The Finale - Texaco Grand Prix of Houston, Houston, Texas FRIDAY MORNING PRACTICE SESSION: 8:30 a.m. Session begins under sunny and humid conditions. 8:34 a.m.
The Finale - Texaco Grand Prix of Houston, Houston, Texas
FRIDAY MORNING PRACTICE SESSION: 8:30 a.m. Session begins under sunny and humid conditions. 8:34 a.m. #3 David off course in run-off in turn 1 with engine problems 8:47 a.m. #41 Rondet spins and continues at turn 1. 8:52 a.m. #78 Rutledge taps wall driver's left. 8:59 a.m #43 Wood makes contact with wall and suffers broken right suspension. 9:00 a.m. CHECKERED FLAG ends session as #19 Memo Gidley posts the fastest time of the session at 1:10.214. Second quickest is #50 Kenny Wilden (1:10.221) and third fastest is #25 Anthony Lazzaro (1:10.369).
Driver Quotes Following Friday Morning Practice Session:
#19 Memo Gidley (Lynx Racing/Swift 008.a) "The car is working really well. It's the first time that it's doing exactly what I want it to do. So, in that case, the track feels really good. It's a technical track. It has a lot of 90-degree turns. You've got to use every inch of the track unlike other street courses where it pulls you back early. It's a fun track to drive."
#50 Kenny Wilden (Mike Shank Racing Services-TrizecHahn/New Court/Swift 008.a) "The track is pretty challenging. It was tough to get up to speed with all the dirt on the track the first time out, but we're really happy with the setup we have on the car right now. I can't see us making any major changes. We'll just let the track come to us."
#25 Anthony Lazzaro (PPI-MCI Racing/Swift 008.a) "The track is very busy and actually it's a lot smoother than I thought it was going to be. I know they paved a lot of sections, and with the manholes, we thought it was going to be pretty rough. It's smooth and it's fun. It's going to be a dogfight. Houston's a great city and it's great to be racing here. I hope the fans will enjoy it. My MCI team did a great job once again. The car ran without any problems. We didn't come in to change anything. We stayed out and ran and tried to get some clean laps."
#33 Lee Bentham (Player's Forsythe Racing Team-Player's/Indeck/Swift 008.a) "It's no surprise. The whole idea here is to carry speed through the 90-degree turns. It will be fun driving here but we'll have to rely heavily on mechanical performance." (Francois Cartier)
#66 Alex Tagliani (Player's Forsythe Racing Team-Player's/Indeck/Swift 008.a) "This track requires a lot of hand work, and it's going to be very difficult to pass. I think that we have to dive in and come out hard of these 90-degree turns. The turn at the end of the front straight is very bumpy and has to be taken carefully." (Francois Cartier)
#14 Mike Conte (World Speed Motorsports - Microsoft/Compaq/Swift 008.a) "The track here in Houston is fun to drive. This morning we were unofficial street sweepers for the first ever Grand Prix of Houston. During the session, I ran between the 8th and 12th spot while concentrating on learning the racing line to help the team prepare the correct set-up for this afternoon's first qualifying session. Overall, the car felt considerably better when it came off the transporter than it has during recent races. We are closer to the set-up that we are looking to achieve. There was a loss of grip on the track surface but hopefully after the Trans-AM and CART cars run the track surface will have more stick to it. The yellow flags during the last five to ten minutes of the session, limited the amount of clean laps and the opportunity to gain a rhythm for this track."
#41 Nicolas Rondet (World Speed Motorsports - HBC/CompUSA/Swift 008.a) "The gears were not right on my car from the beginning of the session. The handling of the car felt good, but we are going to make some significant changes for the first qualifying session this afternoon. The track is short with a relatively narrow racing line. Between the yellows at the end of the session and the overall race traffic, it was hard to turn a series of clean, fast laps. At one point during the middle of the session, I did run second fastest which was good considering the greasy track conditions which lowered the level of grip that was possible. The track is good in regards to the bumps and overall the course is a decent street course, but it is definitely a street course. I was quite cautious at the beginning of the session and whenever I was surrounded by traffic, because I wanted to run a clean practice session, which was achieved."
BENTHAM CROWNED '98 CHAMPION: Player's-Forsythe driver Lee Bentham, of Richmond Hill, Ont., clinched the 1998 Driver's Championship with his second-place finish at Laguna Seca on Sept. 12. Bentham's second-place finish, coupled with Andrew Bordin's seventh-place finish at round 12 at Laguna Seca gave Bentham a 22-point lead over Bordin with just the Houston race left on the schedule. Since the maximum number of points a driver can earn at one race is 22, and since Bentham holds the tie-breaker with Bordin, Bentham was crowned champion heading into the Houston finale. However, the rest of the top 10 positions are still up for grabs. Bentham leads with 149, followed by Bordin at 127 points, Memo Gidley at 123, Alex Tagliani at 113, Anthony Lazzaro at 112, Buddy Rice at 108, Matt Sielsky at 102, and Kenny Wilden at 92 points.
NEW TO TEXAS: The KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Championship, throughout its glorious 25-year history, has never raced in Texas. But two Atlantic drivers hail from the Lone Star state; Bob Ferstl and Scott Wood of Houston.
DRIVER CHANGES: Team owner Mike Shank will hop into the #22 Mike Shank Racing Swift 008.a, replacing John Rutherford IV, who occupied the seat for the first 12 races. Lynx Racing's Buddy Rice had an emergency appendectomy early Friday morning and most likely will not participate in this final racing weekend. Lynx Racing team manager Steve Cameron, a former Atlantic driver, instead will race the #65 Lynx Racing Swift 008.a.
KOOL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: The battle for the KOOL Rookie of the Year has boiled down to a two-way fight between Andrew Bordin (127 pts.) and Buddy Rice (108). To win the prestigious honor, Bordin has to finish 13th or better.
If Rice's appendectomy surgery prohibits Rice from participating Sunday as expected, Bordin will automatically win the KOOL Rookie of the Year award.