By Chris Speigner - Motorsport.com Houston, TX - The CART Champ cars took to the streets of Houston for their provisional qualifying session on Friday afternoon. It was immediately apparent that this was to be a fast session. The green flag ...
By Chris Speigner - Motorsport.com
Houston, TX - The CART Champ cars took to the streets of Houston for their provisional qualifying session on Friday afternoon. It was immediately apparent that this was to be a fast session. The green flag dropped on the fist qualifying group at 2:30pm CST and the second group rolling out at 3:15pm.
Dario Franchitti posted the pole position time at 59.434 seconds with a speed of 92.493. Dario is sitting on his third pole this season. Dario had poles earlier this season at Road America and Vancouver. He's also made four podium appearances this season at Japan, Michigan, Vancouver, and Monterey. Dario's pole is only provisional, he still has to survive final qualifying on Saturday. He goes into the final trials with an eight minute deficit due to a penalty incurred for causing a red flag during qualifying. The Team KOOL Green driver will have to sit out the last eight minutes of final qualifying. "It's good to be on top today....... The car is getting better after we made some changes to it during this session that seemed to help". Tomorrow's final qualifying sprint will show if Darios' sub sixty second run will keep him on the front line.
The prime candidate to knock Franchitti from his perch is Ganassi Racing's Jimmy Vasser in the number twelve Target Toyota Lola. "With this morning's practice and now this afternoon, it's been a great day." Vasser posted a lap time of 59.631 seconds with a speed of 59.665 mph. "I woke up this morning at 8:15 and rolled over; next thing I knew it was 10:15. I went straight from my bus to my drivers suit to the car. Maybe I ought to try that again tomorrow." Vasser will have to keep his alarm set to improve his standing during final qualifying on Saturday.
The third spot on the totem is held by the number eleven Big Kmart/Route 66 Ford-Cosworth driven by Christian Fittipaldi. "I feel pretty good but it's a shame I made a mistake. I braked a little bit too late and ran in to the tires and generated a red flag". Because of that red flag, Fittipaldi will be spending the final eight minutes of qualifying Saturday sharing pit road with Dario Franchitti. Fittipaldi will be looking for a fast start to capture his season best start, improving on his outside row one at Nazareth.
The surprise of the day was Rookie Kenny Brack. Serving a penalty that was levied at Laguna Seca, Brack was only allotted twenty-two minutes of the total thirty that was run for each qualifying session. This is the first time Kenny has driven on the streets of Houston. "The track is very bumpy, much bumpier than I expected, and the turns are basically ninety degrees and very slow..." "I know the track will get better for traction, so we have to adjust with the track conditions." Brack will be looking to improve his starting position in final qualifying with a full thirty minutes on the track. "We've definitely got to find some more speed for tomorrow because everyone else will go faster and the track will get faster and faster."
Team Penske and Helio Castroneves supplied the crowd with the only "explosive" show of the day. While qualifying fifth, only two tenths off the pole, Castroneves blew the top off his Honda, removing a major portion of the Marlboro Reynard's bodywork. "The Marlboro car was handling really well, and we were happy with the first stint of our qualifying session. We put on our second set of tires and we were optimistic that we'd have a good run. I was on my second lap on the new tires when bang - we had an engine problem and that was the end of our day." Team Penske has one final chance to make up that two tenths and put Castroneves on the pole for Sunday's race.
The top twelve drivers in this provisional round are separated by less than one second. All of these teams have a fighting chance to put their car on the pole for Sunday. The streets of Houston are notorious for change, and Saturday will be no exception. The final qualifying round will be on Saturday at 1:45pm CST and will be aired on tape delay at 1:30am EST on ESPN2.