CHAMPCAR/CART: Gold Coast race day track notes

Good Morning from Australia for Race Day in Oz! It suddenly looks like Surfers Paradise again this morning; cobalt-blue skies and plenty of sunshine, moderated by soft tropical breezes from the North. The paddock is full of bikinis and...

Good Morning from Australia for Race Day in Oz! It suddenly looks like Surfers Paradise again this morning; cobalt-blue skies and plenty of sunshine, moderated by soft tropical breezes from the North. The paddock is full of bikinis and Australian Champ Car fans, just the first of the expected 100,000 plus-overflow crowd that will jam the turnstiles later today. The driving rains and hard winds that have plagued the sessions for the last two days are just a bad memory, but still 164,705 souls have sat out the weather to see the action that leads up to last street course race of the 2000 CART season. Round 19 of the FedEx Championship Series, the Honda Indy 300 takes the Green Flag at 2 p.m. local time. First up is the traditional 30-minute morning warm-up session taking to the course at 10 a.m.

The long and storied history of the Honda Indy 300 can give the statistically-minded Champ Car fan reams of data to pour over in an attempt to wrestle some tangible assets from his unsuspecting friends on a Sunday afternoon, or a Saturday midnight broadcast from here in the future in Australia. In an attempt to aid those loyal persons, here's the skinny on the race averages! Over the last five years, the winner has averaged a starting spot of fourth, with the previous five years an average of 3.75, even though PAUL TRACY came from ninth in 1995 and Scott Pruett came from seventh in 1997. So the winner should come from the first two rows, you would think. But then there is that spooky stat that no one has ever repeated as a winner at Surfers, so that casts gloom on third-place starter DARIO FRANCHITTI as well as fourth-place starter PAUL TRACY. So that leaves your front row as the likely winners, not exactly rocket science is it?

And over the last five years, the second-place finisher has averaged a starting spot of 6.2, with third coming from an average of 8th on the grid. The average margin of victory over the last five years has been 3.67 seconds with a podium margin of 8.17 seconds. The first Yellow should fly by Lap 11, with 9 to 10 laps run under the Yellow. The Yellow Flag averages appearing 5.6 times. Five cars will be waylaid by contact with 14 cars running at the end. Good Luck on your deliberations! We will all know the answers in an average of 2 hours, 0 minutes and 10 seconds after the drop of the Green Flag.

Finally, here's a few projections on how the race will play out. A full Green Flag run means the drivers will have to pit 21 to 23 laps into the tank. That means a Green Flag race will mean two stops for the competitors. A good Pit Stop taking on tires and fuel will take from 30 to 33 seconds of track time from Pit In to Pit Out.

#17 MAURICIO GUGELMIN will serve a delay-of-session carryover penalty in today's last practice session, assessed from the Houston Grand Prix two weeks ago. GUGELMIN will sit out the last eight minutes of this morning's session.

GREEN FLAG waves at 10 a.m. to start the final practice session of the weekend. Firestone engineers report a track temperature of 97 degrees F (36 C) and an ambient temperature of 77 degrees F (25 C).

BLACK FLAG is shown at 10:07 a.m. to #25 GARCIA Jr. after CART course observers report a spray from the rear of the car at speed. GARCIA Jr. subsequently pits the car for inspection to comply with the Black Flag.

At 10:09 a.m., #18 BLUNDELL slides into the run-off at Turn 12, Station 8 and stalls the car. CART safety workers quickly get the car restarted and BLUNDELL continues on course without apparent damage to the car.

At 10:10 a.m., ten minutes into the session, the fastest driver is #3 CASTRONEVES with a lap of 102.799 mph (1:37.880), followed by #12 VASSER (102.716 mph; 1:37.959) and #17 GUGELMIN (102.439 mph; 1:38.224).

BLACK FLAG is shown at 10:18 a.m. to #11 FITTIPALDI for a Pit Road speed violation incurred at Pit In at 10:16 a.m. FITTIPALDI subsequently pits the car to comply with the Black Flag drive-thru penalty.

At 10:20 a.m., 20 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is now #97 da MATTA with a lap of 105.599 mph (1:35.285), followed by #27 FRANCHITTI (105.569 mph; 1:35.312) and #1 MONTOYA (105.481 mph; 1:35.392).

At 10:21 a.m., #25 GARCIA Jr. slides into the run-off at Turn 12, Station 8 and stalls the car. CART safety workers get the car refired and GARCIA Jr. continues on course without apparent damage to the car.

BLACK FLAG is shown at 10:24 a.m. to #26 TRACY for a Pit Road speed violation incurred at Pit In at 10:21 a.m. TRACY subsequently pits the car to comply with the Black Flag drive-thru penalty.

CHECKERED FLAG waves at 10:30 a.m. to end the final practice session of the weekend with #97 da MATTA the fastest driver with a lap of 105.599 mph (169.909 kph; 1:35.285) on his fifth lap, followed by #27 FRANCHITTI (105.569 mph; 169.861 kph; 1:35.312; fifth lap) and #11X FITTIPALDI (105.530 mph; 169.798 kph; 1:35.347; 13th lap). The field is much closer in lap times with the cars in race trim as the top 12 cars are separated by less than one second in lap times, with the top 21 cars separated by less than two seconds in lap times. Secondary cars were utilized by #11X FITTIPALDI, #19X BARRON, and #33X TAGLIANI. The drivers turned a total of 281 laps in the session. THE RACE

At 1:55 p.m., the command "Gentlemen, Start Your Engines!" is given. Firestone engineers report a track temperature of 118 degrees F. ( 47 C) and an ambient temperature of 82 degrees F ( 27 C) at the start of the session. This is the hottest track temperature measured by Firestone all weekend.

At 1:56 p.m., the CART Pace Car begins to roll with the field of 25 cars for the first of three Pace Laps.

GREEN FLAG waves at 2:06 p.m. to start the Honda Indy 300!

YELLOW FLAG waves immediately as #1 MONTOYA leads into the first turn but is contacted on the right rear wheel by the left front wheel of #2 de FERRAN. MONTOYA's car spins into the wall making hard contact before sliding back into track, losing his right front wheel down the track. #27 FRANCHITTI is contacted in the rear of the car by #12 VASSER and spins behind the incident into the wall. De FERRAN's right front wheel breaks in the incident and the driver limps around to his Pit Area. Both FRANCHITTI and MONTOYA exits their cars under their own power and are retired from the race due to contact. De FERRAN's crew feverishly works to repair the right front wheel once the driver makes it back to the pits. #26 TRACY takes the lead, followed by #6 ANDRETTI and #12 VASSER. CART safety crews go to work cleaning the track.

GREEN FLAG waves on Lap 4 to resume the race.

On Lap 5, the running order is #26 TRACY leading by 3.335 seconds over #6 ANDRETTI, followed by #12 VASSER (5.943 seconds back), #55 KANAAN, and #11 FITTIPALDI.

On Lap 8, #11 FITTIPALDI goes to the outside of #55 KANAAN on the front stretch and passes to take fourth place. #96 SERVIA passes #3 CASTRONEVES to take eighth place.

On Lap 10, the running order is #26 TRACY leading by 9.640 seconds over #6 ANDRETTI, followed by #12 VASSER (12.273 seconds back), #11 FITTIPALDI, and #55 KANAAN.

YELLOW FLAG waves on Lap 12 after leader #26 TRACY has a throttle hang wide open going into Turn 3. TRACY locks the brakes up and slides into the run-off, stalling the car. CART safety workers quickly get the car restarted and TRACY continues to his Pit Area, staying on the lead lap but falling from first to 21st. #6 ANDRETTI takes over the lead, followed by #12 VASSER.

Positions 11th through 20th , led by #40 FERNANDEZ, #5 NAKANO, and #8 BRACK take the opportunity to Pit, falling off Pit sequence with the leaders. While leaving the Pits, #7 PAPIS strikes the loose tire of #17 GUGELMIN's car, pitted just in front of PAPIS' pit stall.

GREEN FLAG waves on Lap 14 to resume the race.

On Lap 15, the running order is #6 ANDRETTI leading by 1.218 seconds over #12 VASSER, followed by #11 FITTIPALDI (1.805 seconds back), #55 KANAAN, and #97 da MATTA.

BLACK FLAG is shown on Lap 16 to #7 PAPIS for the Pit Safety Violation outlined above. PAPIS immediately pits the car to comply with the BLACK FLAG drive-thru penalty. PAPIS manages to stay on the lead lap but falls from 13th to 22nd, last in the field.

On Lap 20, the running order is #6 ANDRETTI leading by 1.525 seconds over #12 VASSER, followed by #11 FITTIPALDI (2.215 seconds back), #55 KANAAN, and #97 da MATTA. #26 TRACY has moved up to 16th spot.

On Lap 21, #97 da MATTA outbrakes #55 KANAAN at the inside of Turn 3 to take over fourth place.

On Lap 24, leader #6 ANDRETTI pits along with #11 FITTIPALDI, #97 da MATTA, and #96 SERVIA. ANDRETTI falls from first to 11th, FITTIPALDI falls from third to 12th, da MATTA falls from fourth to 16th, and SERVIA falls from fifth to 18th. VASSER takes over the lead.

On Lap 25, #12 VASSER pits, leading the lap down Pit Road but falling to tenth before he returns to the track.

BLACK FLAG is shown on Lap 25 to #34 MARQUES for a Pit Road blend line violation. MARQUES subsequently pits the car to comply with the Black Flag drive thru penalty. The driver stops in the Pit and the crew tightens a wheel. This is a violation of the rule that a car cannot be worked on during a Black Flag stop.

On Lap 26, the running order is #8 BRACK leading, followed by #33 TAGLIANI, and #19 BARRON.

Also on Lap 26, #32 CARPENTIER slides into the run-off at Turn 3 but continues on course without apparent damage to the car.

BLACK FLAG is show again to #34 MARQUES on Lap 26 for the above Pit Rules violation. The driver pits the car to comply with the Black Flag drive-thru penalty.

Again, on Lap 26, #3 CASTRONEVES exits the Pits just in front of #96 SERVIA. SERVIA makes contact with the rear of CASTRONEVES' car, puncturing the left rear tire as the car enters Turn 3. CASTRONEVES continues on course to his Pit, losing a lap to the leaders and falling to 21st before he can return to the race.

On Lap 30, the running order is #8 BRACK leading by 4.402 seconds over #33 CARPENTIER, followed by #19 BARRON (10.194 seconds back), #40 FERNANDEZ, and #26 TRACY.

On Lap 31, #34 MARQUES spins at Turn 1 but continues on course without apparent damage to the car.

On Lap 35, #8 BRACK leads by 3.953 seconds over #33 TAGLIANI, followed by #19 BARRON (10.450 seconds back), #40 FERNANDEZ, and #26 TRACY.

On Lap 36, #8 BRACK pits, handing the lead to #33 TAGLIANI. BRACK falls from first to ninth before he can return to the race.

On Lap 37, #33 TAGLIANI runs out of fuel on the backstraight at Turn 5 and pulls off course, falling out of the race due to a mechanical problem. #26 TRACY takes over the lead.

Also on Lap 37, #18 BLUNDELL attempts an inside pass of #7 PAPIS at Turn 3, but is traveling too fast to make the left-hand corner. BLUNDELL slides into the run-off at Turn 3 and stalls the car. CART safety workers get the car restarted but BLUNDELL loses a lap to the leaders.

On Lap 37, leader #26 TRACY pits but leads the lap down Pit Road. Second-place #40 FERNANDEZ also pits with third-place #19 BARRON. TRACY returns to the race in ninth, #40 FERNANDEZ in tenth, and BARRON in 11th.

On Lap 38, #12 VASSER takes the lead followed by #6 ANDRETTI and #11 FITTIPALDI.

On Lap 39, #6 ANDRETTI slides into the run-off at Turn 12, Station 8 with a furious fire showing at the rear of the car. ANDRETTI had just radioed his crew that the car had lost its brakes. ANDRETTI retires from the race due to a mechanical problem.

Also on Lap 39, #5 NAKANO pulls off course with smoke showing at the rear of the car, retiring from the race with a mechanical problem.

On Lap 40 and under a full course Yellow, the running order is #12 VASSER leading, followed by #11 FITTIPALDI, #97 da MATTA, #96 SERVIA, and #8 BRACK.

On Lap 42, first-place #12 VASSER pits along with second-place #11 FITTIPALDI, third-place #97 da MATTA, and sixth-place #96 SERVIA. VASSER returns in ninth, FITTIPALDI in eighth, da MATTA in tenth, and SERVIA in 11th.

On Lap 43, and under the Yellow Flag, the running order is #40 FERNANDEZ leading, followed by #19 BARRON, #20 MORENO, #7 PAPIS, and #10 BRIGHT.

GREEN FLAG starts to wave on Lap 44 but is immediately replaced with the YELLOW FLAG after #19 BARRON slips sideways off of Turn 17, Station 12. BARRON collects the car up but #20 MORENO checks up behind, losing control and making hard contact with the inside wall, briefly getting the car airborne. #10 BRIGHT contacts the rear of #12 VASSER as VASSER brakes heavily for the incident. BRIGHT slides down Pit Road with damage to the front, retiring from the race due to contact. #8 BRACK runs over MORENO's front wing but continues on course without apparent damage to the car. MORENO is uninjured in the incident but retires from the race due to contact. CART safety crews begin cleaning up a massive amount of debris strewn on the track.

GREEN FLAG waves on Lap 47 to resume the race. As the field starts braking for Turn 1, #26 TRACY clips the rear of #7 PAPIS. PAPIS completely spins around through the corner without making contact with the walls as TRACY slips past. #96 SERVIA accelerates through the curbing of the chicane, passing several cars as the field scatters. PAPIS continues on course without apparent damage to the car.

YELLOW FLAG flies again on Lap 48 as the field runs down the back straight, #26 TRACY and #96 SERVIA are in a dead heat under full throttle, but TRACY has the line for the upcoming chicane at Turn 7. SERVIA does not back off and hits the curbing, making contact with the left rear of TRACY's car. TRACY spins around once across the remainder of the chicane, making hard contact against the outside wall midway through the chicane. The driver is uninjured in the incident but the car is retired from the race due to contact. SERVIA continues on course with slight damage to the left front wing and a piece of TRACY's car jammed in the air intake on the left sidepod.

On Lap 50 and under the Yellow Flag, CART Race Control orders #96 SERVIA to drop back from fifth place to seventh, behind teammate #97 da MATTA to compensate for the advantage gained at the Turn 1-PAPIS/TRACY incident. The driver complies immediately with the order.

GREEN FLAG flies on Lap 51 to resume the race with #40 FERNANDEZ leading #19 BARRON and #8 BRACK. As the field enters the Turn 1 chicane, BARRON and BRACK make side-to-side contact with #8 BRACK forced through the escape at the middle of the chicane, effectively passing BARRON. CART Race Control immediately determines that BRACK gained an advantage by the maneuver and orders the team to radio their driver to let BARRON regain the second place spot. BRACK lets BARRON back by on the back straight leading to Turn 7.

Also on Lap 51 at Turn 7, #12 VASSER makes contact against the rear of #11 FITTIPALDI's car, puncturing FITTIPALDI's rear tire. VASSER's right front wing is knocked off his car as a result. FITTPALDI has to subsequently pit his car to replace the tire.

On Lap 52, #96 SERVIA moves up from seventh to fourth spot.

On Lap 55, #19 BARRON pulls off course and subsequently retires from the race due to a mechanical problem. #8 BRACK takes over second place.

On Lap 56, #12 VASSER passes #96 SERVIA to take over third place.

On Lap 57 and at 4:05 p.m., CART Chief Steward J. Kirk Russell announces that pursuant to the CART Rulebook, this will be a timed race of two hours. The leader of the race; therefore, will see the White Flag as close to the two-hour mark as possible, and there will be one more lap of racing to the Checkered Flag.

Also on Lap 57, #96 SERVIA falls from fourth to sixth.

WHITE FLAG flies on Lap 58 with #40 FERNANDEZ leading by 1.020 seconds over #8 BRACK, followed by #12 VASSER (4.178 seconds back), #97 da MATTA, and #32 CARPENTIER.

CHECKERED FLAG waves on Lap 59 for the winner of the Honda Indy 300, ADRIAN FERNANDEZ! FERNANDEZ comes home .324 seconds ahead of KENNY BRACK, followed by JIMMY VASSER, CRISTIANO da MATTA, and PATRICK CARPENTIER. FERNANDEZ took 2 hours, 1 minute and 14.605 seconds to win today, averaging 81.607 mph (131.306 kph) in his victory as well as leading the most laps with 17. ANDRETTI led 12, TRACY led 11, BRACK led 10, VASSER led 8, and TAGLIANI led one, totaling six lead changes among six drivers. The Yellow Flag flew five times for a total of 19 laps. There were 13 cars running at the end of the race.

The CART Points Chase heats up after today's race with de FERRAN unofficially still leading with 153, but only five ahead of FERNANDEZ with 148, TRACY with 134, BRACK with 134, and MORENO with 131. TRACY is ahead in the tie-breaker for third as the Canadian has three victories to zero for BRACK.

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ logs his second win of the season today in his Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing Ford Reynard. This also represents FERNANDEZ's seventh career victory. FERNANDEZ has now won in every country that the FedEx Championship Series competes in (US, Canada, Japan, and Brazil). FERNANDEZ has also scored Championship Points in 16 of the last 17 events dating to his win at Brazil earlier this year.

KENNY BRACK matches his career-best finish with his second-place performance in his Shell Team Rahal Ford Reynard today as BRACK had also finished second at Cleveland earlier this year. BRACK's performance keeps him in the Championship hunt for the CART Points Championship.

JIMMY VASSER logs his fourth podium of the season and the second in a row with his third place finish today in his Target/Chip Ganassi Toyota Lola. VASSER now is tied for fifth in the Championship.

Today represents the sixth win of the season for Ford.

Today also represents the tenth different winner in ten races here at Surfers Paradise.

Firestone's victory today gave the tire manufacturer every street circuit victory of the year for the fourth straight season in CART competition.

A possible 22 maximum points remain available in the 2000 season if a driver was to win the Pole, lead the most laps, and win the season-finale at Fontana in two weeks. If that driver were to be JIMMY VASSER, he would be tied with GIL de FERRAN with 153. But de FERRAN would still win the Championship as the tie-breaker would fall all the way to runnerup finishes and de FERRAN has as two to one edge over VASSER.

Quotes from the top three finishers follow:

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: "I tell you, you have to finish to be able to win (the championship). Patrick Racing has struggled the second half of the season, both (teammate) Roberto (Moreno) and myself to be able to qualify up front. We know we can win races if we can qualify at the front, but we continue to fight even when we don't, and we get great fuel consumption. I didn't get a good start, but it helped me with the mess in Turn 1. I was able to gain four positions there. The biggest moment I had was trying to pass Max (Papis). We almost crashed, but we managed to stay up there and stay focused. Under the last situation with the yellow, almost everybody pitted but myself, Alex (Barron) and Roberto didn't pit. At the end, those yellows really helped us as well as the two-hour limit. It's just fantastic that this series offers the opportunity to win from (starting) that far back (17th). So many things can go wrong, but we've been consistent, and that's why we've been able to stay in the championship. I'm very, very excited to win here in Australia. This is one of the best races we come to. It's not a race, it's a party. The people here treat us really well all week. It's just a great place to win, and I'm looking forward to coming back for many, many years to come."

KENNY BRACK: "Every time I look up and I see the wing on that damn Quaker State car, I don't know what to do. We had trouble in qualifying, but we made some good changes before the race. It was a tough race. The start was kind of a mess, but I had a trouble-free race. I tried everything I could, but if you're running within half a second or a second of the car in front of you, you're not going to get past. Unfortunately, Adrian didn't make any mistakes. Unfortunately for me, fortunately for him."

JIMMY VASSER: "There was a lot of crazy driving out there. I don't know what happened at the start, but it was a huge mess. I've got to apologize to Dario, I hit him in the back. From my standpoint, it was a controlled race to the halfway point. I had a little too much understeer, but we fixed it on the first stop and the car was really good. When the pits were closed, it ruined my race. I had to take on 30 gallons of fuel, and everybody else took ten. That dropped me down to tenth (place). From that point on it was absolute chaos. Every once in a while we have races like this. I lost my right front wing in an incident with Christian (Fittipaldi) and the car was understeering badly. I was catching Kenny and Adrian toward the end, but with two laps to go, the right front tire gave up, so I had to back off. I didn't want to make any mistakes. Congratulations to Adrian and Patrick Racing for calling a great race. Their race strategy and race craft was perfect, so congratulations."

Today's attendance has been announced at 107,785 Champ Car fans, up from 102,844 last year. The four-day attendance pegs out at 269,890, up from last year's 250,857: an increase of 7% over last year.

This concludes the track notes for the Honda Indy 300. The FedEx Championship Series next travels to California Speedway for the running of Round 20 of the FedEx Championship Series, the Marlboro 500 on October 29th. Keep up with the comings and goings in CART through the official CART website; CART.com. Have a safe week.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Scott Pruett , Chip Ganassi