CHAMPCAR/CART: Houston Saturday Track Notes

Texaco Grand Prix of Houston FedEx Championship Series Track Notes - Saturday(October 3, 1998) Today's weather is partly cloudy with a chance of showers, causing teams to stack a few rain tires in the pit box to be safe. Today's CART ...

Texaco Grand Prix of Houston FedEx Championship Series Track Notes - Saturday(October 3, 1998)

Today's weather is partly cloudy with a chance of showers, causing teams to stack a few rain tires in the pit box to be safe. Today's CART on-track activities begin with a 75-minute practice session taking the Green Flag at 9 a.m., followed by the final round of qualifying starting at 12:45 p.m. Today's final round of qualifying will again be the split-group format with the faster drivers from yesterday's qualifying sessions running in the second group. Miller-Lite driver BOBBY RAHAL sits on the provisional pole by virtue of his 91.329 mph (1:00.191) lap in yesterday's sessions.

GREEN FLAG waves at 9 a.m. to start the Saturday morning practice session. Firestone engineers report a track temperature of 84 degrees F. and an ambient temperature of 81 degrees F. at the start of the session.

At 9:10 a.m., ten minutes into the session, the fastest driver is #40 FERNANDEZ with a lap of 88.006 mph (1:02.464), followed by #1 ZANARDI (87.610 mph; 1:02.746) and #8 HERTA (87.564 mph; 1:02.779).

At 9:12 a.m., #77 MEIER pits his car with smoke and fluid showing at the right, rear tire.

At 9:13 a.m., #20 PRUETT slides into the run-off at Turn 5 and continues on-course without damage to the car.

At 9:19 a.m., #34 VITOLO slides into the run-off at Turn 5 and continues on-course without damage to the car.

At 9:20 a.m., 20 minutes into the practice session, the fastest driver is #18 BLUNDELL with a lap of 88.576 mph (1:02.062), followed by #26 TRACY (88.516 mph; 1:02.104) and #16 CASTRO-NEVES (88.455 mph; 1:02.147).

RED FLAG waves at 9:21 a.m. after #98 SOSPIRI loses power on-course and stalls at Turn 6A. CART safety workers tow the car back to the pit area.

At 9:30 a.m. and under a Red Flag, the top drivers and speeds remain unchanged from the 9:20 a.m. report.

GREEN FLAG waves at 9:31 a.m. to resume the practice session.

At 9:33 a.m., #26 TRACY slides into the run-off at Turn 5 but keeps the engine running and continues on-course without damage to the car.

At 9:35 a.m., #25 PAPIS clocks the fastest lap of the session with a speed of 88.852 mph (1:01.869).

RED FLAG waves at 9:36 a.m. after #27 FRANCHITTI makes contact with the tire barrier at Turn 1. The driver is uninjured in the incident but the car sustains slight damage to the front nose. CART safety workers tow the car back to the pit area.

At 9:40 a.m., 40 minutes into the session and under the Red Flag, the fastest driver is still #25 PAPIS with a lap of 88.852 mph (1:01.869), followed by #8 HERTA (88.685 mph; 1:01.986) and #18 BLUNDELL (88.576 mph; 1:02.062).

GREEN FLAG waves at 9:46 a.m. to resume the practice session.

At 9:50 a.m., 50 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is now #27 FRANCHITTI with a lap of 89.946 mph (1:01.117), followed by #25 PAPIS (88.852 mph; 1:01.869) and #8 HERTA (88.685 mph; 1:01.986).

At 9:51 a.m., #16 CASTRO-NEVES slides into the run-off at Turn 6 and makes light contact with the nose of the car against the tire barrier and sustains slight damage.

Also at 9:51 a.m., #33 CARPENTIER slides into the run-off at Turn 3 but the driver keeps the engine running and continues on-course without damage to the car.

At 9:52 a.m., #12 VASSER spins at Turn 5. VASSER keeps the car running and continues on-course without damage to the car.

At 9:56 a.m., #3 RIBEIRO slides into the run-off at Turn 5 and continues on-course without damage to the car.

BLACK FLAG is shown at 9:59 a.m. to #77 MEIER after course observers report smoke and fluid trailing from the right rear tire area. MEIER subsequently pits his car.

RED FLAG waves at 10 a.m. after #18 BLUNDELL spins into the outside tire barrier at Turn 7 and makes slight contact with the left side pod against the wall. BLUNDELL is uninjured in the incident but the car sustains minor damage to the side pod.

At 10 a.m., one hour into the morning practice session and under the Red Flag, the fastest driver is now #40 FERNANDEZ with a lap of 90.272 mph (1:00.896), followed by #27 FRANCHITTI (89.946 mph; 1:01.117) and #11 FITTIPALDI (89.113 mph; 1:01.688).

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

BLACK FLAG is shown at 10:08 a.m. to #2 UNSER JR. for a pit road speed violation. UNSER JR. subsequently pits for a drive-thru penalty.

At 10:10 a.m., 70 minutes into the session, the fastest drivers and speeds remain unchanged from the 10 a.m. report.

Also at 10:10 a.m., #17 GUGELMIN slides into the run-off at Turn 5 and continues on-course without damage to the car.

At 10:12 a.m., #33 CARPENTIER spins at Turn 1 and comes to rest facing on-coming traffic. CARPENTIER gets the car restarted and continues on-course without damage to the car.

At 10:14 a.m., #7 RAHAL slides into the run-off at Turn 1 and CART safety workers push the car to safety to await the end of the session.

CHECKERED FLAG waves at 10:15 a.m. with #16 CASTRO-NEVES the fastest driver of the session with a lap of 90.483 mph (1:00.754), followed by #40 FERNANDEZ (90.272 mph; 1:00.896) and #27 FRANCHITTI (89.946 mph; 1:01.117). Provisional pole-sitter RAHAL is 25th in practice times this morning with a fastest-lap of 87.701 mph (1:02.681). FedEx Championship Series drivers introduced 31 different cars to the track in this morning's session with secondary cars utilized by #24X GORDON, #77X MEIER, and #98X SOSPIRI. CART drivers logged a total of 496 laps during this morning's practice session.

GREEN FLAG waves at 12:45 p.m. to start the final Group One qualifying session.

At 12:50 p.m., five minutes into the session, the fastest Group Two driver is #3 RIBEIRO with a lap of 88.614 mph (1:02.035), followed by #33 CARPENTIER (88.348 mph; 1:02.222) and #9 LEHTO (88.164 mph; 1:02.352).

At 12:55 p.m., ten minutes into the session, the fastest driver is still #3 RIBEIRO with a lap of 91.216 mph (1:00.266), followed by #2 UNSER JR. (90.782 mph; 1:00.554) and #21 KANAAN (90.504 mph; 1:00.740).

At 1 p.m., 15 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is still #3 RIBEIRO with a lap of 91.216 mph (1:00.266), followed by #21 KANAAN (90.819 mph; 1:00.529) and #2 UNSER JR. (90.782; 1:00.554).

At 1:02 p.m., #33 CARPENTIER slides into the run-off at Turn 5 but continues on-course without damage to the car.

At 1:05 p.m., 20 minutes into the Group One session, the fastest drivers and speeds are unchanged from the 1 p.m. report.

At 1:08 p.m., #77X MEIER enters the run-off at Turn 4 and stalls the car. CART safety workers push the car to safety to await the end of the session.

At 1:10 p.m., 25 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is still #3 RIBEIRO with his earlier lap of 91.216 mph; (1:00.266), followed by #6 ANDRETTI (91.108 mph; 1:00.337) and #21 KANAAN (90.819 mph; 1:00.529).

At 1:14 p.m., #33 CARPENTIER slides into the run-off at Turn 5 for the second time this session. CART safety workers pull the car to safety to await the end of the session.

CHECKERED FLAG waves at 1:15 p.m. to end the Group One qualifying session with the fastest driver still #3 RIBEIRO with his earlier lap of 91.216 mph (1:00.266; second-fastest on the grid), followed by #21 KANAAN (91.193 mph; 1:00.281; third-fastest overall) and #6 ANDRETTI (91.108 mph; 1:00.337; fourth-fastest overall). #98 SOSPIRI did not take a qualifying lap during this session and will stand on his 28th-best time.

GREEN FLAG waves at 1:30 p.m. to start the final Group Two qualifying session.

At 1:34 p.m., #1 ZANARDI moves to the fastest speed of the weekend and snatches the pole away from RAHAL with a lap of 91.641 mph (59.986 seconds).

At 1:35 p.m., five minutes into the Group Two qualifying session, the fastest driver is #1 ZANARDI with his earlier lap of 91.641 mph (59.986 seconds; first overall), followed by #27 FRANCHITTI (90.846 mph; 1:00.511; sixth overall) and #12 VASSER (90.840 mph; 1:00.515; seventh-fastest overall).

At 1:36 p.m., #26 TRACY knocks ZANARDI off the pole with a lap of 92.026 mph (59.735 seconds).

RED FLAG waves at 1:36 p.m. after #1 ZANARDI slides into the tire barrier at Turn 1. The driver is uninjured in the incident but the car sustains damage to the right side of the car's suspension. ZANARDI subsequently retires from the final qualifying session, electing to stand on the existing time.

At 1:40 p.m., 10 minutes into the Group Two qualifying session and under a Red Flag, the fastest driver is still #26 TRACY with his earlier lap of 92.026 mph (59.735 seconds), followed by #1 ZANARDI (91.641 mph; 59.986 seconds) and #5 DE FERRAN (91.588 mph; 1:00.021).

GREEN FLAG waves at 1:44 p.m. to resume the Group Two qualifying session.

At 1:45 p.m., 15 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is still #26 TRACY with his earlier lap of 92.026 mph (59.735 seconds), followed by #11 FITTIPALDI (91.767 mph; 59.904; second overall) and #1 ZANARDI (91.641 mph; 59.986 seconds; third overall).

At 1:49 p.m., #99 MOORE takes over the top spot with a lap of 92.377 mph (59.508 seconds).

At 1:50 p.m., 20 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is still #99 MOORE with a lap of 92.377 mph (59.508 seconds), followed by #26 TRACY (92.026 mph; 59.735; second overall) and #8 HERTA (91.908 mph; 59.812 seconds; third overall).

At 1:55 p.m., 25 minutes into the Group Two session, the fastest driver is still #99 MOORE with a lap of 92.377 mph (59.508 seconds), followed by #27 FRANCHITTI (92.281 mph; 59.570 seconds) and #26 TRACY (92.026 mph; 59.735).

At 1:58 p.m., #25 PAPIS slides into the run-off at Turn 1 and stalls the car. CART safety workers push the car to safety to await the end of the qualifying session.

CHECKERED FLAG waves at 2 p.m. to end the Group Two qualifying session with #99 MOORE winning the Marlboro Pole for Sunday's Texaco Grand Prix of Houston with a lap of 92.377 mph (59.508 seconds), followed by #27 FRANCHITTI (92.281 mph; 59.570 seconds) and #12 VASSER (92.050 mph; 59.720 seconds). Provisional pole-sitter BOBBY RAHAL winds up 9th on the starting grid with a best lap of 91.329 mph (1:00.191). FedEx Championship Series drivers brought 28 cars to the qualifying sessions with secondary cars utilized by #20X PRUETT, #24X GORDON, and #77X MEIER. There are 15 drivers within one second of the pole-winning effort by MOORE and 26 drivers within two seconds of MOORE's top speed.

GREG MOORE will start first in tomorrow's Texaco Grand Prix of Houston. Today's pole is MOORE's fourth pole of the season and of his CART career. MOORE previously won poles at Homestead, St. Louis, and Detroit. This ties DARIO FRANCHITTI for the number of poles in the 1998 season. MOORE has been on the front row six times this season. MOORE also takes home $10,000 from Marlboro for the Marlboro Pole Award. If MOORE goes on to win the race tomorrow, he will collect an additional $15,000 on the roll-over award. MOORE also wins the Budweiser Accelerator Award as he posted the largest increase in speed from his best practice time to his best qualifying lap of the 28 drivers. A $1000 check in MOORE's name from Budweiser will be presented to Championship Auto Racing Auxiliary, the charitable arm of CART.

DARIO FRANCHITTI takes second place on the grid in tomorrow's race. This is FRANCHITTI's seventh front-row start in the last nine races, including three poles. FRANCHITTI has qualified among the top eight in 14 of 17 races this season.

JIMMY VASSER is third on the grid. This represents VASSER's eighth top-three start this season and his fourth top-three start in the last six races.

Driver quotes from the top three qualifiers follow.

GREG MOORE, Player's/Indeck Reynard Mercedes: "It was one of those laps when you were pushing for every last little inch of track that you could get. I felt like I hit every corner almost perfectly. I maybe could have gotten another 10th [of a second] out of the car, but I don't know. Starting up front will be good here in Houston, and I'm hoping we can take advantage of it tomorrow. Obviously [the race] is going to be tough and long, but like Jimmy [Vasser] said, it might be possible to do it in one stop. Because I had my eight-minute penalty, I had to sit and watch guys get closer and closer and closer to what I'd done. I saw Dario [Franchitti] do a 59.5 [seconds] and I thought 'Oh no, he's gonna do it,' but when he came around again, it was another 59.5 and I could breathe a little easier."

DARIO FRANCHITTI, KOOL Reynard Honda: "We didn't make a enough gains [from Friday to Saturday]. Greg got us just by a little bit. This morning was a short session for us. I locked up the wheels after my fast lap and damaged the car a little bit, and the guys did a good job to get it repaired. We were just chasing it the whole session, just attacking it for one lap, and we couldn't manage to do it."

JIMMY VASSER, Target Reynard Honda: "We were actually happy with the car off the transporter on Friday, but we had some problems getting a good clean lap with the red flags and the traffic in qualifying yesterday, and again [in practice] this morning. We had trouble finding a rhythm. We unloaded with a good car and we felt we had a good plan for the weekend, but you've got to put it all together. A track of this length makes it very difficult to get an open lap. I think there's a possibility of running [the race] on one stop, depending on the amount of yellows and the fuel mileage. It will be interesting strategically. I think the circuit is very fun to drive. They did a fantastic job with the layout."

Walker Racing has announced that they will run a second car in the 1999 FedEx Championship Series season with Indy Lights veteran NAOKI HATTORI handling the driving chores. HATTORI will join GIL DE FERRAN who returns to Walker Racing for the third consecutive season to drive the Valvoline/Cummins-sponsored Reynard Honda. HATTORI, 32, is currently ninth in the Indy Lights standings, his second season in the support series.

"I'm pleased to have Naoki join Walker Racing and move up into the FedEx Championship Series," said Walker. "It has been my goal to expand our team and run a second car. That offers us the possibility of a variety of benefits, including additional testing opportunities and technical development, which is very important in such a competitive series."

Another birthday to note in the FedEx Championship Series is that of MICHAEL ANDRETTI. ANDRETTI will turn 36 Monday, Oct. 5th and when asked what he wants for his birthday, Mr. Andretti stated, "A better starting position!" Best wishes to Michael on Sunday as well as Monday but one should not think that Chief Steward Wally Dallenbach will be changing the starting grid for tomorrow.

Zina Garrison, WTA tennis star presented the Marlboro Pole Award check of $10,000 to pole winner GREG MOORE after his run this afternoon.

This concludes the Pit Notes for today. We'll see you tomorrow morning at 11 a.m. for the traditional 30-minute warm-up session for the Champ Cars and the 3 p.m. CST Green Flag for the first-ever Texaco Grand Prix of Houston! Have a safe evening!

Source: CART Online

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Wally Dallenbach