CHAMPCAR/CART: Fontana Friday Track Report

The Marlboro 500 Presented by Toyota FedEx Championship Series Track Notes - Friday Fontana, CA (October 30, 1998) - Good morning and welcome to the opening day of practice for Sunday's Round 19 of the FedEx Championship Series, the...

The Marlboro 500 Presented by Toyota FedEx Championship Series Track Notes - Friday

Fontana, CA (October 30, 1998) -

Good morning and welcome to the opening day of practice for Sunday's Round 19 of the FedEx Championship Series, the Marlboro 500 Presented by Toyota. Today's CART on-track activities begin with a 45-minute Rookie Orientation practice session beginning at 10:10 a.m. The entire field of FedEx Championship Series drivers will take to the track at 11 a.m. for a 90-minute practice session. The entire CART field will again be out for the afternoon practice session, taking the Green Flag at 3 p.m. for one hour of on-track time.

Early arrivals to the track this morning were greeted with a stunning scene of a snow-dusted Mt. Baldy over-looking the sun-soaked San Bernardino valley under partly-cloudy skies. Crisp temperatures mediate the sun at 10 a.m. with a high expected in the 80 degree range by mid-day. The weekend forecast is the same, beautiful racing weather here in Southern California! A sell-out crowd will be extremely thankful not to experience last year's 106-degree ambient readings during the race.

This weekend's racing at the 2-mile California Speedway will feature the return of the Handford Device, the CART-approved mechanism that is designed to drop the speeds of the FedEx Championship Series cars on super speedways by 6 to 8 mph. The Handford device produced that exact speed-drop yield in this year's U.S. 500 at Michigan Speedway, the only other track that the device is mandated. The bonus at Michigan for the fans was that the Handford device produced a large draft, more reminiscent of stock cars. This effect pulled the field together in lap times and produced the most exciting and closest race in CART history. This weekend's Marlboro 500 should be a mirror image of the competition exhibited in the Irish Hills of Michigan.

Qualifying for Sunday's Marlboro 500 will take the Green Flag at 12 p.m. of Saturday. The Champ Car drivers will be taking a crack at the World and California Speedway closed-track lap record of 240.942 mph (30.316 seconds) set in 1997 qualifying by PacWest/Hollywood driver MAURICIO GUGELMIN. It must be noted the GUGELMIN's record was logged before the creation of the Handford device, and in all reality, GUGELMIN's speed probably helped provide the impetus that resulted in the birth of the Handford device! In any case, the qualifying couldn't get much closer than last years' attempts as there were 16 cars within one second of GUGELMIN's record-lap on the starting grid.

An explanation of this weekend's trap speeds is in order. Last year's top trap speed of the Marlboro 500 was logged by JIMMY VASSER, hitting the end-of-backstretch Intermediate Trap #2 at an astonishing speed of 242.653 mph on the 159th lap of the race. Last year's trap speeds were derived from a timed-measurement of speed through the last half of the back stretch. This year's Intermediate Trap is now relegated to the last 120 feet of the backstretch, which is the fastest area of the track. Thus, the trap speeds at Intermediate #2 may not drop as much in the official Omega Timing reports as one might expect due to the slowing effects of the Handford device.

CART Vice President J. Kirk Russell and Chief Steward Wally Dallenbach have announced the official track lap distance to be 2.029 miles as measured by Omega Timing, the official timers of the FedEx Championship Series. The race distance has also been announced at 250 laps with a fuel allotment of 278.6 U.S. gallons based on an average usage by the Champ Cars of 1.85 miles per gallon.

GREEN FLAG waves at 10:10 a.m. to start the CART Rookie practice session. #98 SOSPIRI is the only driver to take to the track during this 45-minute session. After five laps, SOSPIRI has his primary car Black-Flagged due to smoke showing at the right rear tire with his top speed at 206.959 mph (35.294 seconds). Dan Gurney's All American Racer crew readies the secondary car and SOSPIRI continues for seven more laps, getting the car up to 203.715 mph (35.856 seconds). The CHECKERED FLAG waves at 10:55 p.m. to end the CART Rookie practice session.

GREEN FLAG waves at 11 a.m. to start the first full-field practice session of the weekend. Firestone engineers report a track temperature of 87 degrees F. and an ambient temperature of 68 degrees F. at the start of the session.

At 11:10 a.m., ten minutes into the morning practice session, the fastest driver is #27 FRANCHITTI with a lap of 228.641 mph (31.947 seconds), followed by teammate #26 TRACY (227.212 mph; 32.148 seconds) and #17 GUGELMIN (226.297 mph; 32.278 seconds).

YELLOW FLAG waves at 11:15 a.m. for a track inspection after the Panasonic crew of #24 GORDON report fluid at the bottom of their car upon examination in the pits. CART safety workers immediately take to the track to mop up excess fluid from the surface.

GREEN FLAG waves at 11:20 a.m. to resume the practice session. The fastest driver at this point of the session is #1 ZANARDI with a lap of 231.013 mph (31.619 seconds), followed by #26 TRACY (230.663 mph; 31.667 seconds) and #2 UNSER JR. (229.532 mph; 31.823 seconds).

YELLOW FLAG waves at 11:25 a.m. for another track inspection after #24 GORDON dramatically slows on course and heads to his pit area.

At 11:30 a.m., 30 minutes into the session and under a Yellow Flag, the fastest driver is still #1 ZANARDI with his earlier lap of 213.013 mph (31.619 seconds), followed by #27 FRANCHITTI (230.984 mph; 31.623 seconds) and #6X ANDRETTI (230.787 mph; 31.650).

GREEN FLAG waves at 11:33 a.m. to resume the morning practice session.

At 11:40 a.m., 40 minutes into the practice session, the fastest driver is now #18 BLUNDELL with a lap of 232.558 mph (31.409 seconds), followed by #12 VASSER (232.491 mph; 31.418 seconds) and #17 GUGELMIN (232.107 mph; 31.407 seconds). There are 21 cars on the track that are within one second of the fast lap of BLUNDELL at this point of the session.

At 11:47 a.m., #27 FRANCHITTI logs the fastest lap of the weekend with a speed of 233.263 mph (31.314 seconds).

At 11:50 a.m., 50 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is still #27 FRANCHITTI with his earlier lap of 233.263 mph (31.314 seconds), followed by #18 BLUNDELL (232.558 mph; 31.409 seconds) and #12 VASSER (232.491 mph; 31.418 seconds).

At 12 p.m., one hour into the morning session, the fastest driver is now #40 FERNANDEZ with a lap of 233.293 mph (31.310 seconds), followed by #27 FRANCHITTI (233.263 mph; 31.314 seconds) and #99 MOORE (233.181 mph; 31.325 seconds).

YELLOW FLAG waves at 12:07 p.m. after #21 KANAAN spins across the start/finish line backwards and comes to rest about 150 years past the line. The car trails fluid from the top of the tri-oval banking down to where KANAAN finally comes to rest.

At 12:10 p.m., 70 minutes into the session, the fastest drivers and speeds remain unchanged from the 12 p.m. report.

GREEN FLAG waves at 12:16 p.m. to resume the morning practice session.

At 12:18 p.m., #12 VASSER logs the fastest lap of the weekend with a speed of 233.315 mph (31.307 seconds).

At 12:19 p.m., #40 FERNANDEZ counters with a lap of 234.989 mph (31.084 seconds) to take over the top spot of the speed board.

At 12:20 p.m., 80 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is still #40 FERNANDEZ with his earlier lap of 234.989 mph (31.084 seconds), followed by #12 VASSER (234.461 mph; 31.154 seconds) and #26 TRACY (234.003 mph; 31.215 seconds).

At 12:26 p.m., #40 FERNANDEZ ups his top speed to 236.564 mph (30.877 seconds).

CHECKERED FLAG waves at 12:30 p.m. to end the first practice session of the weekend with #40 FERNANDEZ the fastest driver with his earlier lap of 236.564 mph (30.877 seconds), followed by #99 MOORE (234.951 mph; 31.089 seconds) and #12 VASSER (234.461 mph; 31.154 seconds). There are 20 cars within one second of the top speed logged by FERNANDEZ in this morning's session. FedEx Championship Series drivers introduced 41 different cars to the track in this morning's session, with secondary cars utilized by #6X ANDRETTI, #11X FITTIPALDI, #10X HEARN, #9X LEHTO, #21X KANAAN, #7X RAHAL, #3X RIBEIRO, #77X MEIER, #5X DE FERRAN, #25X PAPIS, #24X GORDON. #36X BARRON, #98X SOSPIRI, and #8X HERTA. CART drivers logged a total of 1117 laps during the first session of the weekend with only one minor incident taking place (KANAAN).

At 2:30 p.m., 30 minutes before the final practice session of the day for the FedEx Championship Series drivers, a thicker cloud cover has moved in from the east coupled with a 15-20 mph wind that has picked up from the west lowering the track and ambient temperatures.

GREEN FLAG waves at 3 p.m. to start the afternoon one-hour practice session.

At 3:10 p.m., 10 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is #99 MOORE with a lap of 234.476 mph (31.152 seconds), followed by #17 GUGELMIN (233.546 mph; 31.276 seconds) and #12 VASSER (232.758 mph; 31.386 seconds).

YELLOW FLAG waves at 3:18 p.m. after #7 RAHAL loses power coming to the stripe. Smoke and fire pour from the rear of the car as RAHAL dramatically slows and pulls to the bottom on the track exiting Turn 2. CART safety workers quickly get the car towed back to the garage area as Rahal's Miller Lite crew prepares the secondary car for use in the remainder of the session.

At 3:20 p.m., 20 minutes into the session and under the Yellow Flag, the fastest driver is still #99 MOORE with his earlier lap of 234.476 mph (31.152 seconds), followed by #12 VASSER (234.273 mph; 31.179 seconds) and #26 TRACY (234.198 mph; 31.189 seconds).

GREEN FLAG waves at 3:29 p.m. to resume the afternoon practice session.

At 3:30 p.m., 30 minutes into the afternoon session, the fastest driver is now #17 GUGELMIN with a lap of 234.657 mph (31.128 seconds), followed by #99 MOORE (234.476 mph; 31.152 seconds) and #12 VASSER (234.273 mph; 31.179 seconds).

At 3:35 p.m., #6 ANDRETTI clocks the fastest lap of the session (third-fastest overall on the day) with a speed of 234.762 mph (31.114 seconds) on his fourth lap of the session.

At 3:40 p.m., 40 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is still #6 ANDRETTI with an even faster lap of 235.428 mph (31.026 seconds; second-fastest overall on the day), followed by #17 GUGELMIN (234.830 mph; 31.105 seconds) and #99 MOORE (234.476 mph; 31.152 seconds).

YELLOW FLAG waves at 3:44 p.m. after #16 CASTRO-NEVES spins at the entrance to pit road. CART safety workers quickly get the car back to his the area.

GREEN FLAG waves at 3:46 p.m. to resume the afternoon practice session.

At 3:50 p.m., 50 minutes into the session, the fastest drivers and speeds remain unchanged from the 3:40 p.m. report.

YELLOW FLAG waves at 3:58 p.m. after #17 GUGELMIN loses power coming off Turn 4 and coasts to a stop on the apron just past the start finish line. CART safety workers quickly chase the car down and tow it into the pits.

CHECKERED FLAG waves at 3:59 p.m. as CART Race Control determines that the cleanup effort required by the GUGELMIN incident will require more time than remains in the session. The fastest driver of the session is still #6 ANDRETTI with his earlier lap of 235.428 mph (31.026 seconds), followed by #17 GUGELMIN (234.830 mph; 31.105) and #99 MOORE (234.476 mph; 31.152 seconds). There are 25 cars within one second of the fast lap of ANDRETTI at the end of the session. FedEx Championship Series drivers introduced 36 cars to the track in this afternoon's session with secondary cars utilized by #9X LEHTO, #7X RAHAL, #11X FITTIPALDI, #2X UNSER JR., #21X KANAAN, #20X PRUETT, #40X FERNANDEZ, #24X GORDON, #98X SOSPIRI, #77X MEIER, and #6X ANDRETTI.

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ remains the fastest driver of the day with his speed of 236.654 mph (30.877 seconds) set in the morning session, followed by #6 ANDRETTI (235.428 mph; 31.026 seconds in the afternoon session) and #99 MOORE (234.951 mph; 31.089 seconds in the morning session.) FERNANDEZ is chasing a superspeedway sweep of pole positions if he can remain on top of the speed board after tomorrow's qualifying session. ANDRETTI is attempting to land his second front-row start of the season, his first of 1998 being at Road America. If MOORE can at least maintain his position, he will have his seventh top-three start of the season.

Driver quotes from today's fastest three drivers follow.

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ, Tecate/Quaker State/Labatt Reynard Ford: "We started on the same basis we had at Michigan and the car responded really, really well. Even when you want to run on your own, you can't. There's always traffic and there are always people ahead of you. But the car felt pretty comfortable. With this new wing, you have to be a little bit more careful. You just have to play the race by ear and try to get to the end. It's gonna be a very exciting race, just like the last one."

MICHAEL ANDRETTI, Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Swift Ford: "I really believe that if we didn't have [the Handford Device] on, we'd be going 245 [miles per hour], maybe even more. Are we going to have the same type of racing we had at Michigan? Probably not, but I still think you're going to see a lot of passing, like at Michigan, and a very exciting race. At Michigan, the driving was the best I've ever seen in any type of racing, ever, and it's going to take the same thing here. We tested here right before we left for Australia and we made a huge gain in tires. I think the race is where you'll see it. I'm very happy with what Goodyear has brought for this weekend. I think we have a better tire than Firestone. I really do."

GREG MOORE, Player's/Indeck Reynard Mercedes: "We didn't test here at all. Last year, we came here with the same setup we ran at Michigan and this year we were able to do the same thing. I had heard the track was a little bumpier in [Turns] One and Two, so we had to change the setup a little bit to allow for that. The car responded well. This afternoon, we just went out and tried to run some tires in for the race. The biggest worry that I've got is working your way through traffic because we're running so close together. At Michigan, we had to make changes on the car as the tires kept changing. The person who wins this race will be the driver who adapts his car and his driving to the changing conditions."

MOORE on the span between superspeedway events (July to November): "I like the way the series is set up now with road course and street events between Michigan (the U.S. 500 on July 27) and here. We have the small ovals, the Michigan race and then the road and street courses and it measures a true champion that way. If we raced here a week or two after Michigan, everybody would probably stay up at Michigan and test and get a lot of track time. I'd rather have it this way. It is much better this way to end the season with a superspeedway event because this is our Super Bowl with $1 million going to the winner. I just think that is a great way to end our season."

The Arciero-Wells Championship auto Racing Team announced today it has signed CRISTIANO DA MATTA to drive for the MCI WorldCom Racing Team in the 1999 FedEx Championship season. DA MATTA, who ran away with the 1998 PPG-Dayton Indy Lights Championship, will driver the number 25 MCI WorldCom-sponsored Toyota-powered Champ Car. He teams with nine-year veteran SCOTT PRUETT, who signed with Arciero-Wells in August to pilot the number 24 Pioneer Electronics-sponsored Toyota-powered entry.

"Da Matta is already known as a winning driver in the PPG-Dayton Indy Lights Championship," said Cal Wells III, co-owner of the Arciero-Wells team. "He brings talent and youthful exuberance to our partnership with Toyota and MCI WorldCom. After testing him, it is clear that the chemistry between Cristiano, the engineers and the mechanics is a good fit. We are looking forward to next year with great anticipation. Our selection of Cristiano proves once again that CART's developmental series, the KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Championship and the PPG-Dayton Indy Lights Championship work."

In a related development in the Arciero-Wells camp, Pioneer Electronics, a leader in the consumer and commercial video markets, has signed a three-year, multi-million dollar deal to sponsor the number 24 Toyota-powered Reynard Championship Car in the 1999 FedEx Championship Series season. SCOTT PRUETT, who signed with the Arciero-Wells Racing Team in August of this year, will drive the Pioneer-sponsored entry. "We have had successful sponsorships in all different forms of racing-from Formula One to NHRA, for the last ten years," comments Ed Sachs, Pioneer Electronics' executive vice president, sales. "The dynamics of this sponsorship will elevate us to a new level by creating a strong brand awareness in an internationally-known entity like the CART FedEx Championship Series."

"I have know Scott Pruett for a long time, and to see him join our team is something special", said Frank Arciero, Sr. co-team owner. "I've been a part of racing for many years and I look forward to next year."

This concludes the Pit Notes for today. We'll see you tomorrow morning for the 9 a.m. practice session. Have a safe evening!

Source: CART Online

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Wally Dallenbach , Scott Pruett , Dan Gurney