Michael Todd David Houston Report

GEARBOX PROBLEMS HAMPER OTHERWISE STRONG RACE FOR MICHAEL TODD DAVID AT HOUSTON HOUSTON, Texas (Oct. 6, 1998) - If ever a performance belied its final result, the Atlantic season finale for Michael Todd David and the PDR-Water Joe/Autodesk ...

GEARBOX PROBLEMS HAMPER OTHERWISE STRONG RACE FOR MICHAEL TODD DAVID AT HOUSTON

HOUSTON, Texas (Oct. 6, 1998) - If ever a performance belied its final result, the Atlantic season finale for Michael Todd David and the PDR-Water Joe/Autodesk Racing team fit the bill when the KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Championship concluded its 13-race season, Sunday, Oct. 4, at the Texaco Grand Prix of Houston.

David, who qualified 17th in the PDR Enterprises-prepared Ralt RT-41, finished 17th in a race that was marked by three key moments.

The race start posed its own obstacle when Case Montgomery and Masaoki Nagashima made nose-to-tail contact immediately after taking the green flag on a rolling start, but before either had crossed the start-finish line. An already wide-spread 24-car field scurried for open space with David counted among those who found it.

David took advantage of a clean re-start on lap two to pass a couple of cars, and then pass a few more during the ensuing laps to move into 12th place by lap seven.

"I don't know which start was worse," said David. "The first start had drivers behind me that were supposed to be in front, and drivers in front that somehow fell behind me. I saw the green flag fly when we were five wide, and then there was the yellow because of the contact with a couple of cars up ahead of me. The re-start was even more spread out. I doubt the majority of the cars were anywhere close to being where they should have been. I don't think anybody even knew where they were supposed to be. Nobody tried to split the traffic into columns or direct us as to what lanes to duck into. It was a mess."

Trouble resurfaced on lap 10 when David was forced to return to pit lane due with gearbox problems. A quick assessment by crew chief Scott Gelvin discovered that David's third gear was stuck. Meanwhile, Michael Conte slid into the turn one tire barrier to bring out a full course caution. This effectively placed David's pit stop under a yellow flag.

"Once the race started and most of us were able to avoid hitting each other, we ran until a yellow flag was called," said David. "That's when I had problems with the gearbox and had to pit. The crew had to take the wing and cover off to fix the problem. The third gear became stuck due to a broken 'detent' spring. I nearly exited pit lane in time to beat the pace car, but the chicane came into play and the pace car beat me. I had to fall in behind it and lose a lap."

David was in 22nd place when the green flag was re-issued on lap 16, but regained two positions by lap 18. He continued to find holes and pockets in the field and moved into 17th place by his 29th lap.

The race and season came to a close on lap 30 when torrential rains pummeled the 10-turn, 1.527-mile street circuit in a sudden downpour. Series officials decided to end the race short of its scheduled 45-laps due to safety concerns over slick track conditions.

"I had to return to pit lane anyway to make a few more adjustments, so beating the pace car wouldn't have really mattered," reflected David after the race. "I may have improved more positions but I'll never really know since the race was called early."

David finished 16th in the final Atlantic driver standings with 37 points.

ESPN2 will telecast round 13 of the 1998 KOOL/TOYOTA Atlantic Championship from Houston on Saturday, Oct. 10, from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. ET (1:30 p.m. - 2:30 p.m. PT).

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Series Atlantic
Drivers Masaoki Nagashima