Portland in Review: Racing on the team's designated "home track" at Portland International Raceway, both PacWest drivers excelled in front of their Pacific Northwest fans on Friday, provisionally qualifying both cars in the top half of the grid.
Portland in Review:
Racing on the team's designated "home track" at Portland International Raceway, both PacWest drivers excelled in front of their Pacific Northwest fans on Friday, provisionally qualifying both cars in the top half of the grid. Mauricio Gugelmin ended the qualifying session third in the field (60.445 sec.) while Danny Sullivan placed his Reynard in 12th position (61.023).
Although "Big Mo" shaved more than three tenths of a second off his provisional time Saturday (60.126), Al Unser, Jr. Surpassed his time, moving Gugelmin to forth in the starting lineup. Mauricio's start from the outside of the second row still marked his highest qualification since the season opener in Miami (2nd). Sullivan was not able to eclipse his provisional time from Friday and dropped to 18th in the highly competitive field.
"Heat" became a four-letter word to PacWest on Sunday as temperatures approaching 90 on and afire in Sullivan's pit became major factors for the team. For Gugelmin, the excessive heat combined with an ill-handling car made for a long day.
"We've had the same problem the last three races," said Gugelmin. "The car's great for a while, but as you run a little longer, it becomes stiff, aiming for a really harsh ride. That's why I'm able to qualify well and run good laps like I did in the warm-up session (Gugelmin had the quickest time in Sunday's warm-up). The car starts out OK and just seems to go away after a while."
"During the race, I became more tired because of fighting the car and a little dehydrated from the heat. Also, because of the rough ride, my head kept hitting the head rest...So, it was a pretty exhausting day for me."
Following the race, Gugelmin was taken to the infield hospital area where he received liquids intravenously to replenish his body fluid levels. Despite the tough day, Gugelmin still managed a sixth-place finish.
Sullivan was running 14th when he came into the pits on lap 63 for what would have been his final stop of the 102 lap race. What seemed to be an uneventful stop turned chaotic when methanol from his fuel hose sparked a fire in the pit lane.
"I'm OK, it looks like everybody's fine-we just had a little pit fire", Sullivan said just minutes after the incident. "I'm not 100% sure of what happened...timing is so critical in a pit stop. Ziggy (crew chief Paul Harcus) gave me the word to go and I took off. Gerry (fueler Gerry Edwards) wasn't totally disconnected so it twisted the nozzle when it came out and sprayed fuel everywhere. There's so much hot stuff out there it just ignited."
The damage to Sullivan's car was not extensive, and no one received any significant burns, however, the team elected to park the car after the incident. Sullivan finished the race 21st in the 26-car field.
"While the events which we say today in the pit lane are unquestionable traumatic, it also demonstrates the effectiveness of IndyCar safety rules and procedures," said PacWest CEO Bruce R. McCaw. "No more than 4-5 gallons of methanol was actually exposed and the ability to put out the fire rather quickly with water minimized the gravity of the situation."
PacWest would like to thank the pit crew members of A.J. Foyt Enterprises who assisted in putting out the fire in Sullivan's pit during the Portland Race....PacWest will participate in IndyCar's open test at Laguna Seca this week.
David Foote PacWest Racing Group