CHAMPCAR/CART: Houston Race Day Track Notes and Quotes

Texaco Grand Prix of Houston FedEx Championship Series Track Notes - Sunday - October 4, 1998 Early arrivals to the downtown track this morning have found today's weather again threatening occasional showers punctuated with brilliant sunshine...

Texaco Grand Prix of Houston FedEx Championship Series Track Notes - Sunday - October 4, 1998

Early arrivals to the downtown track this morning have found today's weather again threatening occasional showers punctuated with brilliant sunshine and a beautiful rainbow arching over the tallest buildings behind the circuit. Most of the Champ Car teams are mounting rain tires for the start of the early morning practice to make sure a good supply of "scuffs" are available if needed. CART's on-track activities today begin with the traditional 30-minute warm-up session, followed by the Green Flag for the Texaco Grand Prix of Houston at 3 p.m.

GREEN FLAG waves at 11 a.m. to start the final practice session of the weekend. Firestone engineers report a track temperature of 95 degrees F. and an ambient temperature of 88 degrees F. at the start of the session.

At 11:02 a.m., race course observers report smoke trailing from #20 PRUETT as he circles the course. PRUETT immediately pits the car.

At 11:05 a.m., five minutes into the session, the fastest driver is #2 UNSER JR. with a lap of 74.930 mph (1:13.364), followed by #3 RIBEIRO (72.854 mph; 1:15.455) and #77X MEIER (70.528 mph; 1:17.943).

At 11:09 a.m., #10 HEARN slides into the run-off at Turn 5 but keeps the car running and continues on-course without damage to the car.

Also at 11:09 a.m., #26 TRACY slides into the tire barrier at Turn 1 and makes light contact with the nose of the car. TRACY continues on-course with no apparent damage to the car.

At 11:10 a.m., ten minutes into the session, the fastest driver is #3 RIBEIRO with a lap of 85.745 mph (1:04.111), followed by #6 ANDRETTI (85.180 mph; 1:04.536) and #7 RAHAL (84.992 mph; 1:04.679).

At 11:12 a.m., #26 TRACY slides into the run-off at Turn 5 but continues on-course without damage to the car.

At 11:15 a.m., 15 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is #16 CASTRO-NEVES with a lap of 87.369 mph (1:02.919), followed by #11 FITTIPALDI (86.941 mph; 1:03..2290 and #1 ZANARDI (88.897 mph; 1:03.261).

At 11:20 a.m., 20 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is now #5 DE FERRAN with a lap of 88.362 mph (1:02.212), followed by #1 ZANARDI (87.917 mph; 1:02.527) and #16 CASTRO-NEVES (87.369 mph; 1:02.919).

At 11:25 a.m., 25 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is still #5 DE FERRAN (88.362 mph; 1:02.212), followed by #11 FITTIPALDI (88.352 mph; 1:02.219) and #27 FRANCHITTI (87.993 mph; 1:02.473).

CHECKERED FLAG waves at 11:30 a.m. to end the final practice session of the weekend with #5 DE FERRAN the fastest of the session with his earlier lap of 88.362 mph (1:02.212), followed by #11 FITTIPALDI (88.352 mph; 1:02.219) and #1 ZANARDI (88.270 mph; 1:02.277). FedEx Championship Series drivers introduced a total of 28 cars to the race course in this final practice session with secondary cars utilized by #20X PRUETT, #24X GORDON, and #77X MEIER. CART divers logged a total of 285 laps in this session.

PPG Industries, Inc. is pleased to announce that Paul Newman, co-owner of Newman/Haas Racing, has been named as PPG's Colorful Character for the Texaco Grand Prix of Houston. In addition, Newman also becomes an honorary member of the PPG Pace Car Team.

Newman's racing career spans from his first event in 1972 at Thompson, Connecticut in a Lotus Elan until his most recent victory at the Rolex 24-Hours of Daytona on February 5' 1995 in which he and his co-drivers won the International Motor Sports Association GTS-class.

Newman/Haas Racing was born when Paul and long-time racer Carl Haas, competitors in the Can Am series, each began looking to Champ Car racing in 1982. The two decided to join forces in 1983, with Mario Andretti as the team's driver. Newman/Haas is second in CART history with 52 victories, 59 pole positions and three PPG Cup championships ('84, '91, '93).

"Paul Newman is a true racer and a great friend of race fans everywhere," said Mike Sack, PPG's Director of Sports Marketing. "In addition, Paul has raised a tremendous amount of money for charities through his generosity in providing pace car rides at special charity auctions. We are delighted to recognize Paul Newman as a PPG Colorful Character and also as an honorary member of our PPG Pace Car Team. Paul can drive with us anytime," said Sack.

Newman joins prior winners including: Fr. Phil DeRea, Tom Carnegie, Rick Mears, Roger Bailey, Lou Palmer, Barry Green, Leo MehI, Sid Priddle, Floyd Ganassi, Wally Reese, Wally Dallenbach, Robin Miller, Shav Glick, Mario Andretti, Jim McGee, Kirk Russell, Mike Nealy, Al Speyer, Ned Wicker, Ned and Ann Miller, Michelle Trueman-Gajoch, Jim Melvin, Jim Hall, Dan Gurney, Pat Patrick, Ralph Sanchez, Les Unger, Dan Luginbuhl, Bud Stanner, Derrick Walker, Mike Harris, Christine Home, Jim Haynes, Phil Heard, Ron Hussey, Alex Zanardi, Dr. Steve Olvey, Bruce Flanders, Walt Czarnecki, Chuck Givler, Emerson Fittipaldi, Brian Stewart, Carl Haas, Andrew Craig, Bruce McCaw, Dan Proudfoot, Roger Penske, Bobby Rahal, Dale Coyne, Brian Williams and the CART Safety Team.

Much has been made of this inaugural visit to the city of Houston by the FedEx Championship Series as a historical event, but long-time CART Registration Chief, CATHIE LYON, reminds fans that the CART family first visited the George R. Brown Convention Center in 1991. MICHAEL ANDRETTI was presented the PPG Cup at the CART banquet here in Houston at the close of the 1991 season. Thanks to Cathie for her keen memory as well as being humble enough to admit she was here, in person and with CART, over seven years ago!

Throughout the two hour period between the 1:15 p.m. Checkered Flag for the Toyota Atlantics race and the Green Flag for the Champ Car race, sporadic but heavy rain has swept through the Houston area. The last downpour ended about one hour before the start of the race and the track has again started drying out. The teams are huddled around the weather radars on the internet waiting for the decision from CART Chief Steward WALLY DALLENBACH as to whether this will be declared a "Wet Start" race or not. If the Chief Steward declares the race a "Wet Start" in the interest of safety, all teams must start the race on rain tires, period. The teams are obligated to complete only the first lap on the rain tires. If the Wet Start is not declared by the Chief Steward, the choice to start on rain tires or slicks is totally up to the individual teams. Team managers must make some very serious decisions with one eye on the radar and one on the sky. Obviously, farming isn't the only job that contains weather-related ulcers.

At 2:40 p.m., a heavy downpour covers the downtown portion of Houston, leaving the fans and race track awash in water.

At 2:45 p.m., CART Chief Steward WALLY DALLENBACH declares that the race will be a "Wet Start". Mr. Dallenbach also declares a "hold" for the start of the race, with a minimum of ten minutes to be given to the participants before the command to start engines.

At 2:56 p.m., the National Anthem is sung by Bryton McClure.

At 3:10 p.m., the rain lets up significantly and CART track workers begin to make headway in removing standing water from the track.

At 3:25 p.m., the competitors get the ten-minute warning to the command to start engines.

At 3:35 p.m., the command "Gentlemen, Start Your Engines!" is given by Honorary Starter Wilson Barry, CEO of Motiva representing Texaco, after a 35-minute weather delay.

At 3:36 p.m., the PPG Pace Car rolls for the first of three pace laps with the field of 28 cars in tow.

At 3:37 p.m. Chief Steward WALLY DALLENBACH announces a single-file start will be used for the start of the race.

At 3:38 p.m., #6 ANDRETTI pits his car after the first lap and rejoins the field at the back of the grid.

At 3:41 p.m., #6 ANDRETTI pits again on the second pace lap, with a suspension problem.

GREEN FLAG waves at 3:42 p.m. to start the 100-lap Texaco Grand Prix of Houston! #99 MOORE grabs the lead heading into the first turn of the race (Turn 5) but is passed on the inside followed by #26 TRACY.

Firestone engineers report a track temperature of 84 degrees f. and an ambient temperature of 81 degrees F. at the start of the race.

YELLOW FLAG waves as, behind the leaders, #5 DE FERRAN spins and squeezes #8 HERTA into the wall. HERTA's car makes contact against the wall with the right front tire. DE FERRAN gets restarted and continues. CART safety workers get HERTA restarted and HERTA rejoins the field without losing a lap. #6 ANDRETTI pulls back into his pit and subsequently withdraws from the race due to suspension problems without completing one official lap.

#27 FRANCHITTI leads the first lap of the Texaco Grand Prix of Houston by .490 seconds over teammate #26 TRACY, followed by #11 FITTIPALDI and #12 VASSER, all under a Yellow Flag.

GREEN FLAG waves on Lap 3 to restart the race with #27 FRANCHITTI leading #26 TRACY.

YELLOW FLAG waves almost immediately on Lap 3 as #99 MOORE spins at Turn 2A and makes contact with #11 FITTIPALDI. Both drivers are uninjured in the incident but both cars are withdrawn from the race due to contact.

GREEN FLAG waves on Lap 9 with #27 FRANCHITTI leading #26 TRACY, followed by #1 ZANARDI, #12 VASSER, and #7 RAHAL. #3 RIBEIRO spins coming out of Turn 2A and stalls in the middle of the track. CART Race Control orders a local Yellow Flag to deal with the incident. RIBEIRO gets the car restarted and continues on-course. RIBEIRO loses two laps in the process to the leaders.

On Lap 10, the running order is #27 FRANCHITTI leading by 2.171 seconds over #26 TRACY, followed by #1 ZANARDI, #12 VASSER, and #7 RAHAL.

RED FLAG waves on Lap 13 after #24 GORDON attempts to pass #19 JOURDAIN JR. on the inside of Turn 10 and makes contact with the side of JOURDAIN JR.'s car. JOURDAIN JR. is turned around and with GORDON's car behind him, effectively blocks the track. #18 BLUNDELL, #33 CARPENTIER, #98 SOSPIRI, #16 CASTRO-NEVES, and #8 HERTA bottle up behind the incident blocking the track even further, prompting the Red Flag. According to the CART Rule Book, upon display of the Red Flag, all drivers must immediately proceed to their pit area and stop. Work may be done to the car by the crews once the car is in the pit box.

At 4:20 p.m., CART Race Control lines the cars up on the grid in the order that the cars were running previous to the Red Flag. The lap count is reduced from 13 laps to 12 laps as the entire field had not completed the 13th lap before the Red Flag was displayed.

At 4:21 p.m., the Yellow Flag is again displayed and the field begins to circle the track in single file.

GREEN FLAG waves on Lap 16 with #27 FRANCHITTI leading by 1.94 seconds over #26 TRACY.

On Lap 18 and with the track starting to dry in some spots around the course, 16th-place #18 BLUNDELL pits and puts on slick racing tires. BLUNDELL comes back on course just in front of the leaders but is immediately passed by FRANCHITTI and falls one lap down. BLUNDELL falls to 21st position and is running laps eight to ten seconds slower than the leaders.

At 4:30 p.m., ABC Television announces that at the scheduled end of the race broadcast (5 p.m. CST), the race will be switched over to ESPN2 to complete the live telecast of the entire race.

On Lap 20, the running order is #27 FRANCHITTI leading by 7.28 seconds over #26 TRACY, followed by #1 ZANARDI, #12 VASSER, and #7 RAHAL.

On lap 23, #10 HEARN passes #5 DE FERRAN to take over ninth position.

On lap 26, #21 KANAAN and #40 FERNANDEZ both pass #7 RAHAL to take over fifth and sixth positions respectively.

On Lap 27, third-place #1 ZANARDI and sixth-place #40 FERNANDEZ pit and put on slick racing tires, even though a light drizzle is beginning to fall again on the race course. ZANARDI and FERNANDEZ fall to 11th and 12th place respectively.

On Lap 30, the running order is #27 FRANCHITTI leading by 9.440 seconds over #26 TRACY, #21 KANAAN, #12 VASSER, and #7 RAHAL.

On Lap 31, second-place #26 TRACY, third-place #21 KANAAN, and fourth-place #12 VASSER pit and put on slick race tires. TRACY returns in fourth place, KANAAN in seventh, and VASSER in eighth place respectively. TRACY clips some traffic cones entering the pits but is not penalized for the infraction by CART Race Control as the cones were in place to protect the FITTIPALDI pit area and FITTIPALDI's car is out of the race and off pit road. The light drizzle has stopped and large patches of the track begin to dry out.

On Lap 32, leader #27 FRANCHITTI and #7 RAHAL pit and also put on slicks. FRANCHITTI retains the lead while #7 RAHAL returns to the race in eighth place.

On lap 36, #12 VASSER, #25 PAPIS, and #5 DE FERRAN pass #40 FERNANDEZ to take over the fifth, sixth, and seventh places respectively.

On Lap 37, #7 RAHAL pits his car with damage from contact and withdraws from the race.

YELLOW FLAG waves on Lap 38 after #33 CARPENTIER slides into the tire barrier at Turn 10. CARPENTIER exits the car under his own power but the car is too damaged to continue and withdraws from the race.

On Lap 39, #5 DE FERRAN withdraws from the race due to a mechanical problem. Also #3 RIBEIRO stalls in the run-off at Turn 5. CART safety workers get the car restarted and RIBEIRO continues on course to his pit area.

On lap 40, the running order under a full-course Yellow Flag is #27 FRANCHITTI, followed by #26 TRACY, #1 ZANARDI, #21 KANAAN, and #12 VASSER.

GREEN FLAG waves on Lap 43 to resume the race with #27 FRANCHITTI leading #26 TRACY.

YELOW FLAG waves on Lap 45 after #34 VITOLO slides into the tire barrier at Turn 3. The driver is uninjured in the incident but the car is withdrawn from the race due to contact.

GREEN FLAG waves on Lap 46 to resume the race with #27 FRANCHITTI leading #26 TRACY.

On Lap 48, #26 TRACY attempts a pass on the inside of teammate #27 FRANCHITTI as the cars enter Turn 5. TRACY's right front tire makes side-to-side contact with FRANCHITTI's left rear tire and TRACY spins into the inside wall at Turn 5. TRACY's left front wheel and front wing are broken and TRACY continues to his pit area and withdraws from the race due to contact.

On Lap 50, the running order is #27 FRANCHITTI leading by 3.648 seconds over #1 ZANARDI, followed by #21 KANAAN, #12 VASSER, and #25 PAPIS.

On Lap 52, rain is again reported at Turns 8 through 10.

Also on Lap 52, #2 UNSER JR. passes #10 HEARN to take over seventh place.

On Lap 58, the drizzle has again let up and no cars have pitted to put on rain tires during this brief moisture outburst.

CORRECTION: On Pit Note 18, it was stated that #6 ANDRETTI did not complete an official lap according to Omega Timing. Omega has now adjusted the race results and currently show ANDRETTI credited with two laps in the race before he fell out with suspension problems.

On Lap 60, the running order is #27 FRANCHITTI leading by 3.373 seconds over #1 ZANARDI, followed by #21 KANAAN, #12 VASSER, and #25 PAPIS.

On lap 63, heavy rain begins to fall from Turn 5 to Turn 10. All the cars in the field begin to lose traction and lap times slow dramatically.

On lap 65, the top five cars pit and put rain tires back on. FRANCHITTI retains the lead with #1 ZANARDI in second, #12 VASSER in third, #25 PAPIS in fourth, and #21 KANAAN in fifth.

At 5:28 p.m., the rain track-wide increases dramatically with occasional lightning.

YELLOW FLAG waves on Lap 67 because of the worsening weather conditions. The cars slow down and begin to circle the track behind the pace car under the caution flag.

As the drivers are radioing to their crews that they can no longer see the track and radar shows severe weather on the way to the Houston area, Chief Steward WALLY DALLENBACH declares that the White Flag will be waved on Lap 69 and the Checkered Flag will be shown on Lap 70.

CHECKERED FLAG waves on Lap 70 for the winner of the Texaco Grand Prix of Houston, DARIO FRANCHITTI! FRANCHITTI, circling the track under the Yellow Flag, wins by .646 seconds over second-place ALEX ZANARDI. FRANCHITTI led every one of the 70 laps run in today's race. TONY KANAAN comes home in third place, with JIMMY VASSER in fourth, and MAX PAPIS finishes fifth.

There were 17 cars running at the end of the race with ten cars finishing on the lead lap. The Yellow Flag flew five times for a total of 21 laps during today's race. The time of race was one hour, 36 minutes and 30 seconds. The official attendance for today's race was a standing-room only, capacity crowd of 62,455 with a total weekend attendance of 105,000.

Today represents DARIO FRANCHITTI's third victory of the 1998 season as well as his CART career. This is also three victories in the last four races. FRANCHITTI is the first driver to lead every lap of a CART race since PAUL TRACY at Laguna Seca in 1994. This is also FRANCHITTI's eighth top-four finish in the 17 events of the 1998 season.

ALEX ZANARDI extended his CART record for podium finishes in a season to 13 with his second-place finish today. This was also ZANARDI's ninth top-four finish in the last 10 races. ZANARDI also extends his most-points-in-a-season record to 250 with two races still remaining on the schedule. The previous record was recorded by MICHAEL ANDRETTI who collected 234 points in 17 races in 1991.

TONY KANAAN third-place finish today matches his season-best finish which was posted at Laguna Seca last month. The finish also clinches the Jim Trueman Rookie of the Year Award for KANAAN.

Driver quotes from the top-three finishers from today's Texaco Grand Prix of Houston follow.

DARIO FRANCHITTI, KOOL Reynard Honda: "First of all the warmup this morning, we were pleased. We hadn't done too many laps had a good balance in the dry and then the rain comes along. And I was quite happy, because it always rains in Scotland and I drive a lot in the rain and ever since I've been racing go-karts it's rained most weekends there, so that was quite pleasant. But I didn't expect it to be as slippery as it was. The oils were coming up through the tarmac and that really made it quite treacherous to stay on the track. I felt I was just surviving, really just keeping the car on the track but I was pulling away quite well from Paul behind me, so I was quite happy with that. I think we're looking good for a one-two [finish] and then something happened at the end of the back straight. I was turning in and Paul hit me. I don't know what happened there. I was really just surviving the whole day, trying not to make any mistakes. [Technical Director and Chief Engineer] Don Halliday and [General Manager] Kim Green and the guys in the pit called the race perfectly as far as I was concerned. Firestone, Reynard and Honda are obviously the combination to have because of the clean sweep today. Everything just worked really well and I'm delighted."

ALEX ZANARDI, Target Reynard Honda: "The strategy was just one word - surviving. I guess everybody was trying to do that, somebody with more success, as we did, and somebody with less success. The first two starts, was very interesting, very entertaining. With all that happening, the key word was going to be just keep it cool, just hope for the best, just put pressure on the other people, and that's what I kept doing. My car was good, but Dario seemed to have a much better balance. He drove very, very smoothly, very well and never made any mistakes. I was just waiting for something to happen which didn't come."

TONY KANAAN, LCI Reynard Honda: "I think the day was difficult for everybody, very difficult conditions. The track was so slippery in the beginning of the race, and we got dry and then got wet again. It was the same conditions for everybody. We just tried to stay on the track, and we did. I knew that if we finished this race, we would finish good. I knew how many points I needed to win the Rookie of the Year and I knew as well it was going to be pretty difficult, because Helio [Castro-Neves] had been running well. This is the second time we had bet for something, and we won, so I'm very happy. [Kanaan and Castro-Neves finished first and second, respectively, in last year's PPG-Dayton Indy Lights Championship]."

Today's win by FRANCHITTI in a Honda clinches the manufacturer's title for Honda with two races remaining on the schedule.

Firestone won its 16th race in a row with FRANCHITTI's victory today.

CART Chief Steward Wally Dallenbach meted out six fines following Sunday's Texaco Grand Prix of Houston. Team KOOL Green owner Barry Green and the team's driver, Paul Tracy (KOOL Reynard Honda), were fined $5,000 each for a brief incident in the pits following Tracy's exit from the race due to contact. Both were fined for not maintaining proper behavior and sportsmanship as well as physical contact (Rules 6.1, 6.2). Arnd Meier (Hasseroder/J.A.G. Lola Ford), Dennis Vitolo (SmithKline Beecham Reynard Ford), Richie Hearn (Budweiser/Ralphs Swift Ford)) and rookie Alex Barron (Castrol-Degree Eagle Toyota) were each fined $2,500 for ignoring the red-flag condition during the event (Rule 6.10.5).

This concludes the Pit Notes for the Texaco Grand Prix of Houston. We'll try to bring you better weather in two weeks from Surfers Paradise, Australia for the running of the Honda Indy on October 18th. Stay safe until then.

Source: CART Online

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Wally Dallenbach Sr. , Bobby Rahal , Paul Tracy , Alex Zanardi , Richie Hearn , Alex Barron , Dan Gurney , Mario Andretti , Paul Newman , Emerson Fittipaldi , Carl Haas , Kim Green , Barry Green , Roger Bailey , Roger Penske , Robin Miller , Dale Coyne
Teams Williams