Houston GP Friday track notes

Good morning from beautiful downtown Houston, Texas for Round 12 of The CART Toyota Atlantics Championship. Today's track activities include a 30-minute practice session starting at 1:00 p.m., followed by the first qualifying session of the...

Good morning from beautiful downtown Houston, Texas for Round 12 of The CART Toyota Atlantics Championship. Today's track activities include a 30-minute practice session starting at 1:00 p.m., followed by the first qualifying session of the weekend starting at 4:45 p.m. The weather forecast for the weekend calls for clear skies and warm temperatures. Yokohama Tire engineers report a track temperature of 95 degrees at the start of the afternoon practice session with an ambient temperature of 88 degrees. The winds are calm.

The track in Houston is a temporary street course that measures 1.527 miles. The CART Toyota Atlantic Championship race will consist of 43-laps (65.661 miles)

Heading into Round 11 at Gateway International Raceway in St. Louis, the points chase was still wide open with Buddy Rice (#27 DSTP Motorsports) holding a slim lead over Daniel Wheldon (#3 PPI Motorsports/Jayhard/BG Products). While Case Montgomery (#14 World Speed Motorsports/ NW Speedwerx/Intercat/Walker Racing) ran off with the race lead, Rice battled in the top five side by side for most of the race. Rice finally ended up finishing in second place. Wheldon who spent the first half of the race in the top five faded in the latter stages of the race to finish seventh. Rice opened up enough lead in the points chase to clinch the championship heading into the final race this weekend at Houston.

Wheldon has almost locked down second place with an 18-pont lead over Martin Basso (#46 Michael Shank Racing/BBB Valve). Basso holds the same lead for third place over Andrew Bordin (#1 PPI Motorsports/MCI WorldCom/Team Players). Bordin who once led the points race early in the season now sits in fourth place only six points ahead of Rocky Moran Jr. (#29 P-1 Racing/NTN Bearing).

Buddy Rice holds the qualifying record set last year with a time of 1:07.968 seconds (80.879 mph). Andrew Bordin holds the race record (average speed) with a time of 57:000 minutes. Rice also holds the fastest race lap record with a time of 1:07.822 seconds (81.053 mph).

GREEN FLAG waves at 1:00 p.m. to start the 30-minute practice session.

At 1:10 p.m., 10 minutes into the session the fastest driver so is #1 BORDIN with a time of 1:08.965 seconds (79.710 mph), followed by #27 RICE at 1:09.109 seconds (79.544 seconds), and #48 GURNEY at 1:09.969 seconds (78.408 mph). 20 minutes remain in the session.

At 1:14 p.m. #17 CONTE brushes the wall in Turn 6 and continues on under power.

At 1:18 p.m. #2 JENSEN spins in Turn 9.

RED FLAG waves at 1:19 p.m. due to the stalled car of #2 JENSEN after the spin. CART safety workers arrive on the scene to assist #2 JENSON. #2 JENSEN gets the car restarted and pits the car.

At 1:20 p.m., 20 minutes into the session the fastest driver so far is still #1 BORDIN with a time of 1:08.039 seconds (80.795 mph), followed by #27 RICE at 1:08.596 seconds (80.139 mph), and #3 WHELDON at 1:08.646 seconds (80.080 mph). 10 minutes remain in the session.

GREEN FLAG waves at 1:21 p.m. to resume the session. Total Red Flag time 2:21 minutes.

BLACK FLAG waves at 1:21 p.m. to #17 CONTE for a pit road speed violation. #17 CONTE was clocked at 55 mph while the pit speed limit is 50 mph. #17 CONTE pits the car the following lap to answer the Black Flag with a drive through penalty.

BLACK FLAG waves at 1:23 p.m. to #27 RICE for a pit road speed violation. #27 RICE was clocked at 52 mph while the pit speed limit is 50 mph. #27 RICE pits the car the following lap to answer the Black Flag with a drive through penalty.

At 1:23 p.m. #2 JENSEN spins in Turn 6. #2 JENSEN attempts to pull the car off course in the runoff area in Turn 6.

RED FLAG waves at 1:25 p.m. due to the stalled car of #2 JENSEN. #2 JENSEN receives an 8-minute penalty for causing a stoppage of a practice session in the final ten minutes of the session. The penalty will be served during tomorrow's practice session.

GREEN FLAG waves at 1:26 p.m. to resume the practice session. Total Red Flag time is 1:33 minutes.

CHECKERED FLAG waves at 1:30 p.m. bringing an end to the 30-minute practice session. There were two Red Flag periods lasting 3:54 minutes both due to the stalled car of #2 JENSEN.

<pre> The top five drivers of the session are:

#1 Andrew Bordin 1:08.039 seconds (80.795 mph) Lap 9 of 14

#48 Alex Gurney 1:08.397 seconds (80.372 mph) Lap 20 of 20

#27 Buddy Rice 1:08.432 seconds (80.331 mph) Lap 17 of 18

#3 Daniel Wheldon 1:08.646 seconds (80.080 mph) Lap 9 of 14

#46 Martin Basso 1:08.790 seconds (79.913 mph) Lap 12 of 17

</pre>

William Langhorne (#23 Active Motorsports/Mircle Whip/findthe.com) - "The track conditions were good and they smoothed out certain parts of the track which should provide more opportunities for passing. So far the car feels pretty good and with some fine tuning you should expect to see us move up in the qualifying session late this afternoon".

Buddy Rice (#27 DSTP Atlantic Swift 008.a) - "Everything is good. We're really close on having the car where we want it. We'll make some minor adjustments and dial it in some more this afternoon. Qualifying should be good. The temperature will be cooler and the track should be fast."

Andrew Bordin (#1 PPI Motorpsorts/MCI WorldCom) - "The car is good. I think the track will change a lot this afternoon for qualifying. It should be interesting. I would be really proud to give PPI Motorsports and Cal (Wells) a one-two finish on our final weekend. My engineer Kyle Brannon has given me great cars. We're picking up where we left off here last year."

Dan Wheldon (#3 PPI Motorpsorts/Jayhard/BG Products) - "The car felt pretty good. I think it's basically a case of getting used to the track for me. I think we will be fine."

Alex Gurney (#48 All American Racers) - "I think the session went well. I was able to get a good lap at the very end. We're doing everything we can to win here, on our last race weekend for AAR. And things are looking good so far. We have a few things to work on. We'll try to get a clear lap with no traffic in qualifying."

(About the track) I like it a lot. I had a good time here last year. I feel comfortable on it. I think I know my way around."

Andy Lally (#14 World Speed Motorsports/Walker Racing) - "This is my first time in Houston and it's your basic street course. You have to watch out for potential disasters. I'm still learning the car after Road America. I got up to speed slowly this afternoon, and caught a draft and then kept a decent speed." (Jessica Jewel)

Akihiro Asai (#15 World Speed Motorsports/Pro Staff/Gaikokuya) - "The track is a little bumpy, but it was fine. There was no time to think about the next turn and then it was there. Every turn looks the same. We'll see what happens this afternoon." (Jessica Jewel)

At the start of the first qualifying session of the weekend, Yokohama Tire engineers report a track temperature of 95 degrees with an ambient temperature of 88 degrees. Andrew Bordin (#1 PPI Motorsports/MCI WorldCom) led this afternoon's practice with a time of 1:08.039 seconds (80.795 mph).

GREEN FLAG waves at 4:45 p.m. to start the 30-minute qualifying session.

At 4:54 p.m. #15 ASAI runs into the tire wall in Turn 4 making light contact with the front of the car. #15 ASAI backs up and continues on under power but the car sustains front wing and suspension damage. #15 ASAI pits the car and retires from the session.

At 4:55 p.m., 10 minutes into the session the fastest driver so far is #1 BORDIN with a time of 1:07.323 seconds (81.654 mph), followed by #19 RUTLEDGE at 1:07.743 seconds (81.148 mph), and #3 WHELDON at 1:07.966 seconds (80.882 mph). 20 minutes remain in the session. All three times beat the track record.

At 4:58 p.m. #23 LANGHORNE runs into the runoff area in Turn 9 and continues on under power.

At 5:01 p.m. #17 CONTE brushes the wall at the exit of Turn 4 and continues on under power.

At 5:02 p.m. #16 PERONA runs into the runoff area in Turn 1 and continues on under power.

At 5:02 p.m. #55 BELL runs into the runoff area in Turn 5 and continues on under power.

At 5:05 p.m., 20 minutes into the session the fastest driver so far is still #1 BORDIN with a time of 1:07.323 seconds (81.654 mph), followed by #27 RICE at 1:07.743 seconds (81.148 mph), and #46 BASSO at 1:07.433 seconds (81.521 mph). 10 minutes remain in the session.

At 5:06 p.m. #20 NAGASHIMA retires from the session due to a carry over penalty from causing a stoppage of a qualifying session in the final 10 minutes of the session at Laguna Seca.

At 5:06 p.m. #19 RUTLEDGE takes over the top spot with a time of 1:07.101 seconds (81.925 mph) on his 14th lap.

At 5:06 p.m. #19 RUTLEDGE brushes the wall in Turn 10 and continues on under power.

At 5:06 p.m. #14 LALLY brushes the wall in Turn 4 and continues on under power.

BLACK FLAG waves at 5:07 p.m. to #26 CUTLER for a carry over penalty from causing a stoppage of a qualifying session in the final 10 minutes of the session at Laguna Seca. #26 CUTLER pits the car to answer the Black Flag and retires from the session.

At 5:07 p.m. #27 RICE logs the fastest lap of the sesison with a time of 1:07.038 seconds (82.001 mph) on his 15th lap.

BLACK FLAG waves at 5:08 p.m. to #29 MORAN JR. for a pit exit violation. #29 MORAN JR. pits the car the following lap to answer the Black Flag with a drive through penalty.

RED FLAG waves at 5:10 p.m. due to #2 JENSEN losing a wheel in Turn 7. #2 JENSEN exits the car under his own power and is uninjured in the incident. #2 JENSEN retires from the session.

At 5:10 p.m. #16 PERONA runs into the runoff area in Turn 6 and continues on under power.

GREEN FLAG waves at 5:13 p.m. to resume the qualifying session. Total Red Flag time is 3:08 minutes.

CHECKERED FLAG waves at 5:15 p.m. bringing an end to the 30-minute qualifying session. There was one Red Flag period lasting 3:08 minutes due to the lost wheel involving #2 JENSEN.

<pre> The top five drivers of the session are:

#27 Buddy Rice 1:07.038 seconds (82.001 mph) Lap 15 of 19

#19 David Rutledge 1:07.101 seconds (81.924 mph) Lap 14 of 19

#46 Martin Basso 1:07.206 seconds (81.796 mph) Lap 18 of 21

#48 Alex Gurney 1:07.216 seconds (81.784 mph) Lap 20 of 22

#1 Andrew Bordin 1:07.323 seconds (81.654 mph) Lap 6 of 12

* All times under the current standing track record.

</pre> Post Qualifying Quotes:

1st Place - Buddy Rice

Buddy Rice (#27 DSTP Motorsports) - "After this morning's session, we made a lot of changes and went back to our basic street course set up. It definitely put us in the right direction. With a little bit of fine-tuning we should be able to find more speed. But, it's great to be on provisional pole with a new track record."

2nd Place - David Rutledge

David Rutledge (#19 Lynx Racing) - "We did some testing at a track here in Texas that we didn't think was very productive, but it turns out to be very relevant to this track. We've made progress every time we go out, and that's the key to a good weekend. We need to work on the setup just a bit more, but I think we have a really raceable car that can run at the front when it counts. The team has been working extremely hard, and it would be great to end the season with a good result."

3rd Place - Martin Basso

Martin Basso (#46 Michael Shank Racing/BBB Valve) - "It was a good run. We made a couple of changes between practice and qualifying. I'm really happy and very surprised, because there was a big difference---eight-tenths, I think---between us and the front guys in practice, and right now we're pretty close---just a little more than one-tenth. We just need to keep working for tomorrow."

4th Place - Alex Gurney

Alex Gurney (#48 All American Racers) - "It was pretty frustrating out there. I had a real hard time with traffic. I had very few clean laps. I kept running into people, but the car was running really well. I was hoping to get one more we went back out after the red flag, but I was the first one to get the checker. I just missed it. We're two tenths off, so I think we can get it tomorrow."

5th Place - Andrew Bordin

Andrew Bordin (#1 PPI Motorpsorts/MCI WorldCom) - "We were running very well. I definitely had a car for the pole. Unfortunately, we had to stop very early due to gearbox problems." (Katie Welch)

6th Place - Daniel Wheldon

21@!Dan Wheldon (#3 PPI Motorpsorts/Jayhard/BG Products) - "I lost second gear early in the session. I am very disappointed. We will try again tomorrow." (Katie Welch)

7th Place - T.J. Bell

T.J. Bell (#55 Michael Shank Racing/Bell Trans) - "I think I'm always better when I'm chasing someone, and I had Martin [Basso] in front of me on my fast lap and I just wanted to hang with him. It's kind of been that way all year; we just haven't been able to run with anyone in qualifying. But the car is good, and tomorrow it will be even better."

8th Place - Mike Conte

Mike Conte (#17 Lynx Racing/CHAMPS Karting) - "The team has given me a really good car this weekend, and I would have been even higher on the qualifying sheet if I hadn't gotten greedy on the last lap and carried just a bit too much speed into turn eight. By the timing on my dashboard, I had about a fifth or fourth place lap going, but I just slid the tail end a little bit, had to catch it, and there went two tenths of a second. This series is so competitive, particularly at the front end of the grid, that there isn't any such thing as a small mistake. We'll work on the car just a bit more overnight, but no major changes, and try to get that perfect lap tomorrow when it counts."

11th Place - Andy Lally

Andy Lally (#14 World Speed Motorsports/NW Speedwerx/Intercat/Walker Racing) - "I was coming on to the back straightaway and I hit the right rear wheel on the back wall. I broke the suspension component on the right rear, so I missed the last five minutes of the session." (Jessica Jewel)

16th Place - Akihiro Asai

Akihiro Asai (#15 World Speed Motorsports/Pro Staff/Gaikokuya/Walker Racing) - "I went too deep into Turn Four and went straight into the tire wall. I missed the last fifteen minutes of the session. The car felt great. I just went in too deep." (Jessica Jewel)

-CART Toyota Atlantic-

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About this article
Series Atlantic
Drivers Alex Gurney , Martin Basso , David Rutledge , T.J. Bell , Rocky Moran Jr. , Dan Wheldon , Andy Lally , Buddy Rice , Andrew Bordin , Akihiro Asai , Michael Shank
Teams Michael Shank Racing