DETROIT (August 6, 1999) - Paul Tracy of Team KOOL Green moved closer to his first pole position since 1997 after claiming the top provisional spot Friday for the Tenneco Automotive Grand Prix of Detroit on The Raceway at Belle...
DETROIT (August 6, 1999) - Paul Tracy of Team KOOL Green moved closer to his first pole position since 1997 after claiming the top provisional spot Friday for the Tenneco Automotive Grand Prix of Detroit on The Raceway at Belle Isle (4 p.m. ET Sunday, one-hour tape delay, ABC-TV). Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) recorded a lap of 113.716 miles per hour (1 minute, 14.269 seconds) on the 2.346-mile temporary street circuit for Sunday's 13th of 20 rounds in the FedEx Championship Series. Tracy will be chasing the 13th pole of his career and first since Milwaukee in 1997 when final qualifying begins 12:45 p.m. ET Saturday. Tracy enters the weekend having finished fifth or better in five of his last six starts, dating to his victory at Milwaukee in Round 7. The performance has vaulted him from 13th to sixth in the championship with 90 points, 39 behind series leader Juan Montoya (Target Honda Reynard) who leads with 129. Montoya qualified second on the provisional grid at 113.573 mph (1:14.363). He is chasing his season-best fifth pole of the season and sixth front-row start of the campaign. Michael Andretti (Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Swift) qualified third at 113.509 mph (1:14.405 seconds). He is seeking his fifth consecutive top four-start, which includes a pole position at Road America. The trio was followed by the last two polesitters at Belle Isle. Greg Moore (Player's Forsythe Racing Mercedes Reynard), the defending pole-sitter at Detroit, qualified fourth at 113.440 mph (1:14.450). He was followed by Gil de Ferran (Valvoline/Cummins Special Honda Reynard), the 1997 pole-sitter who was fifth at 113.086 mph (1:14.683). PAUL TRACY, KOOL Honda Reynard: "We went out this morning and the car was good. We ran heavy on fuel and one set of tires throughout the whole morning. This afternoon, we had to slide the car around a lot; the track was kind of dirty, so we'll have to improve the grip a lot tomorrow. We went for a time today because there's rain in the [weather] forecast tomorrow. So it's good to be on the provisional pole." JUAN MONTOYA, Target Honda Reynard: "Since we've arrived this morning, the car has been working pretty good, then we made some changes to make it better for qualifying. I'm pretty happy. [On racing here previously in the Barber Dodge Pro Series] The track has changed a bit since then. A couple of corners are different, and you're about 20 seconds a lap different, which is a pretty big difference." [On rookie Gonzalo Rodriguez, who makes his FedEx Championship Series debut this weekend and who was a rival of Montoya's in the Formula 3000 series] "He's a good driver. I guess he was 11th today, so good for him." MICHAEL ANDRETTI, Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Swift: "The morning session was pretty good. We never put on new tires and we were still in the top three. We went out with a new set of tires and were quick right away. Then we made a change and basically we went the wrong way and then the session ended, so we were disappointed with that. But I'm happy to be in the top three; this is a big race for us with Ford and Kmart being in their backyard."
Roger Penske, owner of Marlboro Team Penske, announced Friday that the team would field two cars in the FedEx Championship Series next year to be driven by Gil de Ferran and Greg Moore. De Ferran and Moore will replace veteran Al Unser Jr. and an assortment of other drivers who have competed in a second car for the team at selected events this season. "Al Unser Jr. and I have had a great relationship over the past six years, highlighted by 12 wins," Penske said. "Recently, our equipment combination has not been as competitive as planned. Earlier this year, Al and I discussed the team's contractual commitments with manufacturers and mutually agreed that he would evaluate other opportunities for the future. Next year, we are counting on both Gil and Greg to work with us to meet the challenge of close competition in CART racing. We are also reviewing all our equipment options for next season." De Ferran and Moore are currently seventh and eighth, respectively in the FedEx Championship Series, with 88 and 81 points, respectively. Both own victories this season, de Ferran at Portland and Moore at Homestead.
Adrian Fernandez (Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing Ford Reynard) sustained an injury to his right wrist during morning practice after making contact with the Turn 2 wall. According to Dr. Trevor Gillmore of the CART medical team. Fernandez was transferred to Detroit Receiving Hospital to have definitive x-rays. The incident kept Fernandez from competing in the final round of the International Race of Champions (IROC) at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Friday afternoon.
Mark Blundell (Motorola PacWest Mercedes), in his first FedEx Championship Series appearance since finishing 17th at Nazareth on May 2, qualified ninth on the provisional grid at 112.249 mph (1:15.240). He has missed the past eight events after sustaining a small fracture of the seventh cervical vertebra in a May 4 testing accident at Gateway International Raceway.
Roberto Moreno (Big Kmart Ford Swift) qualified 19th at 110.501 mph (1:16.430). He is filling in at Newman/Haas Racing for the injured Christian Fittipaldi, who sustained a subdural hematoma during a testing accident at Gateway International Raceway on Monday.
Naoki Hattori (Alpine Honda Reynard) qualified 24th at 107.737 mph (1:18.391). He is seeking his first start since the season opener at Homestead where he sustained a double compound fracture of the left leg during an opening lap accident with Al Unser Jr. (Marlboro Mercedes Lola).
Two drivers made their FedEx Championship Series season debuts and qualified 11th and 22nd , respectively. Gonzalo Rodriguez (Marlboro Mercedes Lola), in his inaugural start for Marlboro Team Penske, qualified 11th at 111.963 mph (1:15.432). Jan Magnussen (Visteon Ford Swift), making his first start for Patrick Racing, qualified 22nd at 109.490 mph (1:07.136).
Pole qualifying for the Tenneco Automotive Grand Prix of Detroit will air 6 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN2.