CASTRO-NEVES TAKES TOP SPOT DURING PRACTICE FOR TARGET GRAND PRIX PRESENTED BY SHELL CICERO, Ill. (August 20, 1999) - Helio Castro-Neves of Hogan Racing was the fastest of four FedEx Championship Series drivers who became the first to top the...
CASTRO-NEVES TAKES TOP SPOT DURING PRACTICE FOR TARGET GRAND PRIX PRESENTED BY SHELL
CICERO, Ill. (August 20, 1999) - Helio Castro-Neves of Hogan Racing was the fastest of four FedEx Championship Series drivers who became the first to top the 160 mile-per-hour mark at the new Chicago Motor Speedway on Friday during the second day of practice for the inaugural Target Grand Prix Presented by Shell (4 p.m. ET Sunday, one-hour tape delay, ABC-TV).
Castro-Neves (Hogan Motor Leasing, Inc. Mercedes Lola), who won his first career pole position on the 1.032-mile oval at Milwaukee earlier this season, recorded a lap of 161.285 miles per hour (22.968 seconds) on the new 1.029-mile oval located in suburban Chicago. He topped 27 FedEx Championship Series drivers who posted practice speeds in preparation for Sunday's 15th round of the championship. Qualifying begins 2:15 p.m. ET Saturday.
Max Papis (Miller Lite Ford Reynard) was second fastest at 161.229 mph (22.976 seconds). He is seeking a season-best start, which is currently third at Japan. Papis was followed by Roberto Moreno (Big Kmart Ford Swift), who was third at 160.977 miles per hour (23.012 seconds).
Nineteen of the 27 drivers in the field posted practice times faster than the 156.734 mph (23.635 seconds) recorded by Patrick Carpentier (Player's Forsythe Racing Team Ltd. Mercedes Reynard) Thursday afternoon. Carpentier was sixth fastest Friday, at 159.858 mph (23.173 seconds).
Rounding out the top five were Mark Blundell (Motorola PacWest Mercedes) at 160.156 mph (23.130 seconds) and Cristiano da Matta (MCI WorldCom Toyota Reynard) at 159.900 mph (23.167 seconds).
FedEx Championship Series leader Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard) was 12th fastest at 158.552 mph (23.364 seconds). He leads rookie Juan Montoya (Target Honda Reynard) by just one point in the championship entering the weekend. Montoya was 15th fastest at 157.815 mph (23.473 seconds).
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING
HELIO CASTRO-NEVES, Hogan Motor Leasing, Inc. Mercedes Lola: "The setup here is similar to Milwaukee [where Castro-Neves won his first career pole earlier this season], but the track is not similar. There are two turns here that make you slow down more than you do at Milwaukee. I'm very happy with the car. I think everyone is going to improve tomorrow. Each track you go to, you expect something different, and tomorrow, I think is going to be much quicker for everyone. I hope to be one of those guys."
MAX PAPIS, Miller Lite Ford Reynard: "I think that the most important thing is coming here with the right concept and we have the right concept. We've been working for the past two days on the race pace. Qualifying is for personal goals, the most important thing is to have a good car for the race. I think it's the nature of the championship that we have so many different winners because the cars are pretty close and the competition is pretty close. It takes a combination of things, including a little luck. The competition is very high, the important thing is building the consistency in the team to be able to perform when it counts."
ROBERTO MORENO, Big Kmart Ford Swift: "It's taking longer than I expected to get rubber in [on the track]. I think that's because it hasn't been too warm here yet. Once we get rubber down, the times will improve. Braking here is going to be more or less the same for everybody. The unfortunate thing is that you have to go from about 180 to 130 miles per hour in the corners. You have to be extremely smooth here. The guys who late brake are going to have problems. You've got to be extremely delicate with the steering wheel. The biggest handicap when I go home is having missed preseason testing and having to catch up at the racetrack. The guys at Newman/Haas have welcomed me. I've worked with them in the past, so that has helped me."
* Helio Castro-Neves (Hogan Motor Leasing, Inc. Mercedes Lola) is seeking his sixth top-four start of the season. Four of the previous five have come on ovals, including fourth at Homestead, second at Nazareth, third at Gateway, and a pole at Milwaukee.
* Max Papis (Miller Lite Ford Reynard) owns six top-five finishes this season, but only two top-five starts. He qualified a career-best third at Japan in Round 2 and fourth a week later at Long Beach.
* Roberto Moreno (Big Kmart Ford Swift) will be seeking to match or better a career-best start of second established at Brazil in 1997. His best start this season is fifth at Cleveland and Detroit.
* Though Honda-powered drivers have won four consecutive poles this season, the fastest Honda driver Friday was Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard), who was ninth quickest at 159.069 mph (23.288 seconds). Among those ahead of him were Mercedes drivers Castro-Neves; Mark Blundell (Motorola PacWest Mercedes), fourth fastest at 160.156 mph (23.130 seconds); Patrick Carpentier (Player's Forsythe Racing Ltd. Mercedes Reynard), sixth fastest at 159.858 mph (23.173 seconds) and Greg Moore (Player's Forsythe Racing Ltd. Mercedes Reynard), eighth fastest at 159.315 mph (23.252 seconds). Ford drivers Papis and Moreno were joined in front of Tracy by Toyota rookie driver Cristiano da Matta (MCI WorldCom Toyota Reynard), who had both the fifth and seventh fastest speeds at 159.900 mph (23.167 seconds) and 159.652 mph (23.203 seconds) in his primary and secondary cars, respectively.
WHAT'S ON TAP
Qualifying for the Target Grand Prix Presented by Shell will air 6 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN2.