CHAMPCAR/CART: Max Papis fastest on first day at Gateway

By David Reininger - Motorsport.com Madison, IL (September 15, 2000) - Max Papis set the fastest time of the day while practicing for Sunday's Motorola 300 at Gateway International Raceway. Papis, driver of the Miller Lite Ford-powered...

By David Reininger - Motorsport.com

Madison, IL (September 15, 2000) - Max Papis set the fastest time of the day while practicing for Sunday's Motorola 300 at Gateway International Raceway. Papis, driver of the Miller Lite Ford-powered Reynard, topped the day's speed chart with a lap in the morning session at 176.805 mph (25.859 seconds).

"I'm pretty happy," said Papis, who won the season opener on the 1.5-mile track at Homestead. "We had a pretty good test here a few weeks ago when we had the quickest time, even though we only ran 50 laps, and we finished fifth here last season. I'm really proud of the guys, especially with the tough season we've had so far. The team has a very good setup for ovals, so I'm pretty confident that we will continue to do well the rest of the weekend."

Second fastest on the day, setting his best lap in the afternoon session, was Juan Montoya, driver of the Target Team Ganassi Toyota-powered Lola, with a lap at 176.737 mph (25.869 seconds). Montoya, who improved his time by .14 seconds in the afternoon session, was second fastest in both sessions.

Montoya had a spin in the afternoon session, which sent his car backward into the wall. The car made light contact and was not heavily damaged. Montoya, who was unhurt, rejoined the session in a backup car.

"I just got too close to Max on the back straight," said Montoya, indicating the cars were difficult to drive in traffic.

Helio Castroneves improved his morning time by .155 seconds in the Marlboro Team Penske Honda-powered Reynard, to sit third on the day's speed charts, lapping the 1.27-mile oval at an average speed of 176.083 mph.

"I didn't have the opportunity to test here because I was sick that week, but we started with Gil's setup this morning and it was good," said Castroneves. "We did full tank runs like pretty much everybody else and my car was kind of a handful, so we have some work to do. The car was bad in traffic, so I'm hoping that everybody else is having the same problem. This is going to be a tough race for everybody."

Tony Kanaan was fourth fastest on the day, his lap, at 175.880 mph (25.995 seconds), an improvement of .275 seconds from the morning session. "It's really nice to be in the ballpark with your setup from the moment you roll the car off the truck," said Kanaan, who had the fastest Mercedes Benz-powered car of the day. "I have a very reasonable car, so far. And this track is not an easy one to setup for. It has two distinct set of corners, so you constantly have to take from one set of corners to gain ground over on the other side of the track. Fortunately, we have a guy like Morris Nunn on our side."

Kenny Brack set the fifth fastest lap of the day on his final lap of the afternoon session. Brack's lap in the Shell Team Rahal Ford-powered Reynard was four one-thousandths of a second slower than Kanaan, at an average speed of 175.853 mph. "I spent the morning learning the track and then started to pick up the pace in the afternoon," said Brack. Although we're fifth fastest, I think we still need more speed in the car."

Several drivers, including Brack, expressed concern over the aerodynamic package, which is upsetting the car's handling in traffic. "It will be difficult to pass here because of the aerodynamic package, so qualifying will be very critical."

Series points leader, Gil de Ferran ended up eighth fastest on the day, .264 seconds behind Papis. "We spent most of the day making the Marlboro car better for the race by running on heavier tanks and older tires. Tomorrow we are going to focus on getting more speed out of the car."

Notes: Gateway International Raceway is a 1.27-mile oval speedway. The track is unique in that turns one and two are different than turns three and four. Turns one and two, which are banked at 11 degrees, are sharper than turns three and four. Turns three and four are banked at seven degrees.

Jimmy Vasser is wearing the HANS device for the first time this weekend. "The Hans device is not a hindrance at all," Vasser said. "It's very comfortable and, in fact, I can't even feel it. I just hope I don't ever need it."

Robby McGehee, who finished second to Scott Sharp at Texas Motor Speedway in June, in one of the best open wheel races in recent history, was shopping his services around the CART paddock at Gateway this afternoon.

Scott Dixon leads the Dayton Indy Lights Championship standings by 42 points. He has to score one point this weekend to clinch the championship. Any tie in the points would see the championship go to Dixon who has won five races this season.

In the season long battle for the Toyota Atlantic Championship, Buddy Rice has been unable to run away from Daniel Wheldon in the point standings despite winning five races. After ten races, Wheldon trails Rice by 14 points. This weekend's event at Gateway is the penultimate round in the series with the finale coming at Houston in two weeks.

Gil de Ferran is currently first in the CART FedEx Championship point standings. It is the first time in his six-year CART career that he has led the point standings.

Since the inaugural race at Gateway International Raceway in 1997, Firestone tires have won 22 of the 23 CART races held on oval tracks.

The World of Outlaws Gumout Series competes on Saturday night at Tri-City Speedway, located six miles north of Gateway International Raceway on Route 203.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Robby McGehee , Scott Sharp , Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Jimmy Vasser , Max Papis , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Kenny Brack , Buddy Rice , Morris Nunn
Teams Team Penske