, #25X GARCIA JR., #7X PAPIS, #12X VASSER and #1X MONTOYA. Both VASSER and MONTOYA ran their secondary cars for the first lap of the session and then parked them. CART drivers logged 864 laps in Friday morning's session.

The familiar blue and white No. 7 Miller Lite Champ Car that gave Bobby Rahal his "Last Ride" in 1998, sat on the Provisional Pole here at Houston in 1998, and took MAX PAPIS to his first CART victory last March in Miami, has a new look this weekend in the Texaco/Havoline Grand Prix of Houston. The new paint scheme is designed to present the latest Miller Lite theme, featuring white paint on the cockpit and engine cowling and blue paint on the car's sidepods and rear wing. The new paint integrates the Miller Lite "3-D" logo into the design displayed on the side and nose portions of the car. Team Rahal is competing with the new paint scheme for the final three races (Houston, Australia, and California) of the 2000 season in preparation for the 2001 Miller Lite promotional campaign that will include a television commercial with PAPIS. Try not to skin it up Max!

#32 CARPENTIER will serve the standard eight-minute delay-of-qualifying penalty in the last eight minutes of today's Provisional round of qualifying. Also serving eight-minute delay-of-qualifying penalties are #8 BRACK and #12 VASSER. All of the penalties were assessed from the Saturday afternoon final round of qualifying at Laguna Seca.

GREEN FLAG waves at 2:30 p.m. to start the Group One qualifying session. Firestone engineers report a track temperature of 100 degrees F. and an ambient temperature of 82 degrees F. at the start of the session.

At 2:35 p.m., #32 CARPENTIER slides into the run-off at Turn 5 but continues on course without apparent damage to the car.

RED FLAG waves at 2:36 p.m. after #33 TAGLIANI spins at Turn 2 and comes to rest in the middle of the track. The driver keeps the engine running and continues on course without apparent damage to the car. TAGLIANI will serve the standard eight-minute penalty at the drop of the Green Flag for delaying the qualifying session.

GREEN FLAG waves at 2:38 p.m. to resume the Group One session.

At 2:40 p.m., ten minutes into the Group One session, the fastest driver is #7 PAPIS with a lap of 88.017 mph (1:02.456), followed by #33 TAGLIANI (87.841 mph; 1:02.581) and #5 NAKANO (87.801 mph; 1:02.610).

At 2:44 p.m., #18 BLUNDELL slides into the run-off at Turn 7 but continues on course without apparent damage to the car.

RED FLAG waves at 2:45 p.m. after #7 PAPIS spins at Turn 9, making light contact with the nose of the car against the tire barrier. PAPIS stalls in the middle of the track. CART safety workers get the car refired and PAPIS continues to his pit with minor front wing damage. PAPIS will receive the standard eight-minute penalty at the drop of the Green Flag for delaying the qualifying session.

GREEN FLAG waves at 2:48 p.m. to resume the Group One session.

At 2:49 p.m., the penalty assessed to #33 TAGLIANI expires and TAGLIANI returns to the Group one qualifying session.

At 2:50 p.m., 20 minutes into the Group One qualifying session, the fastest driver is now #5 NAKANO with a lap of 91.188 mph (1:00.284), followed by #7 PAPIS (90.626 mph; 1:00.658) and #34 MARQUES (90.336 mph; 1:00.853).

At 2:52 p.m., the carryover penalty from Laguna Seca for #32 CARPENTIER is assessed and the driver pulls into Pit Road, done for the session.

BLACK FLAG is shown at 2:55 p.m. to #34 MARQUES for a Pit Road speed violation incurred at Pit In at 2:43 p.m. MARQUES subsequently pits the car for the Black Flag drive-thru penalty.

At 2:56 p.m., the penalty assessed to #7 PAPIS expires and the driver returns to the Group One qualifying session.

At 2:57 p.m., #40X FERNANDEZ slides into the run-off at Turn 5 and stalls the car. CART safety workers pull the car to safety to await the end of the session.

At 2:58 p.m., #34 MARQUES slides into the run-off at Turn 5 and parks the car, apparently out of fuel.

CHECKERED FLAG waves at 3 p.m. to end the Group One session with #5 NAKANO still the fastest with his earlier lap of 91.188 mph (1:00.284), now followed by #33 TAGLIANI (91.003 mph; 1:00.407) and #20 MORENO (90.938 mph; 1:00.450). NAKANO posted a speed 2.975 mph better than his morning practice speed.

GREEN FLAG waves at 3:15 p.m. to start the Group Two session.

At 3:18 p.m., #17 GUGELMIN pits after his fist qualifying lap with a possible electrical problem.

At 3:20 p.m., #1 MONTOYA brushes the wall at Turn 1 but continues on course without apparent damage to the car.

At 3:22 p.m., #1 MONTOYA again brushes the wall, this time at Turn 4, and again, continues on course without apparent damage to the car.

Also at 3:22 p.m., #3 CASTRONEVES logs the fastest lap of the weekend with a speed of 92.093 mph (59.692 seconds) and takes over the Provisional Pole from #5 NAKANO.

At 3:24 p.m., #12 VASSER slides into the run-off at Turn 5 and stalls the car. CART safety workers get the car restarted and VASSER returns to the session.

At 3:25 p.m., 10 minutes into the session, the fastest Group Two driver is now #27 FRANCHITTI with a lap of 92.493 mph (59.434 seconds; first-overall ), followed by #11 FITTIPALDI (92.182 mph; 59.634 seconds) and #3 CASTRONEVES (92.138 mph; 59.663 seconds).

RED FLAG waves at 3:27 p.m. after #26 TRACY slides into the run-off at Turn 1 and stalls the car. CART safety workers get the car restarted and TRACY continues on course.

GREEN FLAG waves at 3:29 p.m. to resume the Group Two session.

At 3:31 p.m., #3 CASTRONEVES slides into the run-off at Turn 1 but continues on course without apparent damage to the car.

At 3:35 p.m., 20 minutes into the Group Two session, the fastest driver is still #27 FRANCHITTI with his earlier lap of 92.493 mph (59.434 seconds), now followed by #12 VASSER (92.187 mph; 59.631 seconds) and #11 FITTIPALDI (91.182 mph; 59.634 seconds).

RED FLAG waves at 3:35 p.m. after #3 CASTRONEVES has a mechanical problem at speed on the backstraight, causing the engine cover and related pieces to break loose from the top of the car, littering the track with debris. CASTRONEVES is assessed the eight-minute delay-of-session penalty and as there is not enough time to serve the full eight minutes in this session, CASTRONEVES will be assessed a carryover penalty of eight minutes in tomorrow's final round of qualifying. CART safety workers quickly clean the track.

GREEN FLAG waves at 3:40 p.m. to resume the session.

Also at 3:40 p.m., the PacWest Racing Group announces that the team will enter the primary car, #17 for driver GUGELMIN, in place of the #17X that originally started the session but encountered mechanical problems. Therefore, according to CART qualifying rules, the times earned by #17X will be forfeited.

At 3:41 p.m., the delay penalty assessed to #26 TRACY expires and the driver returns to the Group Two session.

At 3:43 p.m., #26 TRACY slides into the run-off at Turn 3 and stalls the car.

RED and CHECKERED FLAGS wave at 3:44 p.m. after #27 FRANCHITTI slides nose-first into the tire barrier at Turn 9 and stalls the car. At the same time, #11 FITTIPALDI also slides into the tire barrier at Turn 5 and also stalls the car. Both drivers are assessed the eight-minute delay-of-session carryover penalty to be served in the last eight minutes of tomorrow's final round of qualifying.

#27 FRANCHITTI is the fastest of the group and the day with a lap of 92.493 mph (59.434 seconds), followed by #12 VASSER (92.187 mph; 59.631 seconds) and #11 FITTIPALDI (92.182 mph; 59.634 seconds). The top 12 cars are separated by less than one second in lap times with the top 20 cars separated by less than two seconds. FedEx Championship Series drivers introduced 25 cars to the track in this afternoon's session with secondary cars utilized by #40X FERNANDEZ and #17X GUGELMIN. The drivers turned 348 laps in the two group-sessions.

DARIO FRANCHITTI sits on the Provisional Pole in his Team KOOL Green Honda Reynard by virtue of his 92.493 mph (59.434 second)-lap. FRANCHITTI is chasing his third Pole of the year and the 11th of his career. FRANCHITTI also won the Pole at Road America and Vancouver. FRANCHITTI is also attempting to log his sixth consecutive top-four start.

JIMMY VASSER is second on the Provisional Grid in his Target/Chip Ganassi Racing Toyota Lola with his lap of 92.187 mph (59.631)-second lap. VASSER is looking to equal or surpass his season-best start. His current best start is second at Long Beach and St. Louis.

CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI is third-fastest in his Texaco/Havoline Ford Lola with his lap of 92.182 mph (59.634 second)-lap. FITTIPALDI is after his season-best start on a road/street course as the driver scored a fifth-place start at Mid-Ohio in August. FITTIPALDI's overall best start this season is a second place at Nazareth.

DARIO FRANCHITTI: "Things weren't going very well this morning. We spent most of the morning in pit lane, but we pretty much knew what the car was going to do, it was going to have a little bit of understeer like everybody else. This afternoon, we went out and did a 59.4 (second lap) pretty much right off. On the second set of tires, the car was a little bit better, but I went off and, lo and behold, there was a tire barrier there. (On Team KOOL Green's success at Houston) I don't think it's luck. I think the team has hit on a good setup for this place. My driving style and (teammate) Paul (Tracy)'s driving style are quite a bit different, but we're both still able to go pretty quick here. But we need to push because everybody's getting quicker and closer. It's an ongoing process."

JIMMY VASSER: "The farther up you qualify, the better it's going to be, but it's not impossible to come from the back on street courses. (Alex) Zanardi came from a lap down at Long Beach and he came from last place at Cleveland with no yellows. The planets just need to line up. Everybody's in different positions. I still consider myself in the points championship still. Now, I might be in the position to be more aggressive than say Gil de Ferran. I don't see why he would be too aggressive, but I can be more aggressive in the race."

CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI: "I had a very good morning. The car was pretty good apart from a little push. This afternoon, at the beginning the car was up to what I expected. On the second set of tires, the car was a little worse than on the first set, but I was a little quicker along the back. Then, I was going down the back straight, and I just went off. I almost saved it, but I got into the tire wall, and that was the end, not only for me, but for everyone else as well. This is the toughest form of motor racing I've ever been in in my life. Even when I was in karting and there were 130 drivers and only 30 made it to the finals, it's still tougher here. We don't have 130 drivers, but there are 15 guys that can win any time. It's so much more difficult than any other series I've been in."

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Gil de Ferran , Bobby Rahal , Chip Ganassi
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing