CHAMPCAR/CART: Ford Racing Fontana Friday notes

CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI POSTS THE FOURTH-FASTEST TIME IN PRACTICE FOR THE MARLBORO 500 - The Brazilian driver was the fastest driver powered by Ford-Cosworth, lapping the 2.029-mile superspeedway in 30.574 seconds. Juan Montoya set the pace for the...

CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI POSTS THE FOURTH-FASTEST TIME IN PRACTICE FOR THE MARLBORO 500 - The Brazilian driver was the fastest driver powered by Ford-Cosworth, lapping the 2.029-mile superspeedway in 30.574 seconds. Juan Montoya set the pace for the day, posting a lap of 30.152 seconds, followed by Gil de Ferran (30.537 seconds) and teammate Helio Castroneves (30.566 seconds). Adrian Fernandez, who trails de Ferran by six points heading into Sunday's race, completed a lap in 30.865 seconds in his backup car following a transmission problem with the primary car. Kenny Brack, who remains in the championship hunt some 19 points behind de Ferran, lapped the circuit in 31.011 seconds.

FERNANDEZ AND BRACK TO RECEIVE ENCOURAGEMENT FROM COSWORTH RACING - When Adrian Fernandez and Kenny Brack take the track for tomorrow's qualifying session they'll be carrying some encouragement compliments of their engine builder, Cosworth Racing. Fernandez will be running an engine with the image of cartoon character, 'Speedy Gonzalez,' voicing 'on-de-lay!' in Spanish, while Brack's engine carries an image of a Viking with the words, 'Vikings never lose!' in Swedish. While these logos have no effect on the mechanical performance of the engine, the gesture was Cosworth Racing's way of encouraging Fernandez and Brack to give their best performance from the cockpit.

CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI (#11 Big Kmart/Route 66 Ford-Cosworth) - 4th-fastest time in practice - "The car is very good in both qualifying and race trim, and I'm very happy with our progress today. The track was a little green because of the rain and everything, but I am very happy about how competitive the car is right now. This is our last chance at a win in 2000 and the $1 million prize money would help make it worth the wait."

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ (#40 Tecate/Quaker State Ford-Cosworth) - 12th-fastest time in practice - "We had a problem with fourth gear - as I was coming out of the pits I damaged fourth gear and had to change to the primary car. The car felt good, but it just didn't have a lot of speed. Fourth gear was a little bit too long for us to run on our own and I think that was slowing us down a little bit. We managed to get up to speed with the backup car, and it felt quicker on the straightaways. We changed the aero devices to the backup car that we had on the primary and that made the car better, and right now we're going to stick with the backup car. Unfortunately because of the limited track time today, there isn't a lot of time tomorrow to pick between the two cars so we're just going to stick with the backup which we know is quick enough. Hopefully with a few, minor changes that we may do tomorrow to adjust the car for qualifying we should be able to hopefully go for the pole."

ROBERTO MORENO (#20 Visteon Ford-Cosworth) - 22nd-fastest time in practice - "For me it was important to get more track time because this is the first time I'll be racing here. But today has been quite good for us and I think we still have some more to do."

WILL WHAT YOU LEARNED FROM YOUR TEST HERE A FEW WEEKS AGO COME INTO PLAY? "That was my first test here and I did almost a day (of driving). It was very important to take that day just to get familiar with the racetrack, but the track is different that it was then - it's a lot cooler and requires a different strategy. But I'm learning very quickly and we'll probably have a good car for the race."

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON QUALIFYING FOR TOMMORW? "It will be very challenging. We must try to qualify on pole, which will be very difficult for a guy that is going to race here for the first time, but we'll definitely give it a go at it."

CASEY MEARS (#91 MCI Worldcom Ford-Cosworth) - 23rd-fastest time in practice - "The guys did a really good job for me today and I had no problems with the car at all. By the time I worked up to speed we wanted to change tires and scrub them in for the race to save some time tomorrow, but everything worked great. Thanks to Bobby (Rahal), Ford, Worldcom and everyone who chipped in this weekend because it's a big deal and really means a lot."

DID YOU WORK ON JUST QUALIFYING SET UP OR RACE SET UP? "The biggest thing we wanted to do was get me comfortable. Once we did that we worked more towards race set up and had quite a bit more wicker (bill) on the car. We have a little bit too much push in the car and we're going to work on that, but I think we'll be looking good for tomorrow."

PATRICK CARPENTIER (#32 Players'/Forsythe Ford-Cosworth) - 27th-fastest time in practice - "Nothing special today. We ran full tanks with a lot of wing in the car, trying to get the car to go everywhere on the racetrack for the race. But the car is not comfortable even though we have a lot of wing in it so we need to do some work."

WHAT WERE YOU WORKING ON TODAY WITH THE SHORTENED SESSION? "We just worked on race set up with full tanks. We ran full tanks with older tires that we kept the whole time with a lot of wing, so we'll see."

WITHOUT A LOT OF WORK ON QUALIFYING SET UP, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS FOR QUALIFYING TOMORROW? "Qualifying doesn't concern me. If I'm in the top 15 or 20, it doesn't matter to me because a lot of these guys are going to have special engines and are trying to get the point for the pole and stuff like that. We're not after it but if we could get it that would be good, but we're much more concerned about the race than anything. It's a long race and we think we can win it so we want to make sure the car is good. It's not fast now but it should be good in the race."

ALEX TAGLIANI (#33 Players'/Forsythe Ford-Cosworth) - 28th-fastest time in practice - "We're struggling a little bit with the set up right now and we're not where we want it to be. I definitely think we're going to have to improve the car if we want to run quicker. We're not as fast as other cars, but 80 percent of it for us right now is that the set up is an issue so we're going to focus on that."

THIS TRACK IS MODELED AFTER MICHIGAN, BUT DOES IT DRIVE THE SAME? "No, I think this track is more bumpy than Michigan and the car seems harsher. Our set up was maybe, 'on the edge,' in Michigan and right now the car requires more adjustment to go flat all the way around and run in the draft. Turbulence when other cars are in front seems to affect our car in a bad way so we need to fix that."

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Adrian Fernandez , Kenny Brack