CHAMPCAR/CART: Chicago Saturday track notes

CICERO, Ill. -- Good Morning from cloudy Chicago for Qualifying Day at Chicago Motor Speedway! It is unseasonably cool this morning here in the Windy City, and that makes the track qualifying record that much more susceptible to being ...

CICERO, Ill. -- Good Morning from cloudy Chicago for Qualifying Day at Chicago Motor Speedway! It is unseasonably cool this morning here in the Windy City, and that makes the track qualifying record that much more susceptible to being surpassed in Saturday's rounds taking the Green Flag at 1:30 p.m. With four drivers already practicing over the official track record of 162.559 mph (22.788 seconds) set by MAX PAPIS last year, a new benchmark for qualifying will most likely exist by the end of the day's Champ Car action. CART's on-track activities kick off with a split-group practice session taking to the track at 9:45 a.m. Both groups will be on-track for 45 minutes.

CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI will not compete in Sunday's Target Grand Prix Presented by Energizer, but the Turn 2 Friday incident that put the Brazilian out of the race has helped prove an important safety advancement for the Champ Car community. Dr. Steve Olvey and Dr. Terry Trammell discussed the amount of damage to the Newman/Haas Ford/Lola after an extensive examination in the garage area. Dr. Olvey stated, "Based on the discussions I had with Dr. Trammell and the extensive damage to Christian's car, there is not much question that the HANS [Head and Neck System] kept his injury to a minimum as opposed to his injuries sustained in a similar accident at Gateway." FITTIPALDI was injured in a testing incident at Gateway in early August last year, sustaining a subdural hematoma and missing five races, which knocked the driver out of the 1999 points chase. Since that time, FITTIPALDI has been involved in the HANS development program. The HANS device was created by Dr. Robert Hubbard to restrict the movements of a drivers' head and neck in hard-contact incidents.

GREEN FLAG waves at 9:45 a.m. to start the Group One practice session. Firestone engineers report a track temperature of 89 degrees F. and an ambient temperature of 79 degrees F. at the start of the session.

At 9:52 a.m., #32 CARPENTIER logs the fourth-fastest lap of the weekend with a speed of 163.089 mph (22.714 seconds) on his fifth lap of the session. This is an increase of 1.951 mph over the Canadian drivers' best lap from Friday.

At 9:55 a.m., 10 minutes into the Group One session, the fastest driver is still #32 CARPENTIER with his earlier lap of 163.089 mph (22.714 seconds), and #27 FRANCHITTI (161.665 mph; 22.914 seconds) and #12 VASSER (161.510 mph; 22.936 seconds).

BLACK FLAG is shown at 10:03 a.m. to #2 DE FERRAN for a Pit Road speed violation incurred at Pit In. DE FERRAN subsequently pits the car to comply with the Black Flag drive thru penalty.

YELLOW FLAG waves at 10:04 a.m. after CART course observers report debris on the track. CART safety workers quickly dispatch to inspect the track.

At 10:05 a.m., 20 minutes into the Group One session and under the Yellow Flag, the fastest driver is still #32 CARPENTIER with a faster lap of 163.168 mph (22.703 seconds), followed now by #12 VASSER (162.374 mph; 22.814 seconds) and #2 DE FERRAN (161.715 mph; 22.907 seconds).

GREEN FLAG waves at 10:09 a.m. to resume the Group One session.

At 10:15 a.m., 30 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is still #32 CARPENTIER with his earlier lap of 163.168 mph (22.703 seconds), followed by #12 VASSER (162.374 mph; 22.814 seconds) and #18 BLUNDELL (162.367 mph, 22.815 seconds).

At 10:20 a.m., #12 VASSER takes the top spot of Group One and second-fastest of the weekend with a lap of 163.492 mph (22.658 seconds) on his 33rd lap.

At 10:25 a.m., #2 DE FERRAN logs the fastest lap of the weekend and leads Group One with a speed of 165.007 mph (22.450 seconds), followed by #32 CARPENTIER (164.486 mph; 22.521 seconds) and #12 VASSER (163.687 mph; 22.631 seconds).

CHECKERED FLAG waves at 10:30 a.m. to end the Group One session with the fastest driver again #12 VASSER (165.789 mph; 22.344 seconds), followed by #2 DE FERRAN (165.007 mph; 22.450 seconds) and #32 CARPENTIER (164.838 mph; 22.473 seconds). Group One drivers logged 556 incident-free laps during the session.

GREEN FLAG waves at 10:45 a.m. to start the Group Two session.

At 11:05 a.m., 20 minutes into the session, the fastest Group Two driver is #8 BRACK with a lap of 165.301 mph (22.410 seconds; second overall), followed by #55 KANAAN (165.014 mph; 22.449 seconds; third-fastest overall) and #20 MORENO (164.669 mph; 22.496 seconds; sixth overall).

BLACK FLAG is shown at 11:07 a.m. to #96 SERVIA after CART course observers report smoke trailing from the car at speed on course.

BLACK FLAG is shown at 11:08 a.m. to #8 BRACK for a Pit Road speed violation incurred at Pit In at 11:03 a.m. BRACK subsequently pits the car to comply with the Black Flag drive thru penalty.

At 11:12 a.m., #1 MONTOYA logs the fastest lap of the weekend with a speed of 165.931 mph (22.325 seconds) on his 27th circuit of the session.

BLACK FLAG is shown at 11:15 a.m. to #3 CASTRONEVES for a Pit Road speed violation at Pit Out. CASTRONEVES subsequently pits the car to comply with the Black Flag drive-thru penalty.

At 11:15 a.m., 30 minutes into the Group Two session, the fastest driver is now #1 MONTOYA with his earlier lap of 165.931 mph (22.325 seconds), followed by #8 BRACK (165.301 mph; 22.410 seconds; third overall) and #7 PAPIS (165.191 mph; 22.426 seconds; fourth overall).

At 11:25 a.m., 40 minutes into the Group Two session, the fastest driver is still #1 MONTOYA with an even-faster lap of 167.085 mph (22.171 seconds; first overall), followed by #3 CASTRONEVES (166.993 mph; 22.183 seconds) and #97 DA MATTA (166.221 mph; 22.286 seconds; third overall).

CHECKERED FLAG waves at 11:30 a.m. to end the Group Two session with MONTOYA logging an even faster lap of 167.918 mph (22.061 seconds), followed by #3 CASTRONEVES (166.993 mph; 22.183 seconds) and #97 DA MATTA (166.228 mph; 22.285 seconds). Group Two drivers logged 585 laps in the session.

The fastest Group One driver (VASSER) winds up fourth overall. Yesterday's fastest driver (BRACK) is sixth overall in this morning's session. The top 21 cars are separated by less than one second in lap times. FedEx Championship Series drivers introduced 25 cars to the track in Saturday morning's session, with a secondary car utilized by #55X KANAAN only. There are now five drivers practicing in excess of the track qualifying record. CART drivers logged 1,141 total incident-free laps.

At 1:15 p.m., the scheduled start of Qualifying for Sunday's Target Grand Prix Presented by Energizer is delayed to 1:45 p.m. after a lengthy delay in the Indy Lights qualifying session just before the Champ Cars'. The sun is now shining brightly and the temperatures are definitely increasing.

GREEN FLAG waves at 1:45 p.m. to start Qualifying. The drivers have up to the fifth time by the Start/Finish line to start the official timed lap. Firestone engineers report a track temperature of 102 degrees F. and an ambient temperature of 80 degrees F. at the start of the session. This is the hottest track temperature measured this weekend at the start of a session by one degree F.

#25 GARCIA's top speed: No Speed. GARCIA JR. pulls down Pit Road on his second warm-up lap without logging an official timed lap. The driver will take his place at the end of the line of unqualified cars.

#19 SALLES' top speed: 161.117 mph (22.992 seconds); second lap. Obviously, SALLES is on the Pole. This is also 2.450 mph faster than his best practice lap of the weekend.

#34 MARQUES' top speed: 158.687 mph (23.344 seconds); first lap. MARQUES pulls onto Pit Road after one timed lap. Currently second on the grid.

#10 GIDLEY's top speed: 161.468 mph (22.942 seconds); second lap. Currently on the Pole.

#5 NAKANO's top speed: 159.955 mph (23.159 seconds); first lap. Currently third on the grid.

#16 JOURDAIN JR.'s top speed: 162.282 mph (22.827 seconds); first lap. Currently on the Pole.

#6 ANDRETTI's top speed: 163.477 mph (22.660 seconds); first lap. Currently on the Pole. ANDRETTI has just set a new track qualifying record.

#40 FERNANDEZ's top speed: 162.005 mph (22.866 seconds); first lap. Currently third on the grid.

#27 FRANCHITTI's top speed: 164.874 mph (22.468 seconds); second lap. Currently on the Pole with the new track record.

#18 BLUNDELL's top speed: 163.060 mph (22.718 seconds); second lap. Currently third on the grid.

#26 TRACY's top speed: 165.419 mph (22.394 seconds); first lap. Currently on the Pole with a new track record.

#96 SERVIA's top speed: 164.093 mph (22.575 seconds); first lap. Currently third on the grid.

#20 MORENO's top speed: 164.100 mph (22.574 seconds); second lap. Currently third on the grid.

#32 CARPENTIER's top speed: 164.779 mph (22.481 seconds); first lap. Currently third on the grid.

#33 TAGLIANI's top speed: 165.309 mph (22.409 seconds); second lap. Currently second on the grid.

#2 DE FERRAN's top speed: 165.102 mph (22.437 seconds); second lap. Currently third on the grid.

#55 KANAAN's top speed: 167.340 mph (22.137 seconds); second lap. Currently on the Pole with a new track record.

#17 GUGELMIN's top speed: 163.290 mph (22.686 seconds); first lap. Currently 10th on the grid.

#8 BRACK's top speed: 166.602 mph (22.235 seconds); second lap. Currently second on the grid.

#7 PAPIS' top speed: 165.641 mph (22.364 seconds); first lap. Currently third on the grid.

#12 VASSER's top speed: 165.205 mph (22.423 seconds); second lap. Currently sixth on the grid.

#97 DA MATTA's top speed: 166.266 mph (22.280 seconds); second lap. Currently third on the grid.

#3 CASTRONEVES' top speed: 167.370 mph (22.133 seconds); second lap. Currently on the Pole with a new track record.

#1 MONTOYA's top speed: 167.567 mph (22.107 seconds); first lap. Currently on the Pole with a new track record. MONTOYA pulls off course after his first timed lap, evidently satisfied with his track record lap.

#25 GARCIA's top speed: No speed. GARCIA pulls down Pit Road on his third warm-up lap and again does not take the Green Flag. CART qualifying rules state that only two attempts can be made so GARCIA JR.'s qualifying attempt is over.

JUAN MONTOYA wins the Pole for Sunday's Target Grand Prix Presented by Energizer by virtue of his 167.567 mph (22.107 second) lap in his Target Chip Ganassi Toyota/Lola! MONTOYA has a series-high five Poles and the 12th of his career. MONTOYA has qualified on the front row in seven of the 12 events so far this season.

HELIO CASTRONEVES sits second on the grid with his 167.370 mph (22.133)-second lap in his Marlboro Team Penske Honda/Reynard. This is CASTRONEVES' fifth top-three start in the last eight events and his season-best start on an oval. CASTRONEVES previously started third at Nazareth.

TONY KANAAN takes a third-place start Sunday with his 167.430 mph (22.137)-second lap in his Hollywood/Mo Nunn Mercedes/Reynard. This is KANAAN's season-best start, his previous best start being an eighth at Nazareth.

The competitive nature of Sunday's race is evident by the fact that the first 21 cars of the total field of 24 have qualifying laps within one second of the Pole speed set by MONTOYA. In addition, 17 of the field of 24 broke the previous track Qualifying record.

SALLES showed the largest gain in Qualifying speed compared to Practice speed by posting a gain of 2.450 mph, followed by KANAAN (+2.416 mph) and FRANCHITTI (+1.807 mph). GUGELMIN fell off the most with a drop of 1.761 mph, followed by NAKANO (-1.190 mph) and FERNANDEZ (-1.062 mph).

The four engine manufacturers of the FedEx Championship Series are represented in the first four spots on Sunday's grid with Toyota starting first, Honda second, Mercedes third and Ford fourth. This also represents Mercedes' best start on an oval in the 2000 season.

Quotes from the top three qualifiers follow:

JUAN MONTOYA: "We need to get some points to win this championship. We were very unlucky at the beginning of the year with some failures, but we knew it was going to be that way with the new engine and chassis. Now, we've got those sorted out and we know we need to score as many points as possible. We made a lot of changes from yesterday to today because yesterday was a bit of a struggle. We picked up a lot of grip, and that really helps. Traffic is going to be difficult, but I think you're going to see some overtaking here."

HELIO CASTRONEVES: "We did a long run this morning, because yesterday we weren't very happy with the car. Today we focused more on the race setup, and it was good. Toward the end, we focused more on the qualifying setup and it was good. I said, 'Don't change the car, it's very good.' I'm very happy. We still have tomorrow to go, but I'm very happy with the team. I think it gives us something to build on."

TONY KANAAN: "This morning, we ran the primary car for five laps, then we ran most of the practice with the 'T' car. I felt pretty confident when we did a 22.7 [second lap] in the 'T' car. We took the most we could out of the car, I think it's the best car we've ever had on an oval. When I saw a 22.4, which was my first lap, and I knew I had a good car, I just went for it. About my arm, you can see improvement day by day. The biggest problem right now is the swelling in my hand. It bugs me a bit, but it doesn't make any difference in my driving."

-CART-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Chip Ganassi