Race: Bosch Sport Plug Grand Prix, Nazareth Speedway, Nazareth, Pa. Date/Session: Thursday, April 29, 1999 Practice Mercedes-Benz Powers Top Two Drivers At Bosch Spark Plug Grand Prix Practice Castro-Neves, Blundell Quickest in First Test...
Race: Bosch Sport Plug Grand Prix, Nazareth Speedway, Nazareth, Pa.
Date/Session: Thursday, April 29, 1999 Practice
Mercedes-Benz Powers Top Two Drivers At Bosch Spark Plug Grand Prix Practice Castro-Neves, Blundell Quickest in First Test with Speedway Wings
Mercedes-powered Champ car drivers Helio Castro-Neves and Mark Blundell sped to the quickest lap times of the day at the first practice sessions for the Bosch Spark Plug Grand Prix, the fourth round of the CART FedEx Championship Series. While lap times over the 0.946-mile Nazareth Speedway tri-oval were slower this year due to the introduction of speedway wings for this race track, Mercedes-powered Castro-Neves and Blundell were the only drivers to break the 165 mph barrier. Hogan Racing's Castro-Neves posted the quickest time, 20.521 seconds (165.957 mph), while PacWest Motorola Mercedes pilot Blundell sped to a 20.608-second lap (165.256 mph). Al Unser Jr., returning to the Marlboro Team Penske Mercedes cockpit for the first time since his crash at Homestead's season opener, impressed with a lap in 20.964 seconds (162.450 mph), which was less than one-half second behind the leaders. Blundell's teammate, Mauricio Gugelmin, produced a lap in 21.005 seconds (162.133 mph) after experimenting with different set ups for his PacWest Hollywood Mercedes race car. Player's/Forsythe teammates Greg Moore and Patrick Carpentier battled unstable handling throughout the session. Moore, the PPG Cup driver's championship points leader, posted a lap time of 21.200 seconds (160.642 mph), while Carpentier, who set the qualifying lap time track record here last year, finished with a time of 21.265 seconds (160.150 mph). Bettenhausen Motorsports rookie Shigeaki Hattori completed the session with a lap in 23.164 seconds (147.021 mph). Practice continues Friday, and drivers will qualify on Saturday. The green flag for the Bosch Spark Plug Grand Prix will wave Sunday, May 2, at 12:30 p.m. (live, ESPN).
Helio Castro-Neves, No. 9, Hogan Racing Mercedes/Firestone (First/20.521 seconds) "We expected to do well today. We tested here before the Japan race, and we worked hard to get the right set up. This will be a fun race; everyone will have to be careful because in traffic, my goodness, the cars are pretty unstable. You have to be patient."
Mark Blundell, No. 18, Motorola Mercedes/Firestone (Second/20.608 seconds) "Today was very satisfying. We came with two different configurations to work with, and the team did a great job. The car still has a little bit of a nervous rear, which we hope we can work on tomorrow. "We tested here in January, and I was against the wings then, and I'm against them now. In traffic it will be a headache. This is a tough little race circuit, and with the horsepower we've got, wings or not, it's asking for trouble."
Al Unser Jr., No. 2, Marlboro Team Penske/Mercedes/Goodyear (17th/20.964 seconds) "It felt really good to be back in the car. Driving is the best rehabilitation I could have. The adrenaline overtakes the pain, and I don't feel anything, just a little restricted by the carbon fiber cast on my ankle. The car just needs to turn a little better, but I had great power from the Mercedes engine and Goodyear was there with the tires. "I didn't spend a lot of time in traffic - my job is to get us up on the grid and put us in a position to win."
Mauricio Gugelmin, No. 17, Hollywood Mercedes/Firestone (18th/21.005 seconds) "The car was pushing today, much more than in testing. We have to look at the data and decide where to go from here."
Greg Moore, No. 99, Player's/Forsythe Mercedes/Firestone (25th/21.200 seconds) "The wing package is dumb. You can't draft - there's little downforce as it is, and when you get behind someone you lose everything you did have. It's wrong, and I think this will be one of the worst races of our series."
Patrick Carpentier, No. 33, Player's/Forsythe Mercedes/Firestone (29th/21.265 seconds) "There is a lot of movement in the chassis from left to right, even on the straights. It was getting worse as the session went on, so we decided to stop."