MONTOYA SETS PRACTICE PACE FOR U.S. 500 PRESENTED BY TOYOTA AT MICHIGAN SPEEDWAY BROOKLYN, Mich. (July 23, 1999) - Rookie Juan Montoya of Target/Chip Ganassi Racing, making the first superspeedway appearance of his FedEx Championship Series ...
MONTOYA SETS PRACTICE PACE FOR U.S. 500 PRESENTED BY TOYOTA AT MICHIGAN SPEEDWAY
BROOKLYN, Mich. (July 23, 1999) - Rookie Juan Montoya of Target/Chip Ganassi Racing, making the first superspeedway appearance of his FedEx Championship Series career, found his comfort level immediately Friday when he led the opening day of practice for the U.S. 500 Presented by Toyota at Michigan Speedway. (1:30 p.m. ET Sunday, live, ABC-TV).
Montoya's (Target Honda Reynard) pace-setting lap of 231.258 miles per hour (31.134 seconds) on the two-mile oval came in the afternoon practice session. Montoya, who leads the FedEx Championship Series with 113 points, will be chasing his fifth pole of the season when qualifying begins 10:30 a.m. ET Saturday.
Of the 42 cars that posted practice times, 26 were grouped within a second.
Mauricio Gugelmin (Hollywood PacWest Mercedes) was second fastest at 230.740 mph (31.204 seconds). He will make his 100th career FedEx Championship Series start by taking the green flag Sunday and is seeking to match or better his season-best start of second at Japan.
Max Papis (Miller Lite Ford Reynard) was third at 230.518 mph (31.234 seconds). He will be attempting to match or better a career-best start of third at Japan during Saturday's qualifying session.
Defending U.S. 500 Presented by Toyota champion Greg Moore (Player's Forsythe Racing Team Mercedes Reynard) was fourth at 230.260 mph (31.269 seconds). He was followed by Christian Fittipaldi (Big Kmart Ford Swift), at 229.760 mph (31.337 seconds).
Moore has scored PPG Cup points in nine consecutive events contested on ovals, dating to last year's victory at Michigan. Fittipaldi is riding back-to-back podium finishes, including his first career FedEx Championship Series victory at Road America.
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING
JUAN MONTOYA, Target Honda Reynard: "In the morning we were just trying different things because the setup wasn't where we wanted it. We came back in the afternoon, and the weather didn't look too good, so we concentrated on bedding some tires. We ran a good lap on old tires and a good lap on new tires and the car was fantastic. I'm really looking forward to the race. You've really got to be smooth here. On other ovals, if something goes wrong, you can still catch it. Here, I wouldn't even try that."
MAURICIO GUGELMIN, Hollywood PacWest Mercedes: "We had a pretty good session this morning. We came here and tested and the weather was bad. This morning we did some long runs to see how the balance was and right away the car was pretty good. We trimmed the car a little bit and this afternoon, we got a pretty good idea of what the car is going to do. Everybody is out there looking for a clear lap, and I didn't get as many as I would have liked, but I was able to put up one good lap late in the session."
MAX PAPIS, Miller Lite Ford Reynard: "We came here testing and I knew we had a pretty good car. Ford has a very fast engine for this track. This morning, we worked on getting the car more trimmed out. [Lap speeds of] 227, 228 [miles per hour] ... those are real speeds and that makes me very confident for the race. Coming out of Toronto and into this place, by the fifth or sixth lap, it really seems like you're flying. You really feel the speed, especially when you're going into the corners."
* Juan Montoya (Target Honda Reynard) will be chasing his fifth pole position of the season during final qualifying Saturday. His previous poles have come at Nazareth, Gateway, Portland and Cleveland.
* Mauricio Gugelmin (Hollywood PacWest Mercedes), who posted Friday's second-fastest practice time, owns an outstanding career record at Michigan Speedway with three top-six finishes in his past four 500-mile starts at the venue. The run includes a runner-up effort at The Inaugural U.S. 500 in 1996, third at the 1996 Marlboro 500 and sixth at the 1997 Marlboro 500. He has led at least one lap in four of his five career appearances at the venue, topped by 34 in 1997.
* Team Rahal and Miller Lite are honoring baseball great Robin Yount this weekend by displaying a special commemorative decal on the side of the Miller Lite Ford Reynard driven by Max Papis. The sticker celebrates the induction of Yount, George Brett and Nolan Ryan into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame this weekend in Cooperstown, N.Y. Yount is a regular golf partner of Team Rahal owner Bobby Rahal and is also a co-owner of the P-1 Team which competes in the KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Championship.
* Alex Barron (Marlboro Mercedes Penske) making his debut for Marlboro Team Penske this weekend, was 18th fastest at 227.510 miles per hour (31.647 seconds). He made 24 starts for All American Racers from 1998-99 before joining Marlboro Team Penske for this event.
WHAT'S ON TAP
Qualifying for the U.S. 500 Presented by Toyota will air 6 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN2.