CHAMPCAR/CART: Gold Coast Saturday Track Notes

Honda Indy 300 Saturday * Good Morning from soggy Down-Under for the final day of qualifying for Sunday's Honda Indy 300! Just as things got warm and begin drying out late yesterday, the skies of beautiful Surfers Paradise cut loose with ...

Honda Indy 300 Saturday

* Good Morning from soggy Down-Under for the final day of qualifying for Sunday's Honda Indy 300! Just as things got warm and begin drying out late yesterday, the skies of beautiful Surfers Paradise cut loose with another gully-washer in the early morning hours, returning the track to its Florida swampland status again. But as the morning's practice session 9 a.m.-Green Flag approaches, the blue is showing through again over the glassy and undulating Pacific, with a strange yellow light appearing here and there in the skies. The teams obviously have reservations though, and the rain tires remain stacked beside the slicks, awaiting the final decision. Today's final round of qualifying will start at 12:45 p.m., producing a Pole Winner by 2 p.m. The 27 drivers present from the FedEx Championship Series will be chasing the track qualifying record of 109.028 mph (174.445 kph; 1:32.288) set in 1998 by DARIO FRANCHITTI. Most if not all teams will start the session on rain tires, as the asphalt is still shiny, but with the heat build-up by traffic and the sporadic sun, all teams expect the slicks to be mounted for practice before the Checkered Flag waves at 10:15 a.m.

* GREEN FLAG waves at 9 a.m. to start the morning practice session. Firestone engineers report a track temperature of 87 degrees F. ( 31 C.) and an ambient temperature of 78 degrees F. ( 25 C.) at the start of the session.

* At 9:06 a.m., #12X VASSER slides into the run-off at Turn 8 but continues on course without apparent damage to the car.

* At 9:10 a.m., 10 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is #44 KANAAN with a lap of 90.704 mph (1:50.932), followed by #24X PRUETT (90.050 mph; 1:51.738) and #8 HERTA (89.617 mph; 1:52.278). Only nine cars have taken to the track in this morning's session so far, as the track is still wet enough to require rain tires and most teams expect today's qualifying to again be contested on a dry track.

* At 9:20 a.m., 20 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is now #24X PRUETT with a lap of 91.812 mph (1:49.594), followed by #7 PAPIS (91.679 mph; 1:49.752) and #25X da MATTA (90.759 mph; 1:50.865). Though only 12 drivers have logged official timed laps, quite a few of those drivers are now running slicks on the rapidly drying track and it is expected to see more cars enter the session soon.

* At 9:30 a.m., 30 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is now #10 HEARN with a lap of 99.623 mph (1:41.001), followed by #25X da MATTA (97.828 mph; 1:42.854) and #22 GORDON (97.682 mph; 1:43.008).

* At 9:40 a.m., 40 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is now #99 MOORE with a lap of 104.087 mph (1:36.669), followed by #18 BLUNDELL (103.225; 1:37.476) and #10 HEARN (102.649 mph; 1:38.023).

* BLACK FLAG is shown at 9:41 a.m. to #2 UNSER Jr. for a Pit Road speed violation incurred at 9:37 a.m. at Pit In. UNSER Jr. subsequently pits the car to comply with the Black Flag drive-thru penalty.

* RED FLAG waves at 9:49 a.m. after #36 MONTERMINI spins at Turn 4 and stalls the car nose-first into the inside tire barrier. CART safety workers get the car restarted and MONTERMINI continues to his Pit Area without apparent damage to the car.

* GREEN FLAG waves at 9:49 a.m. to resume the session.

* At 9:50 a.m., 50 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is now #44 KANAAN with a lap of 106.254 mph (1:34.698), followed by #40 FERNANDEZ (105.678 mph; 1:35.214) and #33 CARPENTIER (105.420 mph; 1:35.447).

* At 9:51 a.m., #18 BLUNDELL slides into the run-off at Turn 8 but continues on course without apparent damage to the car.

* RED FLAG waves at 9:55 a.m. after #26 TRACY slides into the inside tire barrier exiting Turn 2 and makes substantial contact against the barrier with the left front wheel and wing area. The driver is uninjured in the incident but the car sustains enough damage to the left front wheel and suspension to be through for the session. CART safety workers tow the car back to the Pit Area. TRACY's crew readies his secondary car for use in the remainder of the session.

* Also at 9:55 a.m., #4 MONTOYA locks up his brakes and narrowly avoids contact with the outside tire barrier at the exit of Turn 4. MONTOYA continues on course to his Pit Area without apparent damage to the car.

* At 10 a.m., one hour into the session, the fastest driver is still #44 KANAAN with a lap of 106.254 mph (1:34.698), followed by #40 FERNANDEZ (105.678 mph; 1:35.214) and #6 ANDRETTI (105.455 mph; 1:35.415).

* GREEN FLAG waves at 10:01 a.m. to resume the session.

* BLACK FLAG is shown at #11 FITTIPALDI at 10:03 a.m. for a Pit Road speed violation incurred at Pit In at 9:56 a.m. FITTIPALDI subsequently pits the car to comply with the Black Flag drive thru penalty.

* At 10:10 a.m., 70 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is still #44 KANAAN with his earlier lap of 106.254 mph (1:34.698), followed by #7 PAPIS (106.126 mph; 1:34.812) and #6 ANDRETTI (105.964 mph; 1:34.957).

* At 10:13 a.m., #5 de FERRAN slides into the run-off at Turn 9 and stalls the car. CART safety workers pull the car to safety to await the end of the session.

* RED FLAG waves at 10:14 a.m. after #44 KANAAN unbalances his car on the curbing entering the Turn 1 chicane, bounces through the grass of the chicane, and makes light contact against the inside tire barrier at the exit of Turn 1 with the left front wheel of the car. KANAAN is uninjured in the incident and CART safety workers tow the car back to the Pit Area.

* CHECKERED FLAG also waves at 10:14 a.m. as CART Race Control has determined that there will not be enough time to clean up from the KANAAN incident to bring out another Green Flag. #7 PAPIS is the fastest driver of the session with his lap of 106.632 mph (170.611 kph; 1:34.362) logged on his 13th lap of the session, followed by #44 KANAAN (106.418 mph; 170.269 kph; 1:34.552; 9th lap) and #27 FRANCHITTI (106.404 mph; 170.246 kph; 1:34.564; 4th lap). The Provisional Pole sitter, #26 TRACY winds up 27th with a speed of 102.815 mph (164.504 kph; 1:37.865; 1st lap.) PAPIS showed the largest gain in speed over respective speeds from yesterday's session with an improvement of 3.830 mph (6.128 kph), followed by PRUETT (3.372 mph; 5.395 kph) and HEARN (3.220 mph; 5.152 kph). FedEx Championship Series drivers introduced 32 different cars to the track in this morning's session with secondary cars utilized by #12X VASSER, #17X GUGELMIN, #11X FITTIPALDI, #24X PRUETT, #2X UNSER Jr., #25X da MATTA, #26X TRACY, and #18X BLUNDELL. CART drivers logged a total of 204 laps in this morning's session.

* Today's split-group qualifying format will feature the faster drivers from yesterday's qualifying sessions in Group Two.

* GREEN FLAG waves at 12:45 p.m. to start the Group One qualifying session. Firestone engineers report a track temperature of 124 degrees F. (51 C.) and an ambient temperature of 86 degrees F. (29 C.) at the start of the session. This is the highest track temperature logged since the racing weekend opened.

* At 12:49 p.m., #2 UNSER Jr. brushes the wall with the left rear wheel at Turn 8 but continues on course to his Pit. Unser Jr. does not return to the Group One qualifying session.

* At 12:50 p.m., five minutes into the Group one session, the fastest Group One driver is #7 PAPIS with a lap of 106.492 mph (1:34.486), followed by #20 MAGNUSSEN (105.257 mph; 1:35.595) and #19 JOURDAIN Jr. (104.961 mph; 1:35.864).

* Also at 12:50 p.m., #16 SALLES shortcuts Turn 5 and forfeits his second timed lap.

* At 12:51 p.m., #15 HATTORI shortcuts Turn 1 and forfeits his third timed lap.

* RED FLAG waves at 12:52 p.m. after #10 HEARN makes contact with the inside wall at Turn 2 with the left front wheel, breaking the suspension. HEARN slides to a stop at the exit of Turn 2 and is uninjured in the incident. HEARN's Budweiser crew quickly readies the secondary car for use in the remainder of the session but HEARN will receive the standard eight-minute penalty for delaying the qualifying process.

* Also at 12:52 p.m., #16 SALLES makes contact with the tire barrier at Turn 10 and stalls the car against the wall. SALLES is uninjured in the incident but the car sustains suspension damage. SALLES' crew also readies the secondary car but SALLES will also receive the eight-minute penalty for delaying the Group one qualifying session.

* At 12:55 p.m., five minutes into the Group One session and under the Red Flag, the fastest Group One driver is #7 PAPIS with a lap of 106.492 mph (1:34.486), followed by #20 MAGNUSSEN (105.257 mph; 1:35.595) and #20 MAGNUSSEN (106.033 mph; 1:34.895).

* At 1 p.m., 15 minutes into the Group One qualifying session and still under the Red Flag, the fastest Group One drivers and speeds remain unchanged from the 12:55 p.m. report.

* GREEN FLAG waves at 1:01 p.m. to resume the Group One qualifying session.

* BLACK FLAG is shown at 1:02 p.m. to #25 da MATTA as smoke trails from the car at speed around the track. Da MATTA subsequently pits the car to comply with the Black Flag.

* At 1:05 p.m., 20 minutes into the Group One session and under the Red Flag, the fastest Group One driver is #7 PAPIS with a lap of 106.771 mph (1:34.239), followed by #40 FERNANDEZ (106.577 mph; 1:34.441) and #20 MAGNUSSEN (106.033 mph; 1:34.895).

* At 1:08 p.m., the delay penalties for #16 SALLES and #10 HEARN both expire. Neither driver immediately brings out the secondary car for use in the session.

* At 1:10 p.m., 25 minutes into the Group one session, the fastest Group One driver is #40 FERNANDEZ with a speed of 106.866 mph (1:34.155), followed by #7 PAPIS (106.771 mph; 1:34.239) and #99 MOORE (106.634 mph; 1:34.360).

* BLACK FLAG is shown at 1:12 p.m. to #36 MONTERMINI for a Pit Road speed violation. MONTERMINI subsequently pits the car to comply with the Black Flag drive-thru penalty.

* At 1:14 p.m., #22 GORDON shortcuts Turn 1 and forfeits his ninth timed lap.

* Also at 1:14 p.m., #71 GIDLEY shortcuts Turn 1 and forfeits his seventh timed lap.

* Again at 1:14 p.m., #22 GORDON shortcuts Turn 7 and again forfeits his ninth timed lap.

* RED FLAG waves at 1:14 p.m. after #7 PAPIS spins at Turn 3 and makes contact against the outside wall with the rear of the car, stalling the car. PAPIS is uninjured in the incident but the car sustains damage to the rear wing. CART safety workers quickly hook the car up and tow it back to the Pit Area.

* CHECKERED FLAG waves at 1:14 p.m. as there will not be enough time for the CART safety crew to get the track cleared to resume the Group One qualifying session. #40 FERNANDEZ is the fastest Group One driver with a speed of 108.110 mph (1:33.072; 172.976 kph; second overall combined), followed by #25X da MATTA (107.731 mph; 172.370 kph; 1:33.399; fourth overall combined) and #7 PAPIS (107.612 mph; 172.179 kph; 1:33.503; sixth overall combined).

* GREEN FLAG waves at 1:30 p.m. to start the Group Two qualifying session. Provisional Pole sitter PAUL TRACY, who wrecked his Provisional Pole-winning primary car in this morning's practice session, has elected to sit on his time and not start the Group Two qualifying session unless quite a few Group Two cars surpass his Provisional Pole winning speed. In that case, it is possible that TRACY may chose to enter the Group Two qualifying session in his secondary car, forfeiting his Provisional Pole-winning speed and attempt to qualify his secondary car for Sunday's race.

* At 1:32 p.m., #44 KANAAN shortcuts the course at Turn 1 and forfeits his first timed lap.

* At 1:35 p.m., five minutes into the Group Two qualifying session, #44 KANAAN is the fastest Group Two driver with a lap of 107.825 mph (1:33.318; second-overall), followed by #8 HERTA (107.689 mph; 1:33.436; fourth-fastest overall) and #27 FRANCHITTI (107.658 mph; 1:33.463; fifth-fastest overall).

* RED FLAG waves at 1:36 p.m. after #12X VASSER runs off course at Turn 5, dislodging tires in the middle of the chicane grass, spilling them onto the track. CART safety workers quickly restore the tires to their original positions in the chicane.

* GREEN FLAG waves at 1:39 p.m. to resume the Group Two qualifying session.

* At 1:40 p.m., 10 minutes into the Group Two qualifying session, the fastest Group Two drivers and speeds are unchanged from the 1:35 p.m. report.

* At 1:41 p.m., #8 HERTA brushes the wall at Turn 4 but continues on course without apparent damage to the car.

* At 1:45 p.m., 15 minutes into the Group Two session, the fastest Group Two driver is #8 HERTA with a lap of 108.267 mph (1:32.937; first on the day), followed by #4 MONTOYA (108.173 mph; 1:33.018; second on the day) and #27 FRANCHITTI (108.003 mph; 1:33.164; fourth on the day.) TRACY still sits in his secondary car at the moment, waiting to see if any Group Two driver surpasses his Provisional Pole speed.

* At 1:46 p.m., #12X VASSER shortcuts the course at Turn 1 and forfeits his fifth timed lap.

* At 1:50 p.m., 20 minutes into the Group Two session, the fastest Group Two drivers and speeds remain unchanged from the 1:45 p.m. report.

* At 1:53 p.m., #44 KANAAN shortcuts the course at Turn 5 and forfeits his third timed lap.

* At 1:54 p.m., #8 HERTA clocks the fastest lap of the weekend with a speed of 108.667 mph (1:32.595) on his seventh timed lap and takes over the top qualifying spot from TRACY. TRACY falls to second on the grid. TRACY is now out of his car in the Pit Area as there is not enough time to get the car and tires up to speed to re-challenge the Group Two drivers for the Pole.

* At 1:55 p.m., 25 minutes into the session, the fastest Group two driver is still #8 HERTA with his earlier seventh-lap run of 108.667 mph (1:32.595; first-overall on the weekend), followed by #4 MONTOYA (108.173 mph; 1:33.018; second on the day and third of the weekend) and #27 FRANCHITTI (108.003 mph; 1:33.164; fourth on the day and sixth of the weekend).

* At 1:56 p.m., #27 FRANCHITTI takes over the pole position with the fastest lap of the weekend on his seventh lap of the session with a speed of 109.011 mph (1:32.218). TRACY now falls to third on the grid.

* Also at 1:56 p.m., #8 HERTA goes over the curbing at Turn 7, knocking off the right front wing in the process. HERTA continues on course to his Pit Area.

* At 1:57 p.m., #24 PRUETT clocks the third-fastest lap of the session and the weekend with a speed of 108.642 mph (1:32.616). TRACY has now dropped to fourth on the grid.

* At 1:58 p.m., #27 FRANCHITTI breaks the Surfers Paradise track record with a lap of 109.724 mph (175.558 kph; 1:31.703) and ups his pole winning speed on his eighth and last lap of the session.

* At 1:59 p.m., #4 MONTOYA dramatically slows on course at Turn 9, maneuvering for as much clear race track as possible in front of him, and then begins his final assault on the course to attempt to grab the Pole Position from FRANCHITTI. MONTOYA comes back up to speed and flashes across the Start/Finish line with 30 seconds left in the session to complete his final run.

* Also at 1:59 p.m., #44 KANAAN shortcuts the course at Turn 1 and forfeits his sixth and final timed lap of the session.

* Again at 1:59 p.m., #11 FITTIPALDI loses control on his final timed lap and spins across the chicane grass at Turn 1, striking the tires at the apex, spinning around and stalling nose first into the tires. FITTIPALDI quickly unhooks his belts and sprints from the car to safety.

* CHECKERED FLAG waves at 2 p.m. to officially end the qualifying session. No more timed laps may start from this time on. #4 MONTOYA is at full-speed on the backstretch at the time, heading to the Turn 5 chicane. As MONTOYA enters Turn 8, he locks up the brakes and slides too deep into the corner, effectively ending his bonzai run for the Pole Position. MONTOYA winds up sixth on the grid by virtue of his fourth timed lap of the session.

* Also at 2 p.m., #9 CASTRO-NEVES shortcuts the course at Turn 1 and forfeits his tenth and final lap.

* The final Group Two run-down has FRANCHITTI the fastest at 109.724 mph (1:31.703), followed by #8 HERTA (108.667 mph; 1:32.595) and #24 PRUETT (108.642 mph; 1:32.616). Fed Ex Championship Series drivers introduced 26 cars to the track in the final qualifying session with secondary cars utilized by #17X GUGELMIN, #25X da MATTA, and #12X VASSER. CART drivers logged a total of 165 laps in the final qualifying session.

* DARIO FRANCHITTI wins the pole for Sunday's Honda Indy 300! FRANCHITTI claims the pole with a track-record lap of 109.724 mph (175.558 kph; 1:31.703), breaking his own record of 109.028 mph (174.445 kph) set in 1998. This represents the second pole of the 1999 season for FRANCHITTI as well as the eighth of his career. Almost as important, FRANCHITTI earns the one Championship point for winning the pole and now trails MONTOYA by 12 points.

* BRYAN HERTA sits second on tomorrow's grid with his lap of 108.667 mph (173.867 kph; 1:32.595). This is HERTA's third consecutive front row start as HERTA won the pole at Laguna Seca and started second at Houston two weeks ago. This is also HERTA's eighth top-five start of the season.

* SCOTT PRUETT starts third in tomorrow's Honda Indy 300. This is PRUETT's season-best start as he had started fifth at Michigan in July. This also represents the best start in CART history for a Toyota-powered car since the engine manufacturer entered the series in 1996. * Quotes from today's top three qualifiers follow:

* DARIO FRANCHITTI, KOOL Honda Reynard: "It's so difficult to pass here, it's very important to start on the first two rows. I got in a good lap at the start, not too good, and we came in, changed tires and then I went out and experimented, shall we say? I went out and threw everything at it and it seemed to work out. I was surprised at the margin."

* BRYAN HERTA, Shell Ford Reynard: "It was a very interesting qualifying session, as it always is. I got a good lap in on the first set of tires, so I thought I could take some chances on the second set. I caught the cone in the Foster's Chicane and clipped the wing on the front suspension, so I didn't get a chance to go after Dario at the end. The timing [of a strong finish to the season] is good. I think all the people who need to know, know I'm available [next year]. I'm working on some things, and I'd like to put that to rest sooner rather than later. In the meantime, I'll just concentrate on getting the best results I can on the racetrack."

* SCOTT PRUETT, Pioneer/MCI WorldCom Toyota Reynard: "It was a great effort. I've got to thank the [Arciero-Wells Racing] team, Toyota, MCI, Pioneer ... They've worked really hard, and I've reaped the benefits of all their efforts. This is going to be my last street race in CART, so this is a great way to go out. We made quite a few changes to the car, all of them positive. If anybody noticed, we jumped back and forth between our primary and our backup car in the practice sessions, and our qualifying setup was kind of a blend between the two, so it worked out very well."

* Too simplify the PPG Points Chase, here is a brief recap. For Juan Montoya to clinch the championship in Sunday's Honda Indy 300, he must outscore Dario Franchitti by 10 PPG Cup points. Franchitti currently trails by 12 after earning a point for today's pole. The scoring system is as follows: 1st, 20; 2nd, 16; 3rd, 14; 4th, 12;5th, 10; 6th, 8; 7th, 6; 8th, 5; 9th, 4; 10th, 3; 11th, 2; 12th, 1. The driver who leads the most laps also earns a PPG Cup point.

* SCOTT PRUETT wins the Budweiser Accelerator Award by virtue of being the driver that posts the best improvement in speed from practice laps to qualifying laps. PRUETT had a best practice speed of 92.616 mph and a best qualifying lap of 97.800, improving by 5.184 mph (8.294 kph). PRUETT earns a $1000 check from Budweiser as well as a cold case of Bud beer for the effort.

* Championship Auto Racing Teams and Gold Coast Motor Events - a partnership between the Queensland government and IMG - announced today they have come to terms on an agreement that will keep the FedEx Championship Series coming to this East Coast resort city through the year 2003. The announcement was made by CART Chairman and CEO Andrew Craig and the premier of Queensland, Peter Beattie, as preparations continued for Round 19 of the 20-race FedEx Championship Series - this weekend's Honda Indy 300 on the streets of Surfers Paradise. "This is a great partnership and we are pleased to extend it," said Craig. "The level of commitment from Gold Coast Motor Events is second to none. They know how to promote and how to provide race fans with superb entertainment throughout the weekend. Not only that, but we love coming here. Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast is a world-class resort and is one of the most popular venues on our schedule with our drivers and teams."

* The Surfers Paradise race weekend, first conducted in 1991, has grown to be one of Australia's leading sports entertainment events. The four-day attendance for last year's race was a quarter of a million, and another record crowd is expected in the coastal city by the time this weekend concludes. Sunday's race will be broadcast throughout the world to more than 190 countries in 19 languages and seen by more than 60 million viewers. "Honda Indy is second to none in Australia and we are proud to be able to stage such a successful and popular event here in Surfers Paradise," said Beattie. "The race pumps millions of dollars into the Queensland economy and this year promises to be the best yet in terms of economic impact, spectator attendance and sponsor participation. We are extremely pleased to be able to extend our relationship with CART."

CART

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Dario Franchitti