CHAMPCAR/CART: Fontana Sunday opening race notes

Marlboro 500 -- Sunday's Opening Race Notes CART Online (September 28) -- Sunday's Opening Race Notes from the Marlboro 500 at California Speedway: 7 Welcome to Race Day at California Speedway. Today's CART on-track activities begin with...

Marlboro 500 -- Sunday's Opening Race Notes

CART Online (September 28) -- Sunday's Opening Race Notes from the Marlboro 500 at California Speedway:

7 Welcome to Race Day at California Speedway. Today's CART on-track activities begin with a half-hour practice session at 8 a.m. followed by the green flag for the Marlboro 500 at 12 noon.

Today's starting line-up represents the fastest field in the history of closed-course racing. The starting grid for today's Marlboro 500 logged an average speed of 233.192 mph. This betters the existing closed-course record, the 1997 U.S. 500 at Michigan Speedway starting line-up, which posted a 228.082 mph average qualifying speed. CART's drivers bettered that record by 5.111 mph on the 2-mile California Speedway.

PLEASE NOTE: The car number that ARIE LUYENDYK will be driving will be #44, not the #4 Target-sponsored Reynard Honda that Luyendyk practiced in yesterday.

GREEN FLAG waves at 8 a.m. to start the final practice session for this afternoon's Marlboro 500. At 8:15 a.m., halfway through the session, the fastest driver is #99 MOORE with a speed of 234.929 mph, (31.092 seconds), followed by #17 GUGELMIN (232.587 mph; 31.405 seconds) and #20 PRUETT (232.432 mph (31.426 seconds). At 8:16 a.m., pole-sitter and world closed-course speed record holder #17 GUGELMIN parks the primary car that he set that record with yesterday and his crew quickly prepares the secondary car for the rest of the session. GUGELMIN returns to the track minutes later. GUGELMIN runs several more laps before pitting. The car still has not gotten up to the primary car's morning speed with three minutes to go in the session.

The YELLOW FLAG was displayed at 8:18 a.m. after #31 RIBEIRO stalls on course and has to be towed to his pit area. The CHECKERED FLAG waves at 8:34 a.m. to end this final practice session with #1 VASSER the fastest driver with a lap of 239.214 mph, 30.535 seconds, followed by #31 RIBEIRO (235.946 mph; 30.958 seconds) and #17 GUGELMIN (235.383 mph; 31.032 seconds). #5 DE FERRAN (235.201 mph; 31.056 seconds) and #44 LUYENDYK (234.944 mph; 31.090 seconds) rounded out the top five speeds. LUYENDYK logged the most laps of the session with 27 as he continues to get comfortable in the Target Reynard Honda. LUYENDYK has picked up almost 9 mph over his first laps on the California Speedway late yesterday. GUGELMIN was the only driver to utilize a secondary car in this final session. CART drivers logged a total of were utilized by 372 laps in this session.

7 Please note that ARIE LUYENDYK will be using the #4 in today's race. It was previously reported in Pit Note 15 that the driver would be using #44.

7 At 12:01 p.m., the command to start engines is given by Ina Broeman, the Event Marketing Director for Phillip Morris USA.

7 At 12:06 p.m., the PPG CART Pace car begins to roll for the first of four pace laps.

7 At 12:11 p.m. and as the field is moving into Turn 3 and approaching the green flag, a fire erupts on the car of #36 FANGIO II. FANGIO II pulls to the bottom of the track and exits the car under his own power. CART safety workers quickly extinguish the fire and tow it to the pit area. FANGIO II subsequently retires from the race

7 YELLOW FLAG waves at 12:10 p.m. for the start of the Marlboro 500. All yellow flag laps count towards the total of 250 laps to be run today. Firestone engineers report a track temperature of 130 degrees F. at the start of the race with an ambient temperature of 98 degrees F.

7 On Lap 8, #77 SALLES and #25 PAPIS pit their cars and top off the tanks with fuel. Any cars pitting under this yellow period are automatically sent to the end of the field. Both cars slipped two positions during this stop.

7 GREEN FLAG waves on Lap 11.

7 #17 GUGELMIN leads the first green flag lap followed by #1 VASSER and #8 HERTA.

7 YELLOW FLAG waves on Lap 13 after #3 TRACY spins in Turn 4 and makes contact with the outside wall. TRACY exits the car under his own power uninjured but the car sustains extensive damage.

7 #17 GUGELMIN had opened a slim lead of 1.423 seconds on second-place #1 VASSER before the yellow flag was displayed. Also, #19 JOURDAIN JR. passes #20 PRUETT ON Lap 14 to take over fourth. PRUETT fell all the way back to seventh place as #6 ANDRETTI and #18 BLUNDELL also got around him.

7 GREEN FLAG waves on Lap 22.

7 On Lap 25, the running order is #17 GUGELMIN leading by .752 seconds, followed by #1 VASSER, #6 ANDRETTI, #19 JOURDAIN JR. and #8 HERTA.

7 On Lap 34, #19 JOURDAIN JR. and #31 RIBEIRO pass #8 HERTA to take over fourth and fifth place respectively.

7 On Lap 35, #6 ANDRETTI passes #1 VASSER to take over second place.

7 YELLOW FLAG waves on Lap 40 after #64 MEIER and #4 LUYENDYK make contact in Turn 4. The nineteen cars on the lead lap at this point all pit on Lap 43 save for #21 HEARN who assumes the lead for Lap 44. Of the lead pack of cars, #6 ANDRETTI gets back on track first followed by #17 GUGELMIN and #1 VASSER. HEARN subsequently pits on Lap 48 and reenters the race in 19th place. #6 ANDRETTI takes over the lead on Lap 48 followed by #17 GUGELMIN and #1 VASSER.

7 According to Dr. Steve Olvey, CART Director of Medical Affairs, ARIE LUYENDYK was momentarily unconscious at the scene following contact with ARND MEIER, but was awake, alert and talking while being examined at the CART Mobile Medical Facility. Olvey said that Luyendyk sustained a concussion, but was not reporting any other injuries. He will be taken by ambulance to Loma Linda University Hospital for a CAT scan and precautionary x-rays. ARND MEIER reported general head and neck soreness and will not be transported to the hospital. He will receive physical therapy at the CART Mobile Medical Facility.

7 On Lap 50 and under a caution flag, the running order is #6 ANDRETTI, followed by #17 GUGELMIN, # 1 VASSER, #19 JOURDAIN JR., and #18 BLUNDELL.

7 GREEN FLAG waves on Lap 51.

7 On Lap 52, #31 RIBEIRO passes #18 BLUNDELL to take over fifth place.

7 On Lap 54, #1 VASSER passes #19 JOURDAIN JR. to take over third place.

7 On Lap 57, #31 RIBEIRO and #18 BLUNDELL pass #19 JOURDAIN JR. to take over fourth and fifth, respectively.

7 On Lap 58, #99 MOORE passes #19 JOURDAIN JR. to take over sixth place.

7 On Lap 64, #99 MOORE passes #18 BLUNDELL to take over fifth place.

7 On Lap 67, #31 RIBEIRO passes #1 VASSER to take over third place.

7 On Lap 72, #99 MOORE and #18 BLUNDELL pass #1 VASSER to take over fourth and fifth place, respectively.

7 On Lap 75, the running order is #6 ANDRETTI leading by .865 seconds over second-place #17 GUGELMIN, #31 RIBEIRO, #99 MOORE, and #18 BLUNDELL.

7 On Lap 83, #6 ANDRETTI pits and #31 RIBEIRO takes over the lead after passing #17 GUGELMIN on the track. ANDRETTI returns to the race in fifth place.

7 On Lap 85, third-place #1 VASSER pits and returns to the race in third place.

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