CHAMPCAR/CART: Team Kool Green Motegi Race Report

PAUL TRACY 11th and DARIO FRANCHITTI 22nd CART FedEx Championship Series - RACE Round 2 of 20 - Firestone Firehawk 500 MOTEGI, JAPAN (April 10, 1999) - Team KOOL Green's Paul Tracy finished 11th, while his teammate Dario Franchitti suffered a...

PAUL TRACY 11th and DARIO FRANCHITTI 22nd CART FedEx Championship Series - RACE Round 2 of 20 - Firestone Firehawk 500

MOTEGI, JAPAN (April 10, 1999) - Team KOOL Green's Paul Tracy finished 11th, while his teammate Dario Franchitti suffered a DNF (classified as 22nd) in today's running of the Firestone Firehawk 500 at Twin Ring Motegi.

Adrian Fernandez successfully defended his race win from last year on the 1.549-mile oval, finishing 6.347 seconds ahead of pole winner Gil de Ferran, while Christian Fittipaldi finished third. Fernandez was the only driver to make three pit stops, taking full advantage of five caution flags for 28 laps under yellow. He led 153 of the 201 laps in the race, collecting 21 PPG Cup points and stands fourth in the overall standings. Greg Moore leads the FedEx Championship Series with 34 points followed by Michael Andretti with 26 and Gil de Ferran with 25.

Under overcast and cool conditions, Tracy started 10th but dropped several positions to as low as 16th early in the race on cold tires. Working his way back, Tracy was 11th entering the first round of pits stops. By the 71st lap, he had moved into ninth place. Another strong pit stop allowed Tracy to continue his climb up the leaderboard to as high as fifth position. However, some unlucky timing with caution flags on his third and fourth pit stops took him out of contention. On his fourth stop, the team elected for fuel only and the rubber on the outside rear tire shredded as Tracy sped from the pit. He was forced to a make an extra stop.

Tracy's teammate, Dario Franchitti, also experienced a disappointing race. He started 11th, but in trying make up positions his car pushed up into the grey area of the track and hit the wall in Turn 4. Franchitti's DNF comes after finishing third in the season-opener at Homestead.

PAUL TRACY, #26 TEAM KOOL GREEN HONDA/REYNARD/FIRESTONE: (Started 10th / Finished 11th ; 17th in the PPG Cup standings with 2 points)

"Obviously, I'm disappointed with how the race turned out for us. Team KOOL Green took it on the chin pretty good today. We drove a really clean race and didn't get the result we deserved. The guys gave me great pit stops, but we could not make up positions on the track. We struggled down the staightaways. It was also pretty loose on cold tires when the pressure was low, especially on re-starts. We went straight to the back at the beginning of the race. The car started to come around, getting better and better.

"On the stop where the rubber came off the tire, I didn't even know that it had happened. Barry (team owner Barry Green) came on the radio and told me to come in. Our race was pretty much over when we had to make the tire change. We should have had more points, but we'll take two points from here and add to it at the next race in Long Beach. "

BARRY GREEN, TEAM KOOL GREEN Team Owner on Paul Tracy's race:

"Paul ran a real strong race and he never put a foot wrong all day. What made most me happy was seeing Paul and Tony Cicale working so well together on the radio. We also had excellent pit stops, but the ball just didn't bounce our way today. It was a taxing race on Paul, but he hung in there fighting all the way. We were very happy up until the second pit stop when we got caught in the pits when the yellow came out. That separated us from the lead pack. We were right there. The car was good, but we just had an unlucky yellow. That's what it's all about on these ovals. Sometimes you're lucky and sometimes you're not."

JOHN DICK, TEAM KOOL GREEN Race Engineer for Paul Tracy:

"We were warned by Firestone that the tires could lose their tread if we powered away from the pits on warm tires. However, we have never experienced a problem of this kind and took their warning as simply precautionary. I've never seen a Firestone tire lose its tread like it did with Paul (Tracy). We took a chance and it cost us. There's no question in my mind that we had to pit for fuel, but we should have went for fresh tires. I guess hindsight is 20-20."

DARIO FRANCHITTI, #27 TEAM KOOL GREEN HONDA/REYNARD/FIRESTONE: (Started 11th / Finished 22nd ; 6th in the PPG Cup standings with 14 points)

"At the start the car was very difficult to drive and very nervous in traffic. If I tried to get out of the turbulence I'd hit the bumps hard in Turn 1 and 2 and the car would oversteer. So you really couldn't win. Eventually the car settled down but we were struggling down the straights to pass anybody. On my first stop we had a problem with the clutch. I had my foot on the clutch and selected first gear, but the car just pulled away. I had my foot hard against the bulkhead. But the car felt pretty good on the second set of tires and we were making up some of the ground and trying to get my lap back. But I got stuck behind a couple of guys and could not pass them on the straights. I'd sneak up on them in the corners but I couldn't get by on the straights. I was starting to use the traffic to my advantage, but that's what caught me out. I tried to go too high into Turns 3 and 4, got up in the grey and hit the wall. It was a very bad day and a long way to come for no points. The good news is Team KOOL Green ran really strong at Long Beach last year (2nd) and we'll try to make up some of the gap to the leaders next week."

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