CHAMPCAR/CART: Long Beach Saturday Pit Notes/Driver Quotes

Saturday Pit Notes Long Beach (April 4, 1998) -- 7 Good morning from Long Beach, California for the final day of qualifying for Sunday's Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Today's FedEx Championship Series schedule has the Champ Cars on-course...

Saturday Pit Notes

Long Beach (April 4, 1998) -- 7 Good morning from Long Beach, California for the final day of qualifying for Sunday's Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Today's FedEx Championship Series schedule has the Champ Cars on-course for a practice session at 9 a.m. This session will last 75 minutes and will be followed by the final qualifying session at 12:45 p.m. As yesterday, the qualifying session will be split into two groups with both on-track for 30 minutes. Group Two will be comprised of the fastest half of yesterday's qualifiers and will take the green flag at 1:30 p.m. BRYAN HERTA will be defending his provisional pole effort from yesterday's session (111.226 mph; 50.945 seconds) against a field of 20 drivers less than one second behind. Foremost in that group is HERTA's team owner, BOBBY RAHAL, currently second on the provisional grid.

GREEN FLAG waves at 9 a.m. to start the practice session. Sporadic drizzle under gray skies has several of the drivers electing to start the session on rain tires. Firestone engineers report a track temperature of 71 degrees F. and an ambient temperature of 68 degrees F. at the start of the practice session.

At 9:04 a.m., #19 JOURDAIN JR. spins at Turn 3 but continues oncourse with no damage to the car.

At 9:09 a.m., #77 MEIER enters the run-off at Turn 1 and stalls. The car will not re-start and CART corner workers push the car to safety.

At 9:10 a.m., 10 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is #5 DE FERRAN with a lap of 109.024 mph (51.974 seconds), followed by #27 FRANCHITTI (109.013 mph; 51.979 seconds), and #21 KANAAN (108.902 mph; 52.032 seconds).

At 9:12 a.m., #8 HERTA clocks the fastest speed of the session with a lap of 110.017 mph (51.505 seconds).

At 9:14 a.m., #1 ZANARDI slides into the run-off at Turn 1 but continues on course without damage to the car.

At 9:15 a.m., #26 TRACY spins into the runoff at Turn 1. CART safety workers get the car re-stared and TRACY continues on course without damage to the car.

At 9:20 a.m., 20 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is #6 ANDRETTI with a lap of 110.359 mph (51.345 seconds), followed by #5 DE FERRAN (110.027 mph; 51.500 seconds), and #8 HERTA with his previous lap of 110.017 mph (51.505 seconds).

RED FLAG waves at 9:21 a.m. to retrieve the stalled car of #77 MEIER from the runoff at Turn 1.

GREEN FLAG waves at 9:25 a.m. to restart the session.

At 9:30 a.m., 30 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is #6 ANDRETTI with a lap of 111.178 mph (50.967 seconds), followed by #8 HERTA (110.177 mph; 51.505 seconds), and #5 DE FERRAN (110.068 mph; 51.481 seconds).

At 9:40 a.m., 40 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is still #6 ANDRETTI with his earlier lap of 111.178 mph (50.967 seconds), followed by #1 ZANARDI (110.516 mph; 51.272 seconds), and #8 HERTA (110.177 mph; 51.505 seconds).

RED FLAG waves at 9:44 a.m. after #19 JOURDAIN JR. stalls on the front stretch.

GREEN FLAG waves at 9:47 a.m. to resume the practice session.

At 9:50 a.m., the fastest drivers and speeds are unchanged from the 9:40 a.m. report.

RED FLAG waves at 9:51 a.m. after #10 HEARN spins in Turn 8 and stalls in the middle of the track. HEARN gets the car re-started and continues on-course without damage to the car.

GREEN FLAG waves at 9:53 a.m. to resume the practice session.

At 9:56 a.m., #21 KANAAN spins at Turn 6 but continues on-course without damage to the car. At the same time, #10 HEARN spins at Turn 3 but continues on-course without damage to the car.

At 10 a.m., one hour into the session, the fastest drivers and speeds remain unchanged from the 9:50 a.m. report.

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

CHECKERED FLAG waves at 10:15 a.m. to end the morning Champ Car session. #6 ANDRETTI remains the fastest driver with his earlier lap of 111.178 mph (50.967 seconds), followed by #1 ZANARDI (110.516 mph; 51.272 seconds), and #8 HERTA (110.177 mph; 51.430 seconds). The top twelve drivers are separated by less than one second in lap times with 22 drivers separated by less than two seconds. FedEx Champ Car drivers took 31 cars to the track during this session with secondary cars utilized by #33X CARPENTIER, #7X RAHAL, #10X HEARN, 98X JONES, and #24X MATSUSHITA. Of the fastest drivers from yesterday's qualification efforts, only #6 ANDRETTI and #1 ZANARDI improved their times over the laps posted yesterday. CART drivers turned a total of 477 laps during this morning session.

FedEx officials have scheduled a press conference at 10 a.m. Sunday morning to discuss FedEx's involvement as title sponsors of the FedEx Championship Series. The press conference will be held in the Media Interview Room.

GREEN FLAG waves at 12:45 p.m. to start the final qualifying session for Group One drivers. The session has been called by CART Chief Steward Wally Dallenbach as a wet start. The "wet start" designation allows drivers to start the session on either rain tires or dry "slick" tires. The race course is completely soaked from a brief but steady rain shower that coated the track during the Toyota Atlantic series session at 12 p.m.

A 12:57 p.m., #3 RIBEIRO enters the run-off at Turn 1. RIBEIRO keeps the car running and re-enters the race course with no damage to the car.

At 1 p.m., halfway through the session, #18 BLUNDELL is the fastest driver with a lap of 88.874 mph (1:03.758), followed by #77 SALLES (88.840 mph; 1:03.782), and #98X JONES (88.109 mph; 1:04.311).

At 1:01 p.m., #3 RIBEIRO slides into the run-off at Turn 1. RIBEIRO re-starts the car and continues on course without damage to the car.

At 1:06 p.m., #12 VASSER slides into the run-off at Turn 1. VASSER keeps the car running and re-enters the track with no damage to the car.

At 1:09 p.m., #36 BARRON and #3 RIBEIRO both slide into the run-off at Turn 1. Both cars continue on course with no damage to either car.

At 1:10 p.m., 25 minutes into the session, the fastest driver is #18 BLUNDELL with a lap of 89.551 mph (1:03.276), followed by #98X JONES (89.297 mph; 1:03.456), and #17 GUGELMIN (88.920 mph; 1:03.725).

At 1:13 p.m., #25 PAPIS enters the run-off at Turn 6 but continues on course with no damage to the car.

At 1:14 p.m., #9 LEHTO spins coming off Turn 6 and stalls in the middle of the track.

Also at 1:14 p.m., #36 BARRON slides into the Turn 6 run-off. BARRON keeps his car running and continues on course with no damage to the car.

CHECKERED FLAG waves at 1:15 p.m. with #18 BLUNDELL still the fastest driver with a lap of 89.551 mph (1:03.276), followed by #98X JONES (89.297 mph; 1:03.456), and #17 GUGELMIN (88.920 mph; 1:03.725). FedEx Championship drivers took 12 cars to the track and logged 103 laps in the Group One session.

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

At 1:40 p.m., 10 minutes into the Group Two session, the fastest driver is #11 FITTIPALDI with a lap of 91.663 mph (1:01.818), #27 FRANCHITTI (90.723 mph; 1:02.458), and #6 ANDRETTI (90.665 mph; 1:02.498).

At 1:46 p.m., #6 ANDRETTI records the fastest lap of the session with a speed of 92.516 mph (1:01.248).

RED FLAG waves at 1:47 p.m. after #21 KANAAN stalls on the front stretch. CART safety workers move the car from the track,.

GREEN FLAG waves at 1:50 p.m. to resume the Group Two qualifying session.

Also, at 1:50 p.m., the fastest driver is #6 ANDRETTI with a lap of 92.516 mph (1:01.248), followed by #11 FITTIPALDI (92.258 mph; 1:01.419) , and #21 KANAAN (91.475 mph; 1:01.945).

At 1:58 p.m., #1 ZANARDI slides off-course at Turn 1 but corrects the car and continues on-track with out damage to the car.

CHECKERED FLAG waves at 2 p.m. with #11 FITTIPALDI the fastest driver with a lap of 92.965 mph (1:00.952), followed by #8 HERTA (92.559 mph; 1:01.219), and #6 ANDRETTI (92.516 mph; 1:01.248). Due to the constant drizzle during both qualifying sessions, no drivers improved on Friday's qualifying effort even though 26 of the 29 drivers entered in Sunday's race logged qualifying laps today. #10 HEARN, #19 JOURDAIN JR., and #24 MATSUSHITA chose not to attempt qualifying today.

BRYAN HERTA wins the pole for Sunday's Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Today's pole is HERTA's fourth pole of his CART career and his first on a temporary street course. It is also HERTA's third pole in the last eight events, the other two coming at Mid-Ohio and Laguna-Seca in 1997. With team-owner BOBBY RAHAL starting second, this represents the first time teammates have swept the front row since PacWest's MAURICIO GUGELMIN and MARK BLUNDELL shared the honor at Road America last year. (GUGELMIN started first with BLUNDELL second in that event.) This feat is also a first for Team Rahal.

HERTA's pole winning effort wins the Marlboro Pole Award worth $20,000. If HERTA can win the race tomorrow as well, he will take home an additional Marlboro bonus of $150,000.

HERTA's pole win is also a win for Ford. This is the third different engine manufacturer to win a pole for the 1998 FedEx Championship Series. Mercedes won the pole at Homestead and Honda took the honor at Twin Ring Motegi, Japan.

Today also represents the third straight pole win for Firestone this season.

BOBBY RAHAL will start second in Sunday's race. The is RAHAL's best start of the 1998 season and ties his effort at Vancouver in 1997 where he also started second. The second-place start is also RAHAL's best start at Long Beach since 1985.

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ will start third in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. This represents FERNANDEZ's third consecutive start among the top five this season. FERNANDEZ started fifth at Homestead and second at Motegi, Japan. This also matches FERNANDEZ's best start on a temporary street course. FERNANDEZ also started third at Detroit and Toronto in 1996.

Driver quotes from today's qualifying sessions follow:

BRYAN HERTA, Shell Reynard Ford: "I'm real happy for the team overall. It [the pole position] is a big boost for us. It's good for any team to start gaining momentum. Hopefully this is something we'll be able to build on for the rest of the season. You tend to do a lot more reacting to the car in the rain. In dry conditions, you might come up to a corner and think 'The car is gonna push here.' In the rain, the car is more unpredictable and you tend to do more reacting ... [Preparing for tomorrow's race] I'm just gonna be Bryan. I'll try to stay pretty loose and stay focused, but when you put your helmet on, it's time to get serious. My approach tomorrow won't be any different than it's been since I started racing in CART."

BOBBY RAHAL, Miller Lite Reynard Ford: "There's one strategy and one strategy only: Don't take each other out. Then, I'd have to fire both drivers. Being in the front row here is definitely a big advantage. I've started from the back and from the middle of the pack here before and it's no fun for the first few laps. I'm looking forward to seeing clean air at the start tomorrow. Very rarely have we had a race when it has rained for the entire distance. It's a little bit of a gamble as to which way you go with your setup. The toughest thing about the rain is that you're constantly trying to stay ahead of it, and it's very difficult because the car tends to have a mind of its own. Ten years ago, nobody would have gone out in this last session. What would have been the point? Today, there were cars out there pounding around because nobody wants any surprises tomorrow."

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ, Tecate/Quaker State/Labatt Reynard Ford: "A good qualifying position is important, but it's more important to have a good race car that can stay with you for a long time. We feel confident that the car will stay there the whole race. Hopefully, we can go forward instead of backward."

Source: CART Online

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