CHAMPCAR/CART: Chicago: Newman/Haas Saturday qualifying report

Havoline driver da Matta snd Lilly driver Fittipaldi recorded their best oval qualifying positions of the season with third and 11TH place respectively for the CART Grand Prix of Chicago 3rd: Cristiano da Matta 23.443 / 158.017 mph 11th:...

Havoline driver da Matta snd Lilly driver Fittipaldi recorded their best oval qualifying positions of the season with third and 11TH place respectively for the CART Grand Prix of Chicago

3rd: Cristiano da Matta 23.443 / 158.017 mph
11th: Christian Fittipaldi 23.785 / 155.745 mph

CRISTIANO DA MATTA, #6 Havoline Toyota-Lola-Bridgestone: "Of course I feel pretty happy about starting third even though I made a mistake and cost us a better starting position. I went in too deep in turn three and had too much push so I tried to overcorrect it by putting more power down and overcorrected. My lap time was one-tenth of a second faster until that point and I ended up being only two-hundredths of a second slower than pole. We are doing better than we did on the previous ovals so it shows how many improvements we have made. We started the season pretty bad on the ovals and picked up the pace in Milwaukee and are much better here. This is probably the closest (to being competitive) we have been on (short) ovals since I've been with the team. This is the best qualifying on ovals, by far, for us this season. More than being happy about the result, I'm happy with the progress we have made. We need to score some points on ovals again. I've only scored two of my points on ovals this season and we need to consistently score points no matter what type of track we are racing on. Of course a good performance in qualifying is very different than a good performance in the race so I am only going to be relaxed when I see that we have a good race setup tomorrow. The race is a different game but I'm sure the Havoline engineers are going to give me the best car for the race that they can."

· NOTES: Da Matta won three consecutive events in the series (Australia and Fontana in 2001 and Mexico in 2002) and became the first driver to accomplish the feat since Juan Montoya (1999) as well as five of the past eight. After leading 30 laps and building a strong lead in Long Beach, a pit accident derailed his bid for a CART record-tying fourth consecutive win. A win in Chicago would be his six in the past nine races. Will be his fourth Champ car race in Chicago and second with NHR. Da Matta won his first CART Champ car victory here in 2000 after beating his NHR predecessor, Michael Andretti by 1.6 seconds to take the win from his fifth place start. He qualified 9th in 1999 and finished 14th and qualified 20th in 2001 and finished 19th. He is currently leading the point standings with a total of 74 points.

CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI, #11 Lilly Toyota-Lola-Bridgestone: "We made some changes to the car since the morning warm-up and it was pushing a lot in turns three and four. We were a lot slower than we thought we would be and it's a shame but the race is completely different. It's tough to pass here so it would have been nice to qualify further up front but eleventh place is much better than we qualified here last year so Newman/Haas is much stronger on ovals after some hard work which is encouraging. The Lilly crew has been performing great pit stops this season and has been picking up a few spots for me in some of the races. That's why they are in the lead in the Craftsman Pit Stop contest. The team with the best stops in this race will automatically be in the 'shootout' at the end of the year whether they are in the top-four or not so it would be good to guarantee the Lilly crew a spot by good stops in this race as well as gaining a few positions on track."

· NOTES: Will be his fourth race here. Highest finish of second place this season came on the Laguna Seca road course and highest short oval finish of fourth place came in Milwaukee. He is currently in 8th place in the point standings, only 31 points back from leader and teammate Cristiano da Matta.

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW: The will be a 30-minute morning warm-up session following by the 250-lap CART Grand Prix of Chicago which will be televised on CBS Sports beginning at 3:30 ET.

-nhr-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Michael Andretti , Christian Fittipaldi , Cristiano da Matta
Teams ART Grand Prix