CHAMPCAR/CART: Houston Saturday track notes

Good Morning from downtown Houston Texas for the final day of qualifying for Sunday's Texaco/Havoline Grand Prix of Houston! Today's weather is again perfect; not a cloud in sight and cool temperatures prevailing for the early arrivals to the ...

Good Morning from downtown Houston Texas for the final day of qualifying for Sunday's Texaco/Havoline Grand Prix of Houston! Today's weather is again perfect; not a cloud in sight and cool temperatures prevailing for the early arrivals to the track. Today's Champ Car activities kick off with a 75-minute warm-up at 10 a.m., followed by the final round of qualifying at 1:45 p.m.

#19 BARRON has a carryover delay-of-session penalty from the end of yesterday morning's session that will have to be served in the last eight minutes of today's session.

GREEN FLAG waves at 10 a.m. to start the morning warm-up session. Firestone engineers report a track temperature of 81 degrees F. and an ambient temperature of 76 degrees F. at the start of the session.

RED FLAG waves at 10:04 a.m. after side-to-side contact between #40X FERNANDEZ and #96 SERVIA at Turn 1 results in the right front wing of SERVIA's car being broken loose. Both cars continue to their respective Pit Boxes while CART safety workers retrieve the debris from the track.

GREEN FLAG waves at 10:06 a.m. to resume the session.

BLACK FLAG is shown at 10:07 a.m. to #18 BLUNDELL for a Pit Road safety violation. BLUNDELL subsequently pits the car to comply with the Black Flag drive thru penalty.

At 10:08 a.m., #55 KANAAN slides into the run-off at Turn 5 but continues on course without apparent damage to the car.

Also at 10:08 a.m., #1 MONTOYA slides into the run-off at Turn 1 but continues on course without apparent damage to the car.

At 10:09 a.m., #25 GARCIA Jr. slides into the run-off at Turn 5 but continues on course without apparent damage to the car. At the same time, #55 KANAAN slides into the run-off at Turn 7 but continues on course without apparent damage to the car.

At 10:10 a.m., 10 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is #6 ANDRETTI with a lap of 89.403 mph (1:01.488), followed by #26 TRACY (88.936 mph; 1:01.811) and #27 FRANCHITTI (88.379 mph; 1:02.200).

Also at 10:10 a.m., #3 CASTRONEVES rolls into the run-off at Turn 1 but continues on course without apparent damage to the car.

RED FLAG waves at 10:11 a.m. after #18 BLUNDELL slides into the run-off at Turn 1 and stalls the car. CART safety workers get the car refired and BLUNDELL continues on course to his Pit Box.

GREEN FLAG waves at 10:15 a.m. to resume the session.

BLACK FLAG is shown at 10:18 a.m. to #2 de FERRAN for a Pit Road speed violation. De FERRAN 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 #3 CASTRONEVES with a lap of 89.693 mph (1:01.289), followed by #6 ANDRETTI (89.643 mph; 1:01.319) and #8 BRACK (89.473 mph; 1:01.440).

At 10:22 a.m., #97 da MATTA slides into the run-off at Turn 9 but continues on course without apparent damage to the car.

At 10:24 a.m., #1 MONTOYA slides into the run-off at Turn 4 but continues on course without apparent damage to the car.

At 10:27 a.m., #20 MORENO slides into the run-off at Turn 5 but continues on course without apparent damage to the car.

At 10:30 a.m., 30 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is now #27 FRANCHITTI with a lap of 90.988 mph (1:00.417), followed by #3 CASTROENVES (90.956 mph; 1:00.438) and #2 de FERRAN (90.870 mph; 1:00.495).

At 10:31 a.m., #33 TAGLIANI slides into the run-off at Turn 5 but continues on course without apparent damage to the car.

RED FLAG waves at 10:32 a.m. after #12 VASSER spins at Turn 1 and stalls the car. CART safety workers get the car restarted and VASSER continues on course without apparent damage to the car.

GREEN FLAG waves at 10:35 a.m. to resume the session.

At 10:37 a.m., #1 MONTOYA brushes the wall at Turn 6 but continues on course without apparent damage to the car.

At 10:38 a.m., #96 SERVIA slides into the run-off at Turn 5 but continues on course without apparent damage to the car.

At 10:39 a.m., #25 GARCIA Jr. slides into the run-off at Turn 7 but continues on course without apparent damage to the car.

At 10:40 a.m., #26 TRACY slides into the run-off at Turn 5 and stalls the car. CART safety workers get the car restarted and TRACY continues to his pit with no apparent damage to the car.

At 10:40 a.m., 40 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is still #27 FRANCHITTI with his earlier lap of 90.988 mph (1:00.417), followed by #3 CASTRONEVES (90.956 mph; 1:00.438) and #2 de FERRAN (90.870 mph; 1:00.495).

At 10:42 a.m., #96 SERVIA slides into the run-off at Turn 5 but continues on course without apparent damage to the car.

At 10:43 a.m., #96 SERVIA again slides into the run-off at Turn 3 but continues on course without apparent damage to the car.

Also at 10:43 a.m., #1 MONTOYA slides into the run-off at Turn 9 but continues on course without apparent damage to the car.

RED FLAG waves at 10:48 a.m. after #26 TRACY spins at Turn 3, making light contact with the tire barrier before stalling the car. CART safety workers get the car restarted and TRACY continues on course to his Pit Box.

At 10:50 a.m., 50 minutes into the session and under the Red Flag, the fastest driver is now #1 MONTOYA with a lap of 91.445 mph (1:00.115), followed by #6 ANDRETTI (91.096 mph; 1:00.345) and #27 FRANCHITTI (90.988 mph; 1:00.417).

GREEN FLAG waves at 10:51 a.m. to resume the session.

At 10:54 a.m., #1 MONTOYA slides into the run-off at Turn 5 but continues on course without apparent damage to the car.

At 10:55 a.m., #2 de FERRAN slides into the run-off at Turn 9 but continues on course without apparent damage to the car.

At 11 a.m., one hour into the session, the fastest driver is now #33 TAGLIANI with a lap of 91.784 mph (59.893 seconds), followed by #12 VASSER (91.732 mph; 59.927 seconds) and #1 MONTOYA (91.445 mph; 1:00.115).

At 11:01 a.m., #12 VASSER spins at Turn 1 and stalls the car. CART safety workers get the car restarted and VASSER continues on course without apparent damage to the car.

At 11:03 a.m., #8 BRACK spins at Turn 5 but continues on course without apparent damage to the car.

At 11:03 a.m., #18 BLUNDELL slides into the run-off at Turn 1 but continues on course without apparent damage to the car.

At 11:04 a.m., #16 JOURDAIN Jr. slides into the run-off at Turn 5 but continues on course without apparent damage to the car.

At 11:05 a.m., #5 NAKANO spins at Turn 7, making light contact with the tire barrier. NAKANO keeps the engine running and continues on course to his Pit Box.

BLACK FLAG is shown at 11:07 a.m. to #19 BARRON to start his eight-minute delay-of-session penalty, carried over from the end of yesterday's session.

BLACK FLAG is shown at 11:08 a.m. to #3 CASTRONEVES for a Pit Road speed violation. CASTRONEVES subsequently pits the car to comply with the Black Flag drive-thru penalty.

At 11:09 a.m., #1 MONTOYA slides into the run-off at Turn 7 but continues on course without apparent damage to the car.

At 11:09 a.m., #7 PAPIS slides into the run-off at Turn 5 and stalls the car. CART safety workers get the car restarted and PAPIS continues on course to his Pit Box without apparent damage to the car.

At 11:10 a.m., 70 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is now #55 KANAAN with a lap of 92.292 mph (59.563 seconds), followed by #6 ANDRETTI (91.980 mph; 59.765 seconds) and #5 NAKANO (91.850 mph; 59.850 seconds).

Also at 11:10 a.m., #2 de FERRAN slides into the run-off at Turn 3 but continues on course without apparent damage to the car.

At 11:13 a.m., #18 BLUNDELL slides into the run-off at Turn 1 but continues on course without apparent damage to the car.

Again at 11:13 a.m., #40X FERNANDEZ slides into the run-off at Turn 5 but continues on course without apparent damage to the car.

CHECKERED FLAG waves at 11:15 a.m. with #6 ANDRETTI logging the fastest lap of the session on his 41st circuit, clocking a speed of 92.319 mph (59.546 seconds), followed by #55 KANAAN (92.292 mph; 59.563 seconds) and #97 da MATTA (92.159 mph; 59.649 seconds). The top 14 cars are separated by less than one second in lap times with the top 22 cars separated by less than two seconds in lap times. CART drivers introduced 25 cars to the track in this morning's session with secondary cars utilized by #40X FERNANDEZ and #17X GUGELMIN. CART drivers logged 844 laps in the session.

#27 FRANCHITTI, #3 CASTRONEVES, and #11 FITTIPALDI will all have to sit out the last eight minutes of today's final round of qualifying due to carryover delay-of-session penalties from yesterday's Provisional round of qualifying.

GREEN FLAG waves at 1:45 p.m. to start the Group One qualifying session. Firestone engineers report a track temperature of 95 degrees F. and an ambient temperature of 80 degrees F. at the start of the session.

At 1:52 p.m., #17 GUGELMIN brushes the wall at Turn 2 but continues on course without apparent damage to the car.

Also at 1:52 p.m., #40X FERNANDEZ brushes the wall at Turn 6 and continues on course to his Pit Area.

At 1:53 p.m., #18 BLUNDELL slides into the run-off at Turn 5 but continues on course without apparent damage to the car.

At 1:55 p.m., 10 minutes into the Group One session, the fastest Group One driver is #20 MORENO with a lap of 92.209 mph (59.617 seconds; second-overall), followed by #40X FERNANDEZ (92.045 mph; 59.723 seconds; eighth-overall) and #97 da MATTA (91.706 mph; 59.944 seconds; ninth-overall).

At 1:57 p.m., #10 GIDLEY slides into the run-off at Turn 5 and stalls the car. CART safety workers are unable to get the car restarted.

RED FLAG waves at 2:03 p.m. after #40X FERNANDEZ makes hard contact against the outside wall and tire barrier exiting Turn 5. The driver is uninjured in the incident but the car sustains damage to the right front suspension and nose assembly. CART safety workers quickly pull the car to safety to await the end of the session. FERNANDEZ will receive the standard eight-minute delay-of-session penalty to be assessed at the drop of the Green Flag.

At 2:05 p.m. and under the Red Flag, the fastest Group One driver is still #20 MORENO with his earlier lap of 92.209 mph (59.617 seconds; second overall), now followed by #97 da MATTA (92.145 mph; 59.658 seconds; sixth overall) and #96 SERVIA (92.067 mph; 59.709 seconds ninth-overall)

GREEN FLAG waves at 2:08 p.m. to resume the Group One qualifying session. As there is less than eight minutes left in the session, #40 FERNANDEZ will not return.

At 2:13 p.m., #16 JOURDAIN Jr. slides into the run-off at Turn 5 and stalls the car.

At 2:14 p.m., #32 CARPENTIER brushes the wall at Turn 2 but continues on course without apparent damage to the car.

RED and CHECKERED FLAGS waves at 2:14:45 p.m. after #34 MARQUES broadslides thru Turn 8 and makes contact against the tire barrier with the rear of the car, snapping off the rear wing. MARQUES is uninjured in the incident but the car sustains slight damage to the rear wing and suspension. MARQUES has just taken the top spot with a lap of 92.750 mph (59.269 seconds) on his 13th lap of the session. MARQUES will be assessed a carryover eight-minute penalty at the next road course venue, Surfers Paradise for causing a delay of the qualifying session.

The Group One session ends with #34 MARQUES the fastest Group One driver as well as the fastest of the weekend with a lap of 92.750 mph (59.269 seconds), followed by #97 da MATTA (92.725 mph; 59.285 seconds; second-overall) and #20 MORENO (92.209 mph; 59.617 seconds; fourth-overall).

GREEN FLAG waves at 2:30 p.m. to start the Group Two qualifying session.

At 2:34 p.m., #12 VASSER makes hard contact against the outside wall with the right front at Turn 1, breaking the right front wheel. VASSER limps around the track to his Pit box as the crew readies the secondary car for use in the remainder of the Group Two session.

At 2:36 p.m., #26 TRACY brushes the wall at Turn 4, sustaining some damage to the car. TRACY slowly makes his way around the track to his Pit Box.

Also at 2:36 p.m., #1 MONTOYA slides into the run-off at Turn 5 but continues on course without apparent damage to the car.

At 2:37 p.m., #1 MONTOYA brushes the wall at Turn 4 with the right rear wheel but continues on course without apparent damage to the car.

At 2:38 p.m., #55 KANAAN logs the fastest lap of the weekend with a lap of 92.814 mph (59.228 seconds) and takes the top spot of the speedboard.

At 2:39 p.m., #2 de FERRAN takes over the top spot with a lap of 93.558 mph (58.757 seconds) on his seventh circuit of the session. De FERRAN subsequently pits the car.

Also at 2:39 p.m., #1 MONTOYA again brushes the wall at Turn 4 with the right rear wheel and continues on course without apparent damage to the car.

At 2:40 p.m., 10 minutes into the Group Two session, the fastest Group Two driver is #2 de FERRAN with his lap of 93.558 mph (58.757 seconds; first-overall), followed by #3 CASTRONEVES (92.864 mph; 59.196 seconds; second-overall) and #55 KANAAN (92.814 mph; 59.228 seconds; third-overall).

At 2:42 p.m., Target/Chip Ganassi Racing rolls out the secondary #12X for driver VASSER and all of the times earned by the primary car #12 are forfeited.

At 2:46 p.m., #26 TRACY slides into the run-off at Turn 5 and stalls the car. CART safety workers get the car refired and TRACY continues on course without apparent damage to the car.

At 2:50 p.m., 20 minutes into the session, #2 de FERRAN is still the fastest with his earlier lap of 93.558 mph (58.757 seconds), now followed by #27 FRANCHITTI (93.421 mph; 58.843 seconds) and #3 CASTRONEVES (93.417 mph; 58.846 seconds).

At 2:52 p.m., #2 de FERRAN brushes the wall at Turn 10 with the right side of the car but continues on course without apparent damage to the car.

Also at 2:52 p.m., #3 CASTRONEVES, #11 FITTIPALDI, and #27 FRANCHITTI all pull onto Pit Road to serve the eight-minute carryover penalties assessed in yesterday's Provisional round of qualifying.

At 2:55 p.m., #8 BRACK slides into the run-off at turn 5 but continues on course without apparent damage to the car.

At 2:57 p.m., #2 de FERRAN slides into the run-off at Turn 1 but continues on course without apparent damage to the car.

At 2:58 p.m., #12X VASSER brushes the wall at Turn 6 but continues on course without apparent damage to the car.

At 2:59 p.m., #55 KANAAN slides into the run-off at turn 1 but continues on course without apparent damage to the car.

Again, at 2:59 p.m., #33 TAGLIANI brushes the wall at Turn 3 but continues on course without apparent damage to the car.

CHECKERED FLAG waves at 3 p.m. to end the Group Two qualifying with #2 de FERRAN the fastest driver with a lap of 93.558 mph (58.757 seconds), followed by #27 FRANCHITTI (93.421 mph; 58.843 seconds) and #12X VASSER (93.420 mph; 58.844 seconds). Last year's winner #26 TRACY winds up ninth with a best lap of 92.822 mph (59.223 seconds) and last year's points champion MONTOYA winds up sixth with a lap of 93.235 mph (58.961 seconds). The top 17 drivers are separated by less than one second in lap times compared to the top 12 after yesterday's Provisional Qualifying sessions. FedEx Championship Series drivers introduced 25 cars to the track in this afternoon's sessions with secondary cars utilized by #12X VASSER, #40X FERNANDEZ, and #17 GUGELMIN. The drivers turned 406 laps during the two qualifying sessions.

GIL de FERRAN takes his fourth Pole of the year and the 10th of his career in his Marlboro Team Penske Honda Reynard. De FERRAN also won Poles at Miami, Long Beach, and Mid-Ohio. De FERRAN has qualified among the top-five in 14 of the 18 events so far this season. This is also the series-leading tenth Pole for Honda.

DARIO FRANCHITTI lines up second tomorrow in his Team KOOL Green Honda Reynard. This is FRANCHITTI's fifth front-row start of the season. FRANCHITTI has qualified among the top four in the last six events.

JIMMY VASSER is third on the grid in his Target/Chip Ganassi Racing Toyota Lola, earning his fourth top-three start of the season and his second in a row.

GIL de FERRAN: "It was a pretty exciting qualifying session. We managed to get two clear laps on the first set of tires so I was able to put one in the bank and push harder. That's when I managed to do the 58.7 (second lap). Then, we decided we would wait until the last ten minutes because I knew the track would get better. But there was a lot of traffic, and I wasn't able to get quite the same speed out of the second set of tires. Then, it was just a matter of waiting to see if anybody would go quicker. You've got to be careful not to let thoughts about the championship get in your mind. I wasn't thinking about anything other than, 'I've got to brake here, I've got to throttle here,' I wasn't thinking about getting another point. I'll worry about that later."

DARIO FRANCHITTI: "The amount of time separating me and Gil and me and Jimmy, and even Helio shows me that the pole was there for any of us. I had a lot of understeer for some reason, and almost went into the tires in Turn 1. We knew we had limited time, and most of the time was spent trying to get out of traffic. The Firestone tires were good for three or four laps, which is a lot longer than in the past. They've got a harder compound and the tires really go a long time. It wasn't what I would call a good qualifying car today. I had to really drag it around to get a good qualifying lap. But it's a good race car, and that's what matters."

JIMMY VASSER: "I hit the wall and bent the suspension. I thought it was a little unusual that the left front tire was locking up. I went into Turn 1 under normal speed and it just locked up and I went into the tires pretty hard. We contemplated changing the wishbones, but it took me two or three minutes to get the car back around to the pits and the guys made the right call in going to the backup car. The guys had the car ready to go. I put us in a bad spot, and the guys dug us out of it. I give all the credit to my guys and Ricky Davis, my crew chief. They really did a great job. I think I've got a good car to win the race, which I haven't done in far too long."

-CART-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Chip Ganassi
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing