MICHAEL ANDRETTI, ...
MICHAEL ANDRETTI, # 6 Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford-Cosworth Lola
PRACTICE POSITION: 2nd overall
LAP TIME: 30.576 (235.479 mph)
Andretti was quickest in the morning practice session. He has won two 500-mile races in his career (1987 and 1989) and both came here at Michigan International Speedway. Although he has not competed in the Indy 500 since 1995, Andretti still holds the dubious honor of having led the most laps without a victory - a total of 356 laps.
"I hope everything keeps going good for us. So far so good. The car is really good. We have more to go to improve the car. The thing about 500-mile races is that they put everything to the task. From engines, to gearboxes and everything in between. Racing this close at these speeds is fun depending on the person you are racing. If you trust them and know they are going to give you enough room without chopping you, it can be fun. If I can finish the rest of the races, we should be in good shape for the Championship. I've said for a few weeks that the Michigan and Fontana races will be important. Who ever can finish them will be in good shape for the Championship. Going straight from street races to high-speed ovals and being competitive is what separates the champions from the others. Each team has to be able to adapt to the changes quickly and it feels great to come here and be happy with the car right off the truck."
CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI, #11 Big Kmart/Route 66 Ford-Cosworth Lola
PRACTICE POSITION: 6th overall
LAP TIME: 30.874 (233.206 mph)
Fittipaldi was second fastest in the morning practice session and sixth fastest for the day after being sidelined for 23 of 60 minutes in the afternoon session. In 500-mile races Fittipaldi's highlights include a second place in his first and only appearance in the 1995 Indy 500 where he was also named "Rookie of the Year." In his previous 500-mile race at the 1999 season-finale at the California speedway, Fittipaldi drove the fastest race lap and finished third in his fourth race back after suffering a subdural hemitoma when his transmission failed during an August 2nd testing accident at Gateway Intentional Raceway.
"I am very happy with the car so far. We ran well in the first practice session but had a leak in the water system so I had to switch cars in the afternoon session and lost time. The other car was set up differently so we had to work with it more but I have no doubt that we would have been faster at the end of the day. We are working more on getting the car good for the race than setting it up for qualifying since you can qualify mid-field and win. It was a pretty good day today for the Big Kmart team."
Big Kmart/Route 66 driver Christian Fittipaldi has been instrumental in the development of the Head and Neck Support (HANS) system since it was presented at the drivers meeting at the 1999 season-finale at the California Speedway. Both Fittipaldi and Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline driver Michael Andretti voluntarily wore the system during practice today. HANS creator, Dr. Robert Hubbard was on-site today. The Formula One series has mandated the use of the HANS beginning with the 2001 season. Fittipaldi voluntarily wore the system during practice at the Tenneco Automotive Detroit Grand Prix street race but due to the amount of head mobility needed on a street course, the system is undergoing further development. Sunday will mark the first time a driver has worn the system in a Champ or Indy car voluntarily during a race. Norberto Fontana raced in the Nazareth CART event with the device on Dr. Steve Olvey's orders while Steve Knapp raced in the Indy 500 on Dr. Terry Trammell's orders. Both had existing injuries.
The head and neck system is designed to complete driver head protection, covering the one aspect that is still exposed. It helps keep the head from flying away from your body. In a collision, HANS feeds the force of deceleration into the driver's torso, and ultimately into the driver's shoulder harness. It keeps the driver's head moving as a unit with the torso. It is going to be required for the Formula One series. Fittipaldi initially volunteered to help in the development of the device. Michael Andretti has also helped in the development.
The HANS device is a yoke that fits around the driver's neck and over his shoulders and is held in place by the seat belts. Straps secure the collar to the sides of the driver's helmet.