CHAMPCAR/CART: Laguna Seca Friday Report

David Reininger - Monterey, Calif. (September 10, 1999) - Bryan Herta set the fastest lap of the day in the Team Rahal Shell car, taking the provisional pole for Sunday's Honda Grand Prix of Monterey featuring the Shell 300....

David Reininger -

Monterey, Calif. (September 10, 1999) - Bryan Herta set the fastest lap of the day in the Team Rahal Shell car, taking the provisional pole for Sunday's Honda Grand Prix of Monterey featuring the Shell 300. Herta, who has taken the pole position in CART's last two visits to Laguna Seca, has always had good results at the 2.238-mile road course.

"I don't have an explanation, or a reason why things have gone well for me here, but it just does," said Herta. "I'm not going to look a gift horse in the mouth and question it too much, I'm just going to be happy that it is, and hopefully, try to take advantage of it and every opportunity that's possible."

Although Herta won in his first visit to Laguna Seca, in the Barber Saab series, he doesn't come into this race feeling any more confident about winning than he does at any other track. "If anything, there's more pressure at a place like this because everybody says, 'you're going to be fast again this time'. You hope that you can be, and you hope that things fall into place to make that happen, and they have. But I don't feel any different. I don't show up here and go, okay, I'm going to really try hard this week because I should be really fast here."

"My driving style really clicks at a couple of places and this happens to be one of them. I show up every weekend with the idea, or the feeling that we're going to go for the pole and we're going to win the race. That doesn't really change."

Tony Kanaan, driver of the McDonald's Honda-Reynard was second today, four-tenths of a second slower than Herta. "I really like this track because every time I've been here, since 1996, I've finished on the podium. Hopefully this weekend, I'll do it again," Kanaan said. "I was really confident when we came here because that's exactly the same car as Mid-Ohio."

Kanaan expects to improve his time tomorrow when track conditions improve. "I think I could do better myself, not only with my car. I got only one clean lap and I also screwed up that. Not big time, but I made a little mistake in turn nine. I went wide a little bit so we lost a few tenths. I was looking at the data and two tenths still isn't quick enough to beat Bryan (Herta). We have to work hard to try to put the setup together, we have a little bit of understeer everywhere that we'll fix tomorrow. The track definitely will be better tomorrow. No one has run here for a long time. As always the second day, it's quicker.

Max Papis, coming off a recent pole position at Chicago, was third fastest today. Papis trimmed over a second off his morning time when he was ninth fastest in that session. "The morning session was very erratic with a lot of red flags. It was not really productive for anybody," said Papis. "We are pretty good because we came over here testing, so we have a good starting point. The afternoon qualifying was pretty good."

Papis complained about the slippery track after going off course several times today. "We slid it around a lot, we had four offs, four times off the course. The car is okay, we have to make it a little bit better. I think Firestone changed their tire construction since we came over here testing a long while ago. Things are coming along pretty good but we are not there where we want (to be)."

Max's teammate provided another explanation for the tricky conditions. "I think it was just a little slippery today. The track in general was slippery, and I think they put a fresh coat of paint on the curbs," said today's top qualifier, Bryan Herta. "When we tested here over the winter, you could go out on those (curbs) a little bit more and there was some grip on them. But I think they put a fresh coat of paint on the curbs, on the inside and outside. It feels to me as though it's a bit more slippery. I went on the curb in turn three this morning, coming out of the corner, and snap-spun it and hit the wall, much to my surprise.

Greg Moore's best lap, nearly seven-tenths of a second off Herta's time was good enough for fourth place on the provisional grid. Moore experienced a cooling system problem with his car in the morning forcing the Players team to change the engine prior to this afternoon's qualifying session. "We gathered valuable information today and should have an even faster car tomorrow," said Moore. "We didin't test here this year so we're very happy with today's results.

Qualifying fifth today in the K-Mart Newman-Hass Racing Ford-Swift was Michael Andretti. After ending up 25th in this morning's practice session, Andretti knocked two seconds off his morning time to take the fifth position on the provisional grid. "We made huge gains from the morning session," said Andretti. The car was much better in qualifying thankfully. When we drove into the track from Vancouver, we didn't have any data for the Firestone tires at Laguna Seca and we were a little worried. We tested here in the off season but we were on Goodyear tires then. Hopefully we can continue to make this sort of leap in final qualifying and continue it on Sunday."

The championship points leader, rookie Juan Montoya , in the Target Ganassi Racing car, struggled today, setting the 16th fastest lap in qualifying. "Not a very good day today," said Montoya. "We couldn't seem to find the set-up and had some handling problems. For some reason, we've had some bad Fridays recently and then gotten things okay on Saturday. We tested here in February and we were very quick so we should be better tomorrow. But we have lots of work to do tonight."

Another championship contender, Dario Franchitti, will be busy tonight too. Franchitti's car was badly damaged when he hit the wall after a shunt at turn five. "The car bottomed out in the turn and I lost steering," said Franchitti, driver of the Team Kool Green Honda-Reynard. "The curb's higher than the underbody on the car, so I basically had no steering at all. I hit the wall on the right and came across the track and hit the wall on the left."

Franchitti qualified in the twelfth position this afternoon, just behind his Team Kool Green teammate Paul Tracy in eleventh.

Final qualifying for Sunday's race gets underway at 12:45 p.m. on Saturday afternoon.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Michael Andretti , Max Papis , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Tony Kanaan , Bryan Herta , Greg Moore
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing