CHAMPCAR/CART: Mercedes-Benz Practice at Michigan 500

Canadian Paul Tracy topped the time sheets at practice for Sunday's Michigan 500 to kick off the second half of the CART FedEx Championship Series. Tracy, who has scored championship points in five of nine career starts at the two-mile ...

Canadian Paul Tracy topped the time sheets at practice for Sunday's Michigan 500 to kick off the second half of the CART FedEx Championship Series. Tracy, who has scored championship points in five of nine career starts at the two-mile superspeedway, posted a hot lap of 30.412 seconds (236.749 mph), besting Michael Andretti by 0.164 seconds.

Mark Blundell led the five-car Mercedes-Benz contingent. Blundell didn't like his car's set-up in the morning practice, but his PacWest Motorola team made some adjustments to his Mercedes-powered Champ Car, and the Englishman was among the five quickest drivers for the first half of the afternoon session. His quick lap of 31.038 seconds (231.974 mph) was fast enough to put him in 10th place on the time sheets. "We changed to a different set up for the afternoon, and we had a much more consistent race car," said Blundell, who was runner-up in this race in 1997. "We ran a long stint and got some good fuel consumption data on the Mercedes engine. We're in good shape there. We've still got some understeer, which we'll need to dial out of the car for tomorrow. I'm fairly happy with today's progress."

Mauricio Gugelmin, runner-up in 1996, was ninth fastest in the morning session. But his afternoon track time was cut short by mechanical problems with his Nextel Mercedes, limiting him to 15 laps. His best time of 31.214 seconds (230.666 mph) placed him 14th for the day. Defending race winner Tony Kanaan, back in the cockpit for the first time since he was injured in a Detroit Grand Prix qualifying crash on June 17, was 18th with a lap of 31.408 seconds (229.241 mph).

"The good news is that I feel absolutely great in the race car," said Kanaan. "The arm and the ribs were not even an issue today out on the track."

Michel Jourdain Jr. posted a lap of 31.744 seconds (226.815 mph) in his Herdez/Bettenhausen Mercedes machine. Hollywood/Arciero Project Racing Group Mercedes pilot Luiz Garcia Jr., who scored championship points with a 12th-place finish last weekend in Toronto, lapped the oval in 33.813 seconds (212.936 mph). This year's event will be sophomore CART driver Garcia Jr.'s first appearance at Michigan.

Qualifying begins Saturday at 11:00 a.m. The green flag for the Michigan 500 waves at 1:30 p.m. Sunday (live, ABC-TV).

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Michael Andretti , Paul Tracy , Tony Kanaan , Mauricio Gugelmin , Mark Blundell , Michel Jourdain , Luiz Garcia Jr.