CHAMPCAR/CART: Lexington: Newman/Haas Friday qualifying report

Havoline driver da Matta second fastest in provisional qualifying for the CART Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio; Lilly driver Fittipaldi third. SUMMARY: Da Matta and Fittipaldi were P1 and P2 respectively in the closing minutes of the one hour session...

Havoline driver da Matta second fastest in provisional qualifying for the CART Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio; Lilly driver Fittipaldi third.

SUMMARY: Da Matta and Fittipaldi were P1 and P2 respectively in the closing minutes of the one hour session and looked set to receive a reprieve from outside attempts to better their times when Tora Takagi, who went off course, stalled his car on track, an action that could bring out a red flag thus ending the session. A red flag was not immediately shown however and Patrick Carpentier bettered their times and dropped them each one position as well as earned the Championship point and guaranteed front row start approximately 15 seconds before a red flag was shown.

CRISTIANO DA MATTA, #6 Havoline Toyota-Lola-Bridgestone: "I was on pole until about 15 seconds before the red flag came out so of course I am disappointed because we lost a guaranteed front row start and one point but what can you do? Today was like Vancouver where everybody waited until the last 20 minutes (of the one-hour session) to go out and hope they can get a clear lap and without the red flag coming out. We don't have a crystal ball. It's a game you play - waiting until the end. You might get a red flag or you might not. I wish it would change but I don't want to be the first one out. Everybody needs to find a way to play this qualifying better. I think everybody will be complaining about the traffic today but it was the same for everyone. This track seems more sensitive than others. It is faster on Friday, Saturday and then Sunday. I'm not sure if the concrete patches have something to do with it but the track is much faster with every lap of rubber that is laid down so naturally the track is the best at the end of each session. I am happy with the feel of my car so I hope we can continue improving with the track and fight for the pole position tomorrow."

· NOTES: Da Matta has won seven of past 12 CART events dating back to his first three-peat (Australia and Fontana in 2001 and Mexico in 2002) where he became the first driver to accomplish the feat since Juan Montoya (1999). After leading 30 laps and building a strong lead in Long Beach, a pit accident derailed his bid for a CART record-tying fourth consecutive win. Wins in Laguna Seca, Portland, Chicago and Toronto enabled him to tie two others (Unser, Jr., and Zanardi) with a CART record fourth consecutive win although he failed to score a fifth consecutive win in Cleveland after being sidelined with mechanical failure after leading the first 19 laps from pole. He led 36 laps in Vancouver before a drive shaft failure ended his race. A win in Mid-Ohio would be his eighth in the past 13 races. Will be his fourth CHAMP CAR race here. Finished 10th in 2001 after starting 11th; finished 17th after contact with Tony Kanaan after making his highest start to date here of seventh place; earned his best finish to date here of ninth place in 1999 after starting 14th. He is currently leading the standings with a total of 122 points.

CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI, #11 Lilly Toyota-Lola-Bridgestone: "I'm pretty happy with the car. It ran well this morning and this afternoon. Of course it would have been nice if the red came out a few second quicker than it did because we would have been P2 (position two) but the times are going to be faster tomorrow anyway so unless you are P1 there are no points available in provisional qualifying. We just need to continue to improve the car and qualify in the top-three on Saturday. When people wait until the last minute it makes a huge domino effect. If I have a car ahead of me that slows down because two cars ahead of him slowed down, it creates a chain reaction and no one is going to be happy. If you are a slower car you should move out of the way. No one wants to give in. Everyone is wrong out there. I don't think anyone is right. You just hope it doesn't happen to you. On my first run of tires I had to pass people on my quick lap which obviously isn't as good as having a clear track. Everyone wants to get the most out of the track and there is a bigger gap in lap times from the beginning of the session until the end than at most tracks. The times improve up to five-tenths of a second which is a lot. It's the same for everyone though."

· NOTES: Will be his seventh race here. Finished 8th in 2001. Earned his best finish here - of third place - in 2000 after matching his best start here of fifth place (also 1996) as well as his best start here of fifth place. Did not compete in 1999 after he suffered a subdural hematoma from a testing accident caused by a gearbox failure; finished 13th in 1998 after the team struggled; suffered transmission failure in 1997 after he started eighth; finished seventh in 1996 after earning his best start of fifth place here; suffered engine failure in 1995 and retired in 25th place. He is currently in 9th place in the point standings, 65 points back from leader and teammate Cristiano da Matta.

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW: The morning practice session will take place from 10-11:15 AM ET which will be followed by a one-hour final qualifying session from 1:45-2:45. SPEED Channel will televise qualifying live.

-nhr-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Patrick Carpentier , Tony Kanaan , Tora Takagi , Cristiano da Matta
Teams ART Grand Prix