<pre> QUALIFYING TIMES 1st Helio Castroneves 1:09.344 4th Cristiano da Matta 1:09.312 10th Christian Fittipaldi 1:09.999 </pre> OVERALL: Newman/Haas Racing is hoping to win their third consecutive...
<pre> QUALIFYING TIMES 1st Helio Castroneves 1:09.344 4th Cristiano da Matta 1:09.312 10th Christian Fittipaldi 1:09.999
</pre> OVERALL: Newman/Haas Racing is hoping to win their third consecutive CART FedEx victory this weekend after wins by Christian Fittipaldi in Fontana, Calif. and Cristiano da Matta in Monterrey, Mexico. Fittipaldi is sporting a new paint scheme this weekend. For the first time in many years, Fittipaldi is not in a black car but rather a blue car signifying the return of the icon - "The Bluelight Special."
CRISTIANO da MATTA, #6 Texaco/Havoline/Kmart Toyota-Lola: "Today wasn't too bad. We made big gains. I am surprised the weather changed so much and the track dried so quick but I am very happy it did. When it was wet I figured all of us in the fast group were going to fight for 14th place but then the track thankfully dried out. It's better to fight for the pole than for 14th place. I am pretty happy with fourth place but wasn't expecting to improve that much since Friday. The engineers kept telling me "Tomorrow will be better, tomorrow will be better." This is another one of the times I realize the depth of the team. They have a lot of experience to fall back on and that can only help me. There were two main wet areas so I was careful on those areas until they started to dry. We were able to earn a fourth place starting spot and were fourth quickest of the day and were only 23rd quickest on Friday. Our plan is to keep moving forward and hopefully win the race but it is a long race and many different things can happen. Especially in Long Beach. This is usually a pretty wild race for the fans and the drivers."
CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI, #11 Kmart Toyota-Lola: "We hoped that the rain was our "Bluelight Special" for the second group of qualifying but the track dried out and we dropped down from second fastest. I thought we were going to get lucky and have the rain that began in the first session hold over to the second session. The best thing about qualifying was that we were in the top two for our session which earned us the right to be in the fast group for (next road/street course) Detroit based on the new rules (section 541 B). That is a small victory for us today. The way qualifying is right now, it means that you need to be in the fast group to qualify in order to then score plenty of points to stay there. Anything can happen in this race. We were running in second place last year after taking a different pit strategy but the car caught on fire. You not only need to find you way to the front. You need a little luck to stay there."
TODD BOWLAND, Race Engineer for Fittipaldi: "Christian's car is more like it was in the first practice on Friday. We made a change in the afternoon session that didn't work and so we went back to the one he had on Friday, which is much better for him. We basically backpedaled a little but that is how the new system works with no in-season testing. You have to try more things at the race track and they can't all be perfect."
BRIAN LISLES, General Manager, Newman/Haas Racing: "I attribute our improvement in qualifying to a lot of hard work by a lot of people. The amount of experience we have on the team helped us today. We have more work to do before we are ready for the race but the hardest part was getting back on track with our setup. The rain hurt Christian in the first session since he put a set of new tires on at the end when it started raining."
The race will be televised live on ABC TV on Sunday, April 8 at 4 PM ET.