ELKHART LAKE,. Wis. (July 9, 1999) - Michael Andretti of Newman/Haas Racing got a leg up on a successful defense of his Texaco/Havoline 200 pole position Friday when he earned the provisional pole for Sunday's 10th round of the ...
ELKHART LAKE,. Wis. (July 9, 1999) - Michael Andretti of Newman/Haas Racing got a leg up on a successful defense of his Texaco/Havoline 200 pole position Friday when he earned the provisional pole for Sunday's 10th round of the FedEx Championship Series at Road America. (2 p.m. ET, live, ABC-TV). Andretti (Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Swift), whose pole position at Road America last year was his first since 1995, recorded a top lap of 143.781 miles per hour (1 minute, 41.354 seconds) on the 4.048-mile permanent road course. He will be chasing his 32nd career pole position when final qualifying begins 1:45 p.m. ET Saturday. Andretti is a three-time winner at Road America (1990, '91, '96) and has scored PPG Cup points in nine of his 14 career starts at the venue. FedEx Championship Series points leader Juan Montoya (Target Honda Reynard) qualified a provisional second at 143.374 mph (1:41.642). Montoya, who holds a 112-87 points lead over Gil de Ferran (Valvoline/Cummins Special Honda Reynard), is seeking his eighth consecutive top-five start as well as his fifth pole of the season. Patrick Carpentier (Player's Forsythe Racing Ltd. Mercedes Reynard) was third at 143.054 mph (1:41.869). He posted his fastest lap just prior to a spin in Turn 1 which caused his car to flip five times before coming to rest in a gravel trap against a tire barrier. Carpentier was uninjured in the incident, but will have to abandon his qualifying time if he is forced to switch to a secondary car during final qualifying. Rookie Memo Gidley (Alpine Special Honda Reynard), in only his third start in the series, was an impressive fourth at 142.904 mph (1:41.976). He was followed by Greg Moore (Player's Forsythe Racing Ltd. Mercedes Reynard) at 142.848 mph (1:42.016). De Ferran was eighth at 142.531 mph (1:42.243).
MICHAEL ANDRETTI, Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Swift: "During the first run, the track was quite slippery, and a flat-spotted both my front tires. We put on the second set of tires and the track picked up quite a bit of grip. I think there's even more in the car for tomorrow, but I think everybody will tell you the same thing. I think the extra [20 miles added to the race distance] is going to make for better racing. You don't really want guys running 100 horsepower down just to make the race distance. [On pursuing series leader Juan Montoya] We've just got to keep finishing races. I think the team is capable of finishing on the podium at every race, and if we do that, I think we'll keep the pressure on him."
JUAN MONTOYA, Target Honda Reynard: "We had used tires on and put in a good time, and we had just put our second set on when Carpentier spun, so we didn't get to use the second set of tires, so I think we'll be good for [final qualifying] tomorrow. This track has some quick corners, downhill ... uphill ... you don't really see much of that in Europe. It's quite exciting to drive. In testing here, we weren't very quick, but today, we were quick, so we'll have to see what happens."
PATRICK CARPENTIER, Player's Forsythe Racing Ltd. Mercedes Reynard: "I'm not really sure what it [the situation with the damaged car] is. I think if we withdraw the car, we have to withdraw the [qualifying] time, so I think we might try to rebuild the car, but I don't know if we'll succeed at that. But I think the track will be tomorrow anyway. It usually is on the second day. The car was good today; the Player's Forsythe Racing team did a good job. The car was great on the first set of tires, then when I went into the corner the car went sideways at 200 miles per hour. When that happens, there isn't much you can do. The only thing I saw after that was gravel, sky, gravel, sky, gravel, sky ... about six times."
* PacWest driver Mark Blundell (Motorola PacWest Mercedes), who has been out since sustaining a burst fracture of the seventh cervical vertebra in a May 4 testing accident at Gateway International Raceway, will miss the next three rounds of FedEx Championship Series of competition. Blundell, who had hoped to return to the series this weekend after missing five events, is not scheduled to return until the Aug. 8 Tenneco Automotive Grand Prix of Detroit at the earliest. Blundell was examined Friday morning by CART Chief Orthopedic Consultant Dr. Terry Trammell, who advised him to delay his return. "Mark had an MRI in Indianapolis on Tuesday evening, and when I read it on Wednesday morning, it was apparent that his injury was more severe than we'd been told," Dr. Trammell said. "Although his injury is healing, I don't think that it is adequately healed for him to be racing at an acceptable level of risk. After talking with Mark, we both decided that it would be more prudent for him to sit out the next three races. He'll be only eleven and a half weeks post-injury at Michigan, and these things take about 12 weeks to heal." Blundell has been cleared to test drive under controlled conditions during this additional absence. "Mark can - and should - test," Dr. Trammell said. "He just needs to get some seat time to strengthen his neck muscles, and the safest way for him to do that is to get in a go-kart by himself." Roberto Moreno, who has posted five consecutive PPG Cup points-paying finishes in Blundell's absence, will continue to pilot the car through the July 25 U.S. 500 Presented by Toyota at Michigan Speedway.
* CART and Road America officials announced Friday that beginning with Sunday's Texaco/Havoline 200, the length of the annual FedEx Championship Series stop at Road America will increase from 50 to 55 laps, adding roughly 20 more miles to the event. "We feel it puts a better emphasis on full-out racing, as opposed to fuel management," said J. Kirk Russell, CART Vice President of Competition. "It reduces the temptation to base your race strategy on fuel management." Said Jim Haynes, Road America President: "Our goal at Road America has always been to give our fans the best racing possible. In recent years, with speeds of the cars going up, actually racing time naturally has decreased somewhat. What we're trying to do, by this move, is to give our fans more exciting CART racing for the price of their ticket."
Qualifying for the Texaco/Havoline 200 airs 7:30 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN2.