CHAMPCAR/CART: Houston Ford Saturday notes and quotes




MICHAEL ANDRETTI QUALIFIES FIFTH FOR THE TEXACO/HAVOLINE GRAND PRIX OF HOUSTON - Andretti lapped the 1.527-mile temporary street circuit in 58.909 seconds (93.317 mph) to lead all qualifiers powered by Ford-Cosworth. Gil de Ferran claimed his fourth pole position of the season by clocking in at 58.757 seconds (93.558 mph), 1998 race champion Dario Franchitti qualified second (58.843 seconds; 93.421 mph) while Jimmy Vasser (58.844 seconds; 93.420 mph) will start third, his highest start since second at Rio. Other top qualifiers powered by Ford-Cosworth included Christian Fittipaldi (7th), Alex Tagliani (8th) and Tarso Marques (11th).

TARSO MARQUES QUALIFIES A SEASON-BEST 11TH - Dale Coyne Racing driver Tarso Marques was the fastest qualifier in the first session and will start a season-best 11th in tomorrow's race with a lap of 59.269 seconds (92.750 mph). Marques' qualifying time cut nearly 1.5 seconds off his fastest time of the weekend (60.526 seconds; 90.824 mph) set during Saturday's morning practice, and is his highest start this season since 12th at Nazareth.

TEAM RAHAL TESTS INDY LIGHTS DRIVER CASEY MEARS - Indy Lights driver Casey Mears tested for Team Rahal at the California Speedway last week running over 400 miles in two days in the Team Rahal test car. Mears' top speed was a lap of 227.80 miles per hour on the two-mile superspeedway as the team concentrated on the Team Rahal race set up and aerodynamic issues with the car. Mears, who is the 22-year old son of former Champ Car driver Roger Mears and nephew of three-time CART champion Rick Mears, is currently third in the Indy Lights points standings heading into this weekend's race in Houston.


MICHAEL ANDRETTI (#6 Big Kmart/Texaco-Havoline Ford Cosworth) - Qualified 5th - "I think the car definitely had more in it. I think I could've had a shot at pole but I just ... I was out there forever trying to get a clear lap and I only got really one clear lap so it was a little frustrating. Starting fifth is nice as long as we just do what the leaders do and try to stay up front and hang in there. The car feels good on used tires and I think we definitely have a car that we can fight with."

ALEX TAGLIANI (#33 Player's Ford-Cosworth) - Qualified 8th - "I'm pretty pleased. The team and my guys really did a great job with the car this weekend and I'm really happy to be up front like that. It's going to be a tough race and tough to pass so the more up to the front you are the better it is. I'm very pleased with all the engineers, you know the Ford guys gave us some great help to be able to put the power down, and we're just really happy right now." WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT THE RACE TOMORROW? - "I think the first priority is saving the brakes and the tires and try and go as far as you can on a fuel tank to try and grab some positions in the pits." YOU'VE ALSO GOT TO BE HAPPY THAT YOU QUALIFIED IN THE FAST GROUP FOR AUSTRALIA? - "Exactly. It's very important because I don't know that track and it's going to be a big key for me to benefit from a grippy track because it's my first time."

CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI (#11 Big Kmart/Route 66 Ford-Cosworth) - Qualified 7th - HOW WAS YOUR SESSION? - "It went okay considering that we had to run both sets (of tires) one after the other, but it's okay because tomorrow's a long race. The car wasn't handling very well this morning. I thought I could put in the top five, top six, and we're seventh. I'm a little disappointed but tomorrow's a huge race and we have a lot more."

TARSO MARQUES (#34 Panasonic/Swift Ford-Cosworth) - Qualified 11th - YOU HAD TO BE VERY PLEASED QUALIFYING QUICKEST IN THE FIRST SESSION. - "It felt really good. We improved the balance of the car a lot. I think we're a little bit down on the level of grip, but the car is fast. I'm very happy, you know. I had enough fuel for one more lap so I tried a little bit too hard and I lost it at the end of the lap, unfortunately. But I'm very happy for myself and for the team because they've done a great job." YOU'VE BEEN RELATIVELY QUICK ALL WEEKEND. WHAT IS YOUR STRATEGY FOR TOMORROW'S RACE? - "We're not sure yet about the race. We'll have to see what kind of fuel mileage we can get so we can plan on the number of pit stops we'll have to make. We were just working on the car to try and make it as fast as we could for qualifying, so tonight we'll concentrate on setting the car up for the race." DID YOU KNOW YOU WERE ON A HOT LAP? - "I knew that if I could make it the lap would be faster because it was really fast. The car was sliding everywhere, but unfortunately I did the fast lap and then I tried a little bit more and it was too much and I crashed."

KENNY BRACK (#8 Shell Ford-Cosworth) - Qualified 13th - It was very frustrating out there today. I couldn't get a clear lap in qualifying, but the car was better this afternoon although the traffic was too heavy. Every time I got ready with the new tires I would run up on somebody. I finally got a clear lap on the very last one but the tires weren't very good. I'm pretty disappointed because we were fourth on Friday and I expected to be right up there again today. We didn't have a fast enough car today when it counted, but I think we'll be better for the race."

ROBERTO MORENO (#20 Visteon Ford-Cosworth) - Qualified 14th - HOW'S YOUR DAY BEEN? - "It's been quite good. We improved each day and the team did quite a good job to find a good set up in the car. This morning we tried different things that didn't work out so we went back and tried a different direction and that worked really well for us and I'm quite pleased with it. Although we didn't get a good lap in the second set of tires I think we have a very good racecar at the moment."

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ (#40 Tecate/Quaker State Ford-Cosworth) - Qualified 16th - WHAT HAPPENED? "I saw my split (time) that was the same at that point as my fastest lap so I knew I was looking good. I just pushed a little bit too hard and just went a little deeper than normal and it just pushed into the corner, unfortunately." HOW MUCH DOES IT HURT YOU TO MISS THE REST OF THE SESSION? - "It's going to hurt us for sure because everybody's going to go quicker in the second session and it's definitely going to be faster. We just have to find a way to get to the top like we've done before starting from the back." WHAT KIND OF WEEKEND HAS IT BEEN FOR YOU? - "Well hopefully it'll be better for race day. There's a lot of things that can happen on race day and we wanted to definitely qualify up front and was trying to do that." HOW BUMPY IS IT OUT THERE? - "That's one of the problems and we've been trying to search in different set ups and different ways of the suspension and things like that but unfortunately we haven't been able to get it. But I thought the car was getting pretty good at the end it's unfortunate we didn't get to that next step. Tomorrow's another day and hopefully we can change our luck."

MAX PAPIS (#7 Miller Lite Ford-Cosworth) - Qualified 17th - "I think it may be an advantage to our starting position tomorrow. When you start in the top 10 you have to follow the leaders. Back where we're starting we can roll the dice, maybe use an alternate fuel strategy and see what happens, it may pay off. I'm really not a big fan of the split qualifying sessions because it is very difficult to move from the slow group to the fast group for qualifying and you can get trapped there for several races."

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Gil de Ferran , Tarso Marques , Alex Tagliani , Christian Fittipaldi , Dario Franchitti , Rick Mears , Roger Mears , Dale Coyne
Teams Dale Coyne Racing