SURFERS PARADISE, Australia (October 15, 1999) - Paul Tracy of Team KOOL Green took a step toward his first FedEx Championship Series pole position since 1997 Friday when he earned the provisional pole for Sunday's Honda Indy 300...
SURFERS PARADISE, Australia (October 15, 1999) - Paul Tracy of Team KOOL Green took a step toward his first FedEx Championship Series pole position since 1997 Friday when he earned the provisional pole for Sunday's Honda Indy 300 (midnight ET Saturday, live, ESPN) on Australia's Gold Coast. Before a Friday afternoon crowd of 47,328, Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard), whose last pole came at Milwaukee in 1997, recorded a lap of 108.544 miles per hour (1 minute, 32.700 seconds) to lead 27 drivers who posted qualifying times on the 2.794-mile temporary street circuit in preparation for Sunday's 19th round of the championship. Final qualifying is scheduled for 10:45 p.m. ET Friday, at which time Tracy also will seek his first pole on a road or street course since 1994 at Laguna Seca. Michael Andretti (Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Swift) qualified on the outside pole provisionally at 108.037 mph (1:33.135). He is seeking his best start since winning the pole at Road America in July. Rookie Juan Montoya (Target Honda Reynard), the FedEx Championship Series leader, qualified third on the provisional grid at 107.639 mph (1:33.479). Montoya, who leads the series with seven victories and seven pole positions, could clinch the title in this weekend's penultimate round of the championship by exiting Australia with a 22-point lead over second-place Dario Franchitti, Tracy's Team KOOL Green teammate. Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard), the defending polesitter who trails Montoya by 13 points (200-187) entering the weekend, qualified fifth at 107.212 mph (1:33.851). He owns the track record of 109.028 mph (1:32.288), established during qualifying for last year's event. Bryan Herta (Shell Ford Reynard) qualified fourth at 107.448 mph (1:33.645). He seeks his seventh top-four start of the season, including his fourth in the last six events.
PAUL TRACY, KOOL Honda Reynard: "I'm pretty happy with the car. It's going over the curbs well and putting down the power well, so I'm pleased. We need to improve tomorrow, though. The grip level will come up and we've got to keep up with the track. The big day will be tomorrow. This is the type of track that rewards you for being aggressive, and I like that type of circuit. Not all of them are like that."
MICHAEL ANDRETTI, Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Swift: "This morning we didn't learn a whole lot. The track was wet, but toward the end it started to dry and we were able to get some good laps in. The car was good - not perfect - but I don't think anybody's car is perfect at this point, plus, I think the track is light years away from its best time. I'm confident; I know we'll do better tomorrow."
JUAN MONTOYA, Target Honda Reynard: "This morning, the car was really bad. I did about five laps in the dry and I didn't really learn much. I got a good lap in during qualifying, then we changed tires and I made a couple of mistakes. I made too many mistakes today, but I think we'll be okay. I expected to be up front, but after so much rain. I thought it would be difficult. But we're in a good place and I think we'll be all right [tomorrow]."
* Championship Auto Racing Teams' Franchise Board passed new testing rules Friday that will take effect beginning Nov. 1, the conclusion of the current FedEx Championship Series regular season. Under the new rules, a multi-car team will be allowed to conduct no more than 32 days of testing, only 12 of which may take place during the race season. A one-car team will be allowed 24 days of testing, eight during the race season. "The decision of the franchise board this morning reflects the members' strong desire to limit the overall number of test days, particularly during the season," said Tim Mayer, CART senior vice president of racing operations. "Their primary concern is the number of days that their teams, suppliers and manufacturing partners are required to spend on the road in the midst of a very busy schedule. This new set of rules also should limit the overall cost of testing. While restricting overall test days and expanding certain blackout dates, these rules leave the flexibility to test new talent and address safety issues as they may arise." At the start of the 1999 season, multi-car teams were allowed to conduct 50 days of testing, with additional days for tire tests or rookie tests. "This is a step in the right direction to reduce the overall emphasis on testing and to focus on our people and our racing," said Carl Haas, co-owner of Newman/Haas Racing.
* Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) is seeking his first pole of the FedEx Championship Series season. His best start to date is second at Detroit. He is also seeking his best career start at Australia, improving on the outside pole he earned in 1997. Tracy has qualified among the top-six drivers in five of his six career starts at Surfers Paradise.
* Michael Andretti (Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Swift) is seeking his fifth front-row start in eight career appearances at Australia, including pole positions in 1991 and '95 and outside poles in '92 and '94.
* Juan Montoya (Target Honda Reynard) is seeking his 13th top-five start in 19 events, including a series-best seven pole positions that tied the CART rookie record established by Nigel Mansell in 1993. Montoya has earned four poles on temporary street circuits (Cleveland, Detroit, Vancouver, Houston).