CHAMPCAR/CART: Michigan Friday track notes

Good Morning from the Irish Hills of Central Michigan for the first day of practice for Sunday's Michigan 500, Round 11 of the 2000 FedEx Championship Series season. This morning's first practice session will be for this weekend's rookies; an ...

Good Morning from the Irish Hills of Central Michigan for the first day of practice for Sunday's Michigan 500, Round 11 of the 2000 FedEx Championship Series season. This morning's first practice session will be for this weekend's rookies; an orientation session scheduled for the Green Flag at 10 a.m. and lasting 20 minutes. The Champ Cars will follow the CART rookies onto the track at 10:30 a.m. The full-field session will last 90 minutes. At 2 p.m., the FedEx Championship Series teams will again take to the track for the afternoon one-hour practice session. Saturday's schedule has the Champ Cars again on-track for practice from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. with qualifying scheduled at 11 a.m., lasting until 1 p.m. Sunday's schedule has the traditional 30-minute warm-up beginning at 9:30 a.m. followed by the Green Flag for the Michigan 500 at 1:30 p.m. (All times are local.)

A few changes will be in effect for this week's entry list. TONY KANAAN returns to the FedEx Championship Series after missing the last three races while recovering from injuries received in a practice incident at Detroit last month. KANAAN was cleared for competition by CART after successfully completing six hot laps on the high-banked superspeedway Thursday afternoon. KANAAN reached a top speed of 223 mph during the shakedown. Popular American driver MEMO GIDLEY also returns to the FedEx Championship Series, stepping into the #10 Toyota/Reynard of Della Penna Racing normally driven by NORBERTO FONTANA. Friday morning's rookie session will feature the following drivers: #33 ALEX TAGLIANI, #96 ORIOL SERVIA, #5 SHINJI NAKANO, #8 KENNY BRACK, #19 TAKUYA KUROSAWA, #34 TARSO MARQUES, #25 LUIZ GARCIA JR., and #10 MEMO GIDLEY. The Michigan Speedway is always a "hold-your-breath" type track for the FedEx Championship Series drivers, and this year should be no different. The one-lap track qualifying record here (Jimmy Vasser 30.682 seconds 234.665 mph, July 27, 1996) has held up for five years due to the various wing configurations that CART has employed since that track record was established to control top speeds. Michigan Speedway dwarfs all other tracks on the circuit in lap and segments speeds save for the sister facility at Fontana. JIMMY VASSER sat on the Pole here last year with a speed of 229.606 mph (31.358 seconds). But VASSER had plenty of company at the front of the pack as the first 21 cars of the grid were separated by less than one second in lap times. Not only do the front-running drivers have near identical lap speeds here at Michigan but the draft of several cars together on the track can jump the overall speed by 10-15 mph. Trap speeds at the Start/Finish line range from 235 mph to 245 mph, depending on whether the drivers are locked in a draft or running solo, while the second-fastest spot on the track (entering Turn 3) logs trap speeds in the 235 to 240 mph range. The race also produces from five to six Pit Stops during the event. All of these items combine to produce one of the most exciting races of the season, year after year.

GREEN FLAG waves at 10 a.m. to start the first practice session of the weekend. Firestone engineers report a track temperature of 90 degrees F. and an ambient temperature of 69 degrees F. at the start of the session.

At 10:10 a.m., 10 minutes into the Rookie Orientation practice session, the fastest driver is #5X NAKANO with a lap of 217.852 mph (33.050 seconds), followed by #33 TAGLIANI (207.840 mph; 34.642 seconds) and #96X SERVIA (205.239 mph; 35.081 seconds).

YELLOW FLAG waves at 10:12 a.m. after CART course observers report debris on course. CART safety crews quickly inspect the track in a clean-up operation.

GREEN FLAG waves at 10:16 a.m. to resume the session.

CHECKERED FLAG waves at 10:20 a.m. to end the Rookie session with the fastest driver #33 TAGLIANI (223.014 mph; 32.285 seconds) and #5X NAKANO (217.852 mph; 33.050 seconds) and #96X SERVIA (214.381 mph; 33.585 seconds). The drivers turned 82 incident-free laps during the session.

GREEN FLAG waves at 10:30 a.m. to start the full-field morning practice session. Firestone engineers report a track temperature of 94 degrees F. and an ambient temperature of 71 degrees F. at the start of the session.

At 10:38 a.m., #26 TRACY loses power down the back straight at speed and coasts to his Pit Box.

At 10:40 a.m., 10 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is #6X ANDRETTI with a lap of 230.452 mph (31.243 seconds), followed by #27 FRANCHITTI (229.958 mph; 31.310 seconds) and #1X MONTOYA (227.661 mph; 31.626 seconds).

At 10:50 a.m., 20 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is still #6X ANDRETTI with his earlier lap of 230.452 mph (31.243 seconds), followed by #27 FRANCHITTI (229.958 mph; 31.310 seconds) and #33X TAGLIANI (227.790 mph; 31.608 seconds).

YELLOW FLAG waves at 10:51 a.m. after #96 SERVIA loses power off of Turn 4 and pulls low on the main straight, parking at the bottom of Turn 1. A brief fire breaks out at the rear of the car as the driver exits the cockpit. CART safety workers quickly extinguish the fire and hook the car up to tow it back to the paddock as other safety workers clean the track.

GREEN FLAG waves at 11 a.m. to resume the session. At 11 a.m., the fastest drivers and speeds are unchanged from the 10:50 a.m. report.

At 11:03 a.m., #1 MONTOYA logs the fastest lap of the session with a speed of 230.562 mph (31.228 seconds) on his seventh circuit.

At 11:07 a.m., #3 CASTRONEVES clocks the fastest lap of the day with a speed of 231.444 mph (31.109 seconds).

YELLOW FLAG waves at 11:09 a.m. after #97 DA MATTA loses power entering Turn 1 and coasts high on the track through Turn 2 with smoke pouring from the rear of the car. DA MATTA pulls off course on the backstretch and CART safety workers quickly hook the car up to tow it back to the paddock while other crew members begin extensive clean-up of the Turn 1 and 2 area.

At 11:10 a.m., 40 minutes into the session and under the Yellow Flag, the fastest driver is again #6 ANDRETTI with a lap of 234.169 mph (30.747 seconds) and #3 CASTRONEVES (231.444 mph; 31.109 seconds) and #1 MONTOYA (230.562 mph; 31.228 seconds).

GREEN FLAG waves at 11:29 a.m. to resume the session. At 11:30 a.m., one hour into the session, the fastest drivers and speeds remain unchanged from the 11:10 a.m. report.

YELLOW FLAG waves at 11:34 a.m. after #16 JOURDAIN JR. spins at Turn 1, but the driver avoids contacting the wall and stalls in the middle of Turn 2 coasting to a stop on the backstretch. CART safety crews quickly hook the car up and tow it back to the Pit Area.

GREEN FLAG waves at 11:39 a.m. to resume the session. At 11:40 a.m., 70 minutes into the session, #6 ANDRETTI unofficially surpasses the track record with a speed of 235.479 mph (30.576 seconds), followed by #3 CASTRONEVES (231.444 mph; 31.109 seconds) and #11X FITTIPALDI (230.710 mph; 31.208 seconds). Track records can only be established in qualifying or in a race.

BLACK FLAG is shown at 11:48 a.m. to #34 MARQUES for a Pit Road speed violation incurred at Pit In at 11:42 a.m. MARQUES subsequently pits the car to comply with the Black Flag.

At 11:50 a.m., #6 ANDRETTI is still the fastest with his earlier lap of 235.479 mph (30.676 seconds), now followed by #11X FITTIPALDI (233.206 mph; 30.874 seconds) and #2 DE FERRAN (232.131 mph; 31.017 seconds).

BLACK FLAG is shown at 11:53 a.m. to #16 JOURDAIN JR. after CART course observers report that the car is running rough at speed. JOURDAIN JR. subsequently pits the car to comply with the Black Flag.

CHECKERED FLAG waves at 12 p.m. to end the first practice session of the weekend with #6 ANDRETTI is still the fastest with his earlier lap of 235.479 mph (30.676 seconds), now followed by #11X FITTIPALDI (233.206 mph; 30.874 seconds) and #3 CASTRONEVES (232.746 mph; 30.935 seconds). The top 18 cars are separated by less than one second. FedEx Championship Series drivers introduced 38 different cars to the track in Friday morning's session with secondary cars utilized by #11X FITTIPALDI, #6X ANDRETTI, #33X TAGLIANI, #96 SERVIA, #97 DA MATTA, #32 CARPENTIER, #55 KANAAN, #7 PAPIS, #12 VASSER, #2 DE FERRAN, #18 BLUNDELL, #17 GUGELMIN, and #3 CASTRONEVES. CART drivers logged 1,096 laps during the session.

It was a beautiful Friday morning with bright sunshine, but as the lunch hours nears, a large and thick bank of storm clouds has rolled in from behind the frontstretch grandstands, dropping the temperature and threatening rain at any minute.

GREEN FLAG waves at 2 p.m. to start the final Champ Car practice session of the day. Firestone engineers report a track temperature of 99 degrees F. and an ambient temperature of 75 degrees F. at the start of the session. The cloud cover is very thick and a cool breeze is now blowing down the frontstretch to Turn 1.

At 2:04 p.m., #8 BRACK slows on course and coasts to his pit without power. YELLOW FLAG waves at 2:07 p.m. after #40 FERNANDEZ stalls at Pit Out. CART safety workers quickly push the car back to the Pit Box.

GREEN FLAG waves to resume the practice session.

At 2:10 p.m., 10 minutes into the session and under the Yellow Flag, the fastest driver is #2 DE FERRAN with a lap of 232.558 mph (30.960 seconds), followed by #8 BRACK (231.660 mph; 31.080 seconds) and #6 ANDRETTI (228.586 mph; 31.498 seconds).

GREEN FLAG waves at 2:11 p.m. to resume the session.

At 2:17 p.m. #55 KANAAN dramatically slows on course and pits without power.

At 2:20 p.m., 20 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is #1 MONTOYA with a lap of 235.110 mph (30.624 seconds), followed by #27 FRANCHITTI (234.154 mph; 30.749 seconds) and #3 CASTRONEVES (232.693 mph; 30.942 seconds). BLACK FLAG is shown at 2:27 p.m. to #10 GIDLEY for a Pit Road speed violation. GIDLEY subsequently pits the car to comply with the Black Flag drive thru penalty.

At 2:30 p.m., 30 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is #1 MONTOYA with a lap of 235.110 mph (30.624 seconds), followed by #27 FRANCHITTI (234.154 mph; 30.749 seconds) and #8 BRACK (232.957 mph; 30.907 seconds). At 2:32 p.m., #55 KANAAN again pits without power.

BLACK FLAG is again shown at 2:36 p.m. to #10 GIDLEY for a Pit Road speed violation. GIDLEY subsequently pits to comply with the Black Flag drive thru penalty. GIDLEY radios his crew that he is having a problem with the rev limiter.

At 2:37 p.m., #3 CASTRONEVES takes the top speed of the session with a lap of 235.356 mph (30.592 seconds).

YELLOW FLAG waves at 2:40 p.m. for a track inspection after several of the crews along Pit Road report screw cuts on the tires upon examination in the pits.

At 2:40 p.m. and under the Yellow Flag, the fastest driver is still #3 CASTRONEVES with his earlier lap of 235.356 mph (30.592 seconds), followed by #1 MONTOYA (235.110 mph; 30.624 seconds) and #27 FRANCHITTI (234.154 mph; 30.749 seconds).

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

BLACK FLAG is shown again at 2:49 p.m. to #10 GIDLEY for a Pit Road speed violation. GIDLEY again pits to comply with the Black Flag drive-thru penalty.

At 2:50 p.m., 50 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is now #26 TRACY with a lap of 236.749 mph (30.412), unofficially eclipsing the track record. TRACY is followed by #3 CASTRONEVES (235.356 mph; 30.592 seconds) and #1 MONTOYA (235.110 mph; 30.624 seconds).

YELLOW FLAG and CHECKERED FLAG wave at 2:59 p.m. after #5 NAKANO loses power entering Turn 3. NAKANO takes the car to the bottom of the track with a long flame and smoke showing at the rear of the car. Race Control determines that there will not be enough time to clean the track and therefore instructs the Checkered Flag to be waved. #26 TRACY is the fastest driver of the session and the day with his lap of 236.749 mph (30.412 seconds), followed by #3 CASTRONEVES (235.356 mph; 30.592 seconds) and #1 MONTOYA (235.110 mph; 30.624 seconds). The top 16 cars are separated by less than one second in the afternoon session. FedEx Championship Series drivers introduced 28 cars to the track in Friday afternoon's session with secondary cars utilized by #97X DA MATTA, #33X TAGLIANI, #11X FITTIPALDI, #96X SERVIA, and #10X GIDLEY. CART drivers logged 1,014 laps in the session.

PAUL TRACY is the fastest driver of the day with his clocking of 236.749 mph (30.412 seconds), set in the afternoon session in his Team KOOL Green Honda/Reynard. This unofficially betters the track record of 234.665 mph (30.682 seconds) set by JIMMY VASSER in 1996. TRACY is chasing his first Pole win since 1997 in Milwaukee.

MICHAEL ANDRETTI sits second after the first day of practice with his lap of 235.479 mph (30.576 seconds) from the morning session in his Big Kmart Texaco Havoline Ford/Lola. ANDRETTI is after his season-best start since his third-place start last week in Toronto.

HELIO CASTRONEVES is third in practice speeds with a lap of 235.356 mph (30.592 seconds), logged in the afternoon session in his Marlboro Team Penske Honda/Reynard. If CASTRONEVES can hold on, it will be his fifth top-three start in the last seven events.

Quotes from Friday's top three practice leaders follow: PAUL TRACY: "It was a big tow. I got help from Adrian [Fernandez] and [Roberto] Moreno, who were running nose-to-tail on the back straight. It was a bit hair-raising at the end of the back straight. I looked down at the dash as it said '248 [mph].' I stayed in it, but it was pretty fast. I think it might be time to make some more changes to slow the cars down."

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: "The car unloaded really quick. [Andretti's Newman/Haas Racing teammate[ Christian [Fittipaldi[ tested here and really liked the racecar. It was quick right off the truck, so I'm pretty happy. We just need to maintain that and we should be in good shape."

HELIO CASTRONEVES: "When we took the car out of the truck it felt pretty good right off the bat. Of course, the draft here is unbelievable. In the afternoon I was in the draft a lot. My fast lap was behind either Michael or Christian. The car felt really good in the draft. If the car's like this for the rest of the weekend it'll be good because we have a good car. I'm hoping that we keep doing what Marlboro Team Penske is doing because, right now, it's fun." This concludes the track notes from Michigan Speedway for Friday. Have a good Friday night and we'll see you Saturday for Qualifying Day in the Irish Hills! Goodnight!

-CART-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Jimmy Vasser
Teams Team Penske