CHAMPCAR/CART: Fontana Saturday's final track notes

Marlboro 500 -- Saturday's Final Track Notes CART Online (September 27) -- Saturday's Final Track Notes from the Marlboro 500 Presented By Toyota. GREEN FLAG waves at 12 p.m. to start qualifying under sunny skies and escalating...

Marlboro 500 -- Saturday's Final Track Notes

CART Online (September 27) -- Saturday's Final Track Notes from the Marlboro 500 Presented By Toyota.

GREEN FLAG waves at 12 p.m. to start qualifying under sunny skies and escalating temperatures. Firestone engineers report a track temperature of 122 degrees F. and an ambient temperature of 88 degrees F.

MEIER: top speed, 217.438 mph, 33.593 seconds, second lap.

MATSUSHITA: top speed, 221.272 mph, 33.011 seconds, second lap.

RIBEIRO: top speed, 235.717 mph, 30.988 seconds, second lap.

JONES: top speed, 228.298 mph, 31.995 seconds, first lap.

VITOLO: top speed, 232.004 mph, 31.484 seconds, first lap.

FANGIO II: top speed, 231.262 mph, 31.585 seconds, second lap.

UNSER, JR: top speed, 229.980 mph, 31.761 seconds, second lap.

TRACY, top speed, 230.401 mph, 31.703 seconds, second lap.

DE FERRAN, top speed, 235.360 mph, 31.035 second lap.

At 12:30 p.m., Firestone engineers now report a track temperature of 125 degrees and an ambient temperature of 89 degrees F.

FITTPIPALDI: top speed, 234.078 mph, 31.205 seconds, second lap.

JOHNSTONE: top speed, 234.236 mph, 31.184 seconds, first lap.

JOURDAIN, JR: top speed, 236.603 mph, 30.872 seconds, second lap.

BOESEL, top speed, 235.846 mph, 30.971 seconds, second lap.

FERNANDEZ, top speed, 234.679 mph, 31.125 seconds, second lap.

RAHAL, top speed, 235.816 mph, 30.975 seconds, first lap.

MOORE, top speed, 236.297 mph, 30.912 seconds, second lap.

GORDON: top speed, 235.034 mph, 31.078 seconds, first lap.

HERTA: top speed, 237.890 mph, 30.705 seconds, second lap.

ANDRETTI: top speed, 236.289 mph, 30.913 seconds, second lap.

At 1 p.m., FIRESTONE engineers report a track temperature of 126 degrees F. and an ambient temperature of 90 degrees.

PRUETT: top speed, 236.810 mph, 30.845 seconds, first lap.

BLUNDELL: top speed, 236.068 mph, 30.942 seconds, second lap.

VASSER: top speed, 239.222 mph, 30.534 seconds, second lap.

GUGELMIN: top speed, 240.942 mph, 30.316 seconds, second lap.

SALLES: no speed. SALLES lost power and staled on course after his first warm-up lap.

PAPIS: no speed. PAPIS lost power on the track after his first warm-up lap and stalled on course.

HEARN: top speed, 224.862 mph, 32.484 seconds, first lap.

MAURICIO GUGELMIN wins the pole for Sunday's Marlboro 500 with his lap of 240.942 mph. This is the fastest official qualifying lap in Indy car history, topping the existing record of 237.400 mph set by Arie Luyendyk at the 1996 Indianapolis 500. This is Gugelmin's third career pole, his two others coming at Rio de Janeiro and Road America this year. Gugelmin also has 20 consecutive top-10 starts, including 13 top five starts.

JIMMY VASSER will start second after his 239.222 mph qualifying effort. This will represent VASSER'S best start of the season. Vasser previously started third at both Surfer's Paradise and Vancouver this year.

BRYAN HERTA will start third in Sunday's race. This is Herta's third top-three start in the last five races, including poles at Mid-Ohio and Laguna. This is also Herta's fifth top-six start, with four of those coming in the last 5 races.

MAURICO GUGELMIN, Hollywood PacWest Mercedes: "Initially, you see that [240 mph] number and it's just unbelievable that a car can go around a place at that speed. Two hundred forty is a magic number for the team, for Firestone and for Mercedes and I'm proud to be a part of history."

JIMMY VASSER, Target Reynard Honda: "There was a little bit of baloney going on [after Vasser's qualifying run] with my crew. They were happy I had done so well, but it was a little premature to be celebrating when Mauricio was still out doing his warm-up laps. Mauricio has been quick all weekend, and I knew he was going to be a contender."

BRYAN HERTA, Shell Reynard Ford: "Things have just been going well [in qualifying] lately. We've had good fast cars, although we haven't been as consistent in races as we needed to be. Goodyear has given us a good tire, and it's going to be an interesting race."

The NBC drama series "Pretender" was at the California Speedway yesterday filming scenes for a motorsports-themed episode to be broadcast in February 1998. The program, starring Michael T. Weiss, will feature CART PPG-style racing and the MCI Racing Toyota driven by Max Papis.

The Valvoline Team USA Scholarship is proud to announce the addition of the Road Racing Drivers Club as a participating sponsor. "We are pleased to have such a historic and important organization join our distinguished list of supporters," said Team USA Scholarship founder Jeremy Shaw. "Road Racing Drivers Club members have made a lot of history and we feel the youngsters involved in the Team USA Scholarship are doing the same."

Road Racing Drivers Club President Brian Redman echoed Shaw's comments: "The club believes strongly in helping young drivers move up the professional ladder. We are excited to be part of Team USA because it has the same goal."

Target/Chip Ganassi Racing unveiled two special helmets featuring colorful designs by St. Jude Children's Research Hospital patients for drivers Jimmy Vasser and Alex Zanardi to wear during qualifying for the Marlboro 500 at California Speedway in Fontana, California. In a pre-qualifying presentation, the two grand prize winners of Target's "Design A Race Driver's Helmet" contest were present to personally give the 1997 PPG CART World Series Champion Alex Zanardi and the 1996 PPG Indy Car World Series championship Jimmy Vasser their helmets.

PPG Industries, Inc. is pleased to announce that driver Alex Zanardi has joined the celebrated circle of PPG Colorful Characters.

Zanardi, a native of Italy, began his racing career in 1980 in competitive go-karting. Zanardi continued racing, moving through Formula Three and Formula 3000 until his talent captured the attention of Formula One team owner Eddie Jordan who asked Alex to replace Michael Schumacher for the last two races of the 1991 season where he placed ninth in his first-ever start. Zanardi continued his career in F-1 until 1996 when Chip Ganassi asked him to test with Team Target; and the rest is history.

"In his quest for the PPG Cup, Alex brought a lot of pizzazz to the racing circuits," says Mike Sack, PPG's Director of Sports Marketing. "Following each victory this year he celebrated by smoking his tires in flamboyant fashion, officially introducing doughnuts to the series. His exciting driving style and passion for racing make Alex a true PPG Colorful Character."

Created in 1995 by PPG Industries, title sponsor of the PPG CART World Series, the PPG Colorful Character award recognizes members of the racing community who add color, style, personality, and fun to the series.

Newman/Haas Racing has re-signed Indy car drivers Michael Andretti and Christian Fittipaldi to multi-year contracts to drive in the CART-sanctioned series. Newman/Haas Racing, co-owned by Paul Newman and Carl Haas, will field Swift Ford-Cosworth-powered cars in the 19-race 1998 PPG CART World Series for both drivers.

"Both Paul and myself have been very happy with Michael and Christian," said Carl A. Haas, co-owner of Newman/Haas Racing. "They have good chemistry together and we wanted to keep that in the team. This season was a challenging one due to the development of a new chassis. Because of Michael and Christian's input, as well as the input of the engineers and Swift, we have been able to learn a lot about the car."

The re-signing of Michael Andretti continues a tradition, which began in 1983 when Mario Andretti drove in Newman/Haas Racing's debut season. Since 1983, there has always been an Andretti driving for the team.

Saturday's season-ending Marlboro Pole Award program featured a new twist this weekend. Seventeen keys were given out to this year's pole winners, one for each pole won via a blind draw. One of the keys would start a new Mercedes-Benz. The more poles a driver earned, the more chances he had to win. BRYAN HERTA took home the car after inserting the winning key for the pole he won at Laguna-Seca. Mercedes-Benz is the official car of CART.

At 4:27 p.m., ARIE LUYENDYK took his first practice laps in ALEX ZANARDI's Target Reynard Honda. LUYENDYK took a total of 15 laps and achieved a respectable 225.988 mph (32.322 seconds) while shaking down the car.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Arie Luyendyk , Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Max Papis , Eddie Jordan , Christian Fittipaldi , Alex Zanardi , Mario Andretti , Paul Newman , Brian Redman , Carl Haas , Jeremy Shaw , Chip Ganassi
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing