CHAMPCAR/CART: Motegi Friday track notes

• Good Morning from Twin Ring Motegi for Qualifying Day in Japan! Today's weather is a repeat of yesterday: absolutely perfect conditions for oval track racing. Cool temperatures with cloudless skies has the Japanese Champ Car fans taking ...

• Good Morning from Twin Ring Motegi for Qualifying Day in Japan! Today's weather is a repeat of yesterday: absolutely perfect conditions for oval track racing. Cool temperatures with cloudless skies has the Japanese Champ Car fans taking advantage of the sunshine; lining the entry roads to the speedway with campsites. The parking lots are filling up early as the crowd is making a full day of today's CART on-track activities. Today's qualifying session is slated for the Green Flag at 1:30 p.m. First up however, is the split group practice session taking to the track at 9:30 a.m. for 45-minute runs.

• GREEN FLAG waves at 9:30 a.m. to start the Group One practice session. Firestone engineers report a track temperature of 99 degrees F. (37 C.) and an ambient temperature of 74 degrees F. (23 C.) at the start of the session. This is the same track temperature measurement as yesterday's morning session with identical conditions allowing Champ Car fans to see who did their chassis homework last night to pick up more speed today. Speeds should be faster anyway as the crews ready their cars in qualifying trim for the upcoming qualifying session.

• YELLOW FLAG waves at 9:40 a.m. after the crew for #52 NAKANO reports a deep cut on the right front tire of their car. CART safety workers quickly start a full-track inspection.

• At 9:40 a.m., 10 minutes into the session and under the Yellow Flag, the fastest Group One driver is #51 FERNANDEZ with a lap of 212.849 mph (26.182 seconds; sixth lap) followed by #32 CARPENTIER (212.475 mph; 26.228 seconds; seventh lap) and #66 ZANARDI (212.362 mph; 26.242 seconds; 10th lap). FERNANDEZ's speed is 5.211 mph (8.386 kph) faster than his best effort from yesterday morning's session.

• GREEN FLAG waves at 9:51 a.m. to resume the Group One session.

• BLACK FLAG is shown at 9:52 a.m. to #22 SERVIA after CART course observers report that the car is spraying fluid at speed. SERVIA immediately pits the car for an inspection by his crew.

• At 9:55 a.m., #32 CARPENTIER goes to the top of the board with a lap of 213.150 mph (26.145 seconds) on his 15th lap.

• At 10 a.m., 30 minutes into the session, the fastest Group One driver is still #32 CARPENTIER with his earlier lap of 213.150 mph (26.145 seconds; 15th lap), followed by #51 FERNANDEZ (212.849 mph; 26.182 seconds; sixth lap) and #52 NAKANO (212.832 mph; 26.184 seconds; 19th lap).

• At 10:03 a.m., #66 ZANARDI makes his first appearance at the top of the Group One speedboard with a lap of 213.927 mph (26.050 seconds; 20th lap), but is immediately surpassed by #32 CARPENTIER with a 214.281 mph (26.007 second)-effort on the Canadian's 21st lap.

• YELLOW FLAG waves at 10:06 a.m. after CART course observers report a bolt falling off of the car of #20 MORENO. CART safety workers immediately retrieve the bolt from the bottom of Turn 4.

• GREEN FLAG waves at 10:09 a.m. to resume the Group One session.

• At 10:10 a.m., 40 minutes into the session, the fastest Group One driver is still #32 CARPENTIER with his earlier lap of 214.281 mph (26.007 seconds; 21st lap), still followed by #66 ZANARDI (213.927 mph; 26.050 seconds; 20th lap) and #51 FERNANDEZ (213.509 mph; 26.101 seconds; 37th lap).

• CHECKERED FLAG waves at 10:15 a.m. to end the Group One session with #32 CARPENTIER upping his Group One best speed to 215.499 mph (346.811 kph; 25.860 seconds) on his final lap, followed by #66 ZANARDI (214.009 mph; 344.413 kph; 26.040 seconds; 35th lap) and #52 NAKANO (213.509 mph; 343.609 kph; 26.101 seconds; 37th lap).

• GREEN FLAG waves at 10:30 a.m. to start the Group Two session.

• At 10:37 a.m., #8 BRACK logs the fastest Group Two speed with a lap of 214.892 mph (25.933 seconds) on his seventh lap of the session.

• At 10:38 a.m., #3 CASTRONEVES logs the fastest lap of the day with a speed of 215.724 mph (25.833 seconds) on his sixth lap of the Group Two session.

• BLACK FLAG is shown at 10:39 a.m. to #11 FITTIPALDI for a Pit Road speed violation incurred at Pit Out. FITTIPALDI subsequently pits the car to comply with the Black Flag drive thru penalty.

• At 10:40 a.m., 10 minutes into the session, the fastest Group two driver is #3 CASTRONEVES with his earlier lap of 215.724 mph (25.833 seconds; sixth lap; first overall), followed by #8 BRACK (214.892 mph; 25.933 seconds; seventh lap) and #55 KANAAN (212.824 mph; 26.185 seconds; 29th lap, seventh overall).

• BLACK FLAG is again shown at 10:41 a.m. to #11 FITTIPALDI for a Pit Road speed violation incurred at Pit Out. FITTIPALDI subsequently pits the car to comply with the Black Flag drive thru penalty.

• At 10:50 a.m., 20 minutes into the session, the fastest Group Two and overall driver is still #3 CASTRONEVES with his earlier lap of 215.724 mph (25.833 seconds; sixth lap; first overall), followed by #8 BRACK (214.892 mph; 25.933 seconds; seventh lap) and #55 KANAAN (212.824 mph; 26.185 seconds; 15th lap, seventh overall).

• BLACK FLAG is shown at 10:55 a.m. to #39 ANDRETTI for a Pit Road speed violation. ANDRETTI subsequently pits the car to comply with the Black Flag drive-thru penalty.

• BLACK FLAG is shown at 10:59 a.m. to #8 BRACK for a Pit Road speed violation incurred at Pit In at 10:53 a.m. BRACK subsequently pits the car to comply with the Black Flag drive-thru penalty.

• At 11 a.m., 30 minutes into the session, the fastest Group Two and overall driver is still #3 CASTRONEVES with his earlier lap of 215.724 mph (25.833 seconds; sixth lap; first overall), followed by #8 BRACK (214.892 mph; 25.933 seconds; third overall; seventh lap) and #27 FRANCHITTI (214.174 mph; 26.020 seconds; fourth overall; 35th lap).

• At 11:06 a.m., #39 ANDRETTI moves to second-fastest in Group Two, third-fastest overall with a speed of 214.198 mph (26.017).

• BLACK FLAG is shown at 11:09 a.m. to #39 ANDRETTI for a Pit Road speed violation incurred at Pit In at 11:07 a.m. ANDRETTI subsequently pits the car to comply with the Black Flag.

• At 11:10 a.m., 40 minutes into the Group Two session, the fastest Group Two and overall driver is now #27 FRANCHITTI with a lap of 216.672 mph (25.720 seconds; 40th lap), followed by #3 CASTRONEVES (215.724 mph; 25.833 seconds) and #1 de FERRAN (215.091 mph; 25.909 seconds; 34th lap).

• At 11:14 a.m., the overall fastest driver #27 FRANCHITTI loses power coming off Turn 4 and coasts to a stop on the backstraight.

• CHECKERED FLAG waves at 11:15 a.m. to end the Group Two session with #27 FRANCHITTI with a lap of 216.672 mph (25.720 seconds; 40th lap), followed by #3 CASTRONEVES (216.251 mph; 25.770 seconds) and #1 de FERRAN (215.091 mph; 25.909 seconds).

• For combined results from the morning session, #27 FRANCHITTI is the fastest overall driver with a lap of 216.672 mph (348.690 kph; 25.720 seconds), followed by #3 CASTRONEVES (216.251 mph; 348.013 kph; 25.770 seconds) and #1 de FERRAN (215.091 mph; 346.802 kph; 25.860 seconds). The entire field is separated by less than one second in best-lap times at the close of this session. The FedEx Championship Series drivers introduced 25 different cars to the track in this morning's session with secondary cars utilized by #33X TAGLIANI, #77X HERTA, and #5X TAKAGI.

Trap speeds are up all over the course after this morning's session with #3 CASTRONEVES and #32 CARPENTIER tied at 214.746 mph (345.599 kph) at the Start/Finish line trap, followed by #39 ANDRETTI (214.184 mph; 344.695 kph). The Turn 2/Trap 1 speed is led with #3 CASTRONEVES (221.453 mph; 356.393 kph) and #26 TRACY (220.266 mph; 354.483 kph). The fast speed at the Turn 3 entry is held by #32 CARPENTIER (227.906; 366.778 kph) and #8 BRACK (227.273 mph; 365.760 kph).

• As the time nears for the Green Flag for qualifying for Saturday's Firestone FIREHAWK 500, the heat has been building here at Twin Ring Motegi. Firestone engineers report a track temperature of 121 degrees F. (49 C.) and an ambient temperature of 75 degrees F. (24 C.) at the start of the session.

• GREEN FLAG waves at 1:30 p.m. to start qualifying. The drivers will have up to the fourth time by the flag stand to start their official timed laps.

• #32 CARPENTIER's top speed: 213.133 mph; 342.996 kph; 26.147 seconds, first lap. YELLOW FLAG waves at 1:32 p.m. as CARPENTIER shuts down the engine as he crosses the Start/Finish line after completing his first timed lap. A trail of fluid follows the CARPENTIER down to the bottom of Turn 1 where the driver parks the car. CART safety crews immediately start clean up at the bottom of the turn but the track itself remains clean.

• GREEN FLAG waves at 1:42 p.m. to resume qualifying.

• #66 ZANARDI's top speed: 213.615 mph; 343.771; 26.088 seconds, first lap.

• #33X TAGLIANI's top speed: 210.057 mph; 338.044; 26.530 seconds, first lap.

• YELLOW FLAG waves at 1:48 p.m. after TAGLIANI loses power off Turn 2 on his second timed lap. The driver pulls low and parks the car at the bottom of Turn 3 after spraying fluid across the track from Turn 2. CART safety crews immediately begin an extensive clean-up of the backstraight.

• GREEN FLAG waves at 2:04 p.m. to resume qualifying.

• #51 FERNANDEZ's top speed: 213.542 mph; 343.653 kph; 26.097 seconds, second lap.

• #17 GUGELMIN's top speed: 207.476 mph; 333.891 kph; 26.860 seconds, second lap.

• #16 JOURDAIN Jr.'s top speed: 213.870 mph; 344.180 kph; 26.057 seconds, second lap. JOURDAIN Jr. takes the Pole from ZANARDI.

• #7 PAPIS' top speed: 210.676 mph; 339.041 kph; 26.452 seconds, second lap.

• #52 NAKANO's top speed: 212.055 mph; 341.260; 26.280, second lap.

• #20 MORENO's top speed: 207.940 mph; 334.638; 26.800, second lap.

• #77X HERTA's top speed: 208.049 mph; 334.813; 26.786 seconds, second lap.

• #5X TAGAKI's top speed: 207.476 mph; 334.140.; 26.840 seconds, second lap.

• #22 SERVIA's top speed: 210.072 mph; 338.069; 26.528 seconds, second lap.

• #12 MINASSIAN's top speed: 211.267 mph; 339.992; 26.378 seconds, second lap.

• #11 FITTIPALDI's top speed: 211.363 mph; 340.147; 26.366 seconds, second lap.

• #4 JUNQUEIRA's top speed: 214.050 mph; 344.471; 26.035 seconds, first lap. JUNQUEIRA takes the Pole from JOURDAIN Jr.

• #55 KANAAN's top speed: 214.157 mph; 344.643; 26.022 seconds, first lap. KANAAN takes the Pole from JUNQUEIRA.

• #27 FRANCHITTI's top speed: 214.413 mph; 345.054; 25.991 seconds, second lap. FRANCHITTI takes the Pole from KANAAN.

• #39 ANDRETTI's top speed: 212.581 mph; 342.106; 26.251 seconds, second lap.

• #18 DIXON's top speed: 209.606 mph; 337.319; 26.587 seconds, second lap.

• #8 BRACK's top speed: 213.976 mph; 344.352; 26.044 seconds, first lap.

• #3 CASTRONEVES' top speed: 215.591 mph; 346.950 kph; 25.849 seconds, first lap. CASTRONEVES takes the Pole from FRANCHITTI.

• #40 VASSER's top speed: 209.504 mph; 337.154 kph; 26.600 seconds, first lap.

• #1 de FERRAN's top speed: 214.396 mph; 345.028 kph; 25.993 seconds, first and only lap. De FERRAN only receives one timed lap due to the driver committing a Pit Road speed violation as he heads out to qualify.

• #26 TRACY's top speed: 210.835 mph; 339.297 kph; 26.432 seconds, second lap.

• #6 da MATTA's top speed: 212.103 mph; 341.338 kph; 26.274 seconds, second lap.

• HELIO CASTRONEVES wins the Pole for Saturday's Firestone FIREHAWK 500 by virtue of his 215.591 mph; (346.950 kph; 25.849)-second lap! CASTRONEVES wins one Championship Point and pulls into a tie for third in the chase for the Vanderbilt Cup. This is CASTRONEVES' second Pole of the year, his other Pole coming at Long Beach. This is also the sixth Pole of the Brazilian's career and his second on an oval (Milwaukee in 1999). This is the second Pole of the year for Honda.

• DARIO FRANCHITTI sits second on the grid with a 214.413 mph (345.045 kph; 25.991)-second lap. This is FRANCHITTI's season-best start, his previous-best a sixth at Long Beach. This is also FRANCHITTI's career-best start at Motegi, besting his sixth-place start in 1998.

• GIL de FERRAN is third after his one-lap effort of 214.396 mph (345.028 kph; 25.993)-second lap. This matches de FERRAN's best start of the season as the driver also started third at Mexico. De FERRAN has started among the top-five in all four appearances at Motegi. De FERRAN started third in 1998, won the Pole in 1999, and started fifth in 2000.

• The top 24 cars of the 25-car field are within one second in lap times of the fast lap set by CASTRONEVES.

• Quotes from today's top three qualifiers follow:

• HELIO CASTRONEVES, Marlboro Honda Reynard: "Definitely, since we started this weekend, the car was always quick, and to be honest, we haven't touched much [since]. I didn't feel anything [to be concerned about]. I definitely have to mention Honda because everyone is working together, and that's why they call this a team sport. I'm definitely pleased with the pole position. The point is very important."

• DARIO FRANCHITTI, KOOL Honda Reynard: "The session this morning was good. We left the car very close to the edge for qualifying, unfortunately we weren't able to replicate the conditions we needed to get the pole. The problem this morning [at the end of practice] wasn't as serious as we thought. We thought it was an engine going but it turned out to be one of the headers, which wasn't as serious, so we left the same engine in for qualifying and it turned out well for us."

• GIL de FERRAN, Marlboro Honda Reynard: "I left my pit box really slowly but apparently, I sped as I passed the very last pit. The officials decided to impose a penalty of only one qualifying lap. The penalty is in the rule book and I was speeding in pit lane, so I guess it was my fault. The car is handling really well. Both cars have been really good throughout the weekend, and that bodes well for the race."

-CART

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Series IndyCar